If you think Mark Mangino resigned willingly as Kansas University’s football coach, I have some oceanfront property near Oskaloosa I’ll sell you, and I’ll throw the Tonganoxie Split in free.
It’s not unusual for a KU football coach to resign. Pepper Rodgers did it to go to UCLA, Mike Gottfried to take the Pittsburgh job and Glen Mason to assume control at Minnesota.
But you have to go back 35 years to find the last KU football coach who was forced to resign. Who was it? Don Fambrough. And, interestingly, Fambrough and Mangino “quit” because of similar occurrences.
In 1974, Fam’s Jayhawks were considered a Big Eight title favorite and, after they won four of their first five games, were ranked No. 14 nationally. Then No. 13-ranked Nebraska came to town.
What happened wasn’t pretty. The Cornhuskers scored just before halftime to take a 14-0 lead, then plundered the Jayhawks in the second half. Final score: Nebraska 56, Kansas 0. That ’74 club never won again, dropping six in a row.
Sound familiar? This fall’s KU team was considered a Big 12 North title contender, won its first five games, then couldn’t stop a mediocre Colorado squad and ended the season on a seven-game losing streak.
As mentioned, both Fambrough and Mangino resigned, yet their settlements were distinctly different.
Fam had a year left on his contract, and athletic director Clyde Walker refused to give him an extension, prompting the former KU player and long-time aide to call a press conference.
“In view of the fact I have only one year remaining on my contract,” Fambrough said at the time, “and realizing this situation can be detrimental to recruiting, I am reluctantly resigning.”
Mangino’s resignation was obviously reluctant, too, but we haven’t heard a peep out of him since Kansas Athletics Inc. issued a release saying he had walked and that a settlement had been reached to resolve the three years remaining on his pact.
Nor do we expect to hear anything from Mangino because it’s likely the settlement contained a zipped-lip clause. It’s doubtful Mangino will receive the full $6 million or so he’s owed, but he’ll definitely be collecting more than Fambrough did in ’74.
KU owed Fam a whopping $28,500, and instead of pouring that pile of money down the drain, Walker re-hired him to become the department’s promotions director.
Later, Fambrough became assistant director of the Williams Fund and, in a stunning and still unprecedented move, was rehired as KU’s football coach just four years after he was forced to resign.
Odds are a man will land on Jupiter or the South Lawrence Trafficway will be completed before current KU athletic director Lew Perkins offers Mangino another job in the department. Or that Mangino would accept.
Fambrough, as you know, has evolved at age 87 into a living legend, the face of Kansas University football, if you will. But he’s an anomaly. Most of his predecessors and successors have simply faded away.
Both Fambrough and Mangino coached the Jayhawks for eight seasons. And, sad to say, that’s about the shelf life of a Kansas University football coach.