Mayer: Schedule just right for KU

Football icon Bud Wilkinson often said it wasn’t important whether the play called by the coach or quarterback was the right one as long as the team felt it was.

Kansas University’s Mark Mangino, once an assistant at Oklahoma where Wilkinson gained near-sainthood, fully subscribes to that approach. He’s imbued his recruits with the notion that they can prevail with their system against anyone. Talk to KU players, and you sense they’ve bought into that.

“I tell them the other team has only 11 people on the field same as we do,” Mark commented recently. “They’re human; we can do anything they can. We do it better, we win. But we have to believe!”

Mark’s Jayhawks think they can do it better than Florida Atlantic here tonight, then Appalachian State, then Louisiana Tech. For the Oct. 1 game at Texas Tech, they’ll have to boost their level of expectations; if KU is 3-0, the Techsters will be in reach.

Don’t know about you, but I’m delighted to see Kansas playing early games against the kinds of foes Kansas State and Texas Tech have been fattening up on to get running starts. Time was when Kansas opened against TCU, then a Southwest Conference glamor boy, and was almost guaranteed a loss. For 28 games, the Horned Frogs hold an 8-16-4 advantage.

There was false relief when KU dropped TCU and got Texas Tech as an opening foe. So Tech unveiled eventual pro star Donny Anderson. Kansas is 1-8 against Tech. While it’s in the rebuilding state, KU is doing it right. (If KU winds up with a 6-5 record, I hope that’s on the field rather than six arrests and five convictions.)

Says Mangino of current foes: “It’s just the way we want it. We want to play teams that, if we play smart and hard football, we’ll have an opportunity to do well. We’re not in a position where we need to bring in three BCS teams.”

Enough of being an early whipping boy against the likes of Notre Dame, Florida State, Auburn, UCLA under Glen Mason, Bob Valesente and Terry Allen. Keep the current policy until the Jayhawks are far more competitive.

KU’s media guide lists the Sept. 10, 1994, victory over Michigan State (17-10 under Mason) with the biggest-ever home-opening crowd – 48,100. KU averaged 40,066 fans for home games that season, and the highest home season average is listed at 42,100 in 1996. Last fall the Jayhawks had a 41,066 average and are hoping to do a lot better, 45,000 at least, in 2005. (Largest crowd ever in Memorial Stadium was 51,574; KU edged Kansas State 25-18 in 1973.)

Two of the major attendance surprises to me were the 1960 and 1961 figures. Kansas had terrific clubs with John Hadl at the throttle and stars galore. Football enthusiasm never had been higher. KU opened in 1960 before only 32,000 with a 21-7 victory over TCU, then averaged only 34,600. Came ’61 and KU opened before only 33,000 with a 6-6 tie against Wyoming, and averaged 33,200.

Here’s to a whopping wallop of Florida Antlantic tonight before at least 45,000, and a season-record home attendance average of 45,000-plus. Mangino and Co. think they’ve called the right plays; we’ll see if the team responds.