College football isn’t war, but the situation now facing KU’s football coach is reminiscent of the trials of a famous World War II general.
As the debate swirls around the Mark Mangino matter — is he a good coach, did he mistreat some of his players, can he control his temper, and does he enjoy the support of his superiors (Kansas University Athletic Director Lew Perkins) — it reminds many older local residents of the firestorms that broke out over the behavior of famed World War II Gen. George Patton.
Patton was a tough warrior whose business was to win wars. He didn’t pull any punches in what he said. In one instance, he slapped a hospitalized American soldier. He also led his forces deep behind the lines of Hitler’s army.
Many in the media and a large share of the American public thought Patton should be severely disciplined. In the eyes of some, Patton was out of control and didn’t pay attention to commands of his superiors.
As noted above, his business was to win wars, to kill and destroy the enemy and not worry about his public image. He made no attempt to be a warm, kind, cuddly individual. He was a tough, demanding and successful leader in a deadly war.
In a way, Mangino is caught up in the same Catch 22. His business is to win football games, to train his players and to provide leadership and display the courage to lead his players into battle. He has made some mistakes, but the manner in which his superiors have timed his investigation, whether or not he’s guilty of wrongful acts, gives every indication some are out to destroy this coach and his career just as some tried to destroy Patton.
At this time, only one or two individuals at the university know the fate they have planned for Mangino, but they should remember major league football is indeed a war against highly paid, well-disciplined and well-equipped adversaries. Winning is the name of the game, regardless of what some may say.