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Archive for Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Woodling: Complex hardly cure-all

August 8, 2007

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Mark Mangino is as adept as any coach in America when it comes to dodging, deflecting or dancing around a question.

Tuesday wasn't any different. With several print and electronic reporters on hand for Kansas University's annual football media day, Mangino reiterated what he has been saying all summer and offered very little, if any, new information about the Jayhawks.

But when the subject turned to the new $31 million football complex under construction south of Memorial Stadium, Mangino was uncommonly blunt when asked about its impact on his program.

"It's going to be a help, but it's not going to be a cure-all," he said. "It's not going to be instant championship, but it'll be a big boost, no question."

Those were frank remarks from a man whose future is inextricably intertwined with the Anderson Family Complex. Make no mistake. The new complex, which will move the KU football operation lock, stock and barrel over the hill to the northern foot of Mount Oread, is Mangino's baby.

Back in November of 2002, late in his first season at KU, Mangino made his initial public pitch for relocating the football operation.

"We can use it not only for logistics, but as a recruiting tool," Mangino said at the time. "I'm really looking forward to taking on that project."

In retrospect, that project took a whole lot of taking on. From Mangino's first mention until completion next year will be a span of about 51â2 years. Meanwhile, the KU football program, once perceived as full of peaks and valleys, has been more or less treading water since Mangino brought the program back to respectability early in his tenure.

Speaking of tenure, it's for professors, not coaches. One miserable season or one lopsided defeat can cost them their jobs. Neither appears likely to happen this fall, though. With a solid if unspectacular talent base and a relatively easy schedule, a sub-.500 season would be a shocker.

Meanwhile, Mangino is as entrenched as few others before him. Only four other men have started a sixth consecutive season as KU's football coach, and only two of those - Jack Mitchell and Glen Mason - began a seventh.

Without question, Mangino has built a firm foundation. Under Mangino, a valley isn't likely. But when will the Jayhawks climb to another peak?

When Mangino was hired prior to the '02 season, he was offensive coordinator at Oklahoma, yet it wasn't his affiliation with the Sooners so much as his experience as an assistant under Bill Snyder at Kansas State that blazed like neon on his resume.

Snyder took one of the worst programs in NCAA history and turned the Wildcats into a national power for over a decade. To emulate Kansas State of the '90s is pie in the sky, though. All Kansas football fans really want is to climb the ladder from competitor to contender. KU fans want the Jayhawks to be factors in November.

Mangino's candor about the new complex is as correct as it is refreshing. Yes, it will help, but it won't be a panacea.

In the meantime, Kansas remains one of many, many schools trying to reach the point where it can recruit enough talent to reach the stage where it can win enough to attract even more talent.

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