A sad story

It’s unlikely KU coach Mark Mangino’s reported actions would be drawing as much attention if he and his team hadn’t just lost five games.

The current firestorm surrounding Kansas University football coach Mark Mangino is a sad development: sad for Coach Mangino, sad for the university, sad for Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and sad for members of the football team.

Whether it is based on a specific incident in which the coach supposedly expressed his displeasure with a player by poking him in the chest, whether it is the result of the football team losing its last five games when preseason and midseason hopes were so high, whether it is due to KU Athletic Director Lew Perkins’ perceived dislike of Mangino, whether it is the coach’s weight problem and image or his temper problems, or whether it is some other situation, it is a sad story. It should be noted that Perkins also has a volatile temper.

Most everyone agrees that if the team and coaches had been able to sustain their winning performances, it is unlikely the current mob mentality of lynching Mangino would have erupted, even if he did poke his finger in the chest of a player.

The truth of the matter is that hundreds, probably thousands of coaches have poked a player in the chest, grabbed a player’s face mask or violently shaken a player to show their anger and displeasure at a player’s performance or lack of attention and concentration.

Football, whether on the practice field, in the locker room or on game day, is not a delicate, mannerly, let’s-be-friends exercise. It is a contest of who can beat whom, focusing on physical and mental superiority.

The stakes are high at the major university level, with alumni enthusiasm, private fiscal giving, funding for other sports and expanded money-losing women’s sports, the egos of athletic directors, the public acceptance of chancellors and presidents and many other situations being affected by the performance of the school’s football and basketball teams.

Mangino now is looked upon as the villain in the eyes of many who are jumping on the bandwagon to have Perkins dump him as soon as possible. It is known Perkins is chafed that he cannot claim he hired Mangino or basketball coach Bill Self, particularly when Mangino was winning games.

Maybe it is time for Mangino to go. Maybe he has worn out his welcome. Maybe he has not engaged in as much fence-mending as he should. Regardless, he should get a fair trial. It’s interesting that an “unbiased” internal investigation called for by Perkins will be headed by a Perkins employee.

He has done many good things during his nine years as the football coach, and most of his current players, as well as past KU players believe he is a good coach.

Coaches — football and basketball — at major Division 1 NCAA schools make a lot of money, far more than faculty members and chancellors. In fact, salaries, incentives and bonuses have gotten out of hand. The coaches should realize that, to a degree, this inflated salary situation is linked to the risk of being fired if they don’t win enough games.

The truth of the matter is that Mangino is not a warm, fuzzy, friendly individual. He has a major temper problem, his team has just lost five games, he is a huge man, he may have poked a player in the chest and past actions have not reflected well on the university.

It’s a sad situation in that, directly or indirectly, this athletic department mess will be dumped on the desk of a new chancellor.