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Archive for Sunday, January 7, 2007

Crazy convention for coaches kicks off

January 7, 2007

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All that's missing in San Antonio today is a tightrope walker, an elephant and a few dozen clowns.

Football coaches from coast to coast will flock to the Henry Gonzalez Convention Center today for the four-day American Football Coaches Association Convention.

While baseball has its chaos-filled, almost comedic winter meetings every year, this certainly can be considered football's equivalent.

With about 5,000 coaches ranging in affiliation from elite universities to high schools, the AFCA Convention surely fits in the "circus atmosphere" mold, with networking being done, sales pitches being sung and resumes and business cards being thrown to anyone who makes eye contact.

"There are thousands and thousands of coaches, and the culture of these coaches is to hang around in the lobby," Kansas University coach Mark Mangino said. "It's just packed with people. If you're a head coach, there's a pretty good chance by the time you walk in the front door and get to the elevator and get to your room, you've probably been handed four or five resumes and 20 to 30 business cards."

Mangino's OK with that - he knows all too well what the up-and-comers are going through. Almost 20 years ago, he was at the AFCA Convention as an unknown assistant from Geneva College. There, childhood friend John Latina introduced him to a similarly unknown coach named Bill Snyder.

Snyder, in the infant stages of a massive rebuilding project at Kansas State, hired Mangino onto his staff a few years later, giving the coach his first big break in the business.

"I don't think I put a great impression on him," Mangino quipped of the meeting. "I was just persistent."

Sometimes you have to be. The AFCA Convention gives such coaches an opportunity to make a first impression, hoping it takes them to the top of a cut-throat business.

But that's not the sole purpose of it. The four-day event is filled with speakers, award presentations and meetings. Among those speaking this week are legendary coaches Joe Paterno of Penn State and Bobby Bowden of Florida State.

"They've got great speakers, and you can really learn a lot from the top coaches in the game," Mangino said. "It's really beneficial. There's a lot of things you can learn, and learning is a life long process for all of us."

Mangino said he hoped to be in San Antonio today along with several members of his staff.

Though the fifth-year KU head coach doesn't attend every year, he makes it a point not to miss it two years in a row.

Of course, considering the two assistant-coaching vacancies he has on his staff presently, it might save Mangino some time to just stand in the middle of the convention center this week with his palms open, ready for resumes to be handed over.

It'd be the cheapest form of advertising he could imagine.

"Even if you don't (have openings), it's like that," Mangino said with a laugh.

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