Archive for Friday, January 8, 2010

Déjà vu all over again

January 8, 2010


Almost daily I renew my respect for the observer who noted that “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Take college football, university governance, money, personal conflicts, faculty input, name your own poison … it’s all happened at one school after another, including our own Kansas University — would you believe it, 100 years ago right now?

Mark Mangino was “resigned” out of his football job after his Jayhawks tanked with an 0-7 finish. He walked off with a $3 million package based on nonpublication of findings of a study committee. Seems there were more than a few player-coach fractures that brought the bullying tactics of the mentor to a head. KU looks to be on a far more positive track with the hiring of the charismatic Turner Gill. We can expect a substantial honeymoon because so many people want things to go well and will work harder at it with Mangino departed.

Texas Tech had somewhat of a counterpart to the KU turmoil when football coach Mike Leach with his stubborn demeanor tangled with officials on a contract, then got too harsh with the punishment of at least one player, who had a concussion. Fans didn’t rally much for Mangino because of the 2009 collapse. Red Raider faithful noted Leach’s 10-year, 10-bowl record and figured he could do no wrong. Leach also felt that way, but forgot that even a coaching genius has people he has to answer to. As Lou Holtz said: “You’re never more in control than the president (or chancellor).”

OK, take KU, January, 1910. Football coach Bert Kennedy had posted a glittering 44-8-4 record for his first six years (1904-09), capped by a 9-0 in 1908 and 8-1 in ’09. Yet KU’s powers-that-be were hesitating to line up Bert for 1910. The Lawrence Daily World took note of the delay of commitment and wondered why the athletic board was diddling. The World also noted that Kennedy could not be replaced “even if they agreed to pay a salary of $2,000 (Turner Gill just signed for $2,000,000).”

Kennedy said he would not come back without a raise. The World agreed he deserved such.

Seems there were some people on the KU staff and faculty who had heard that Kennedy was a hard driver who pushed his men to the limit, sometimes beyond. The KU Board of Regents had declared the school should have a rugby team and speculated that Kennedy would be better suited for that job. Bert quickly quashed that and eventually was signed for something like $2,000.

Kennedy then led KU to a 6-1-1 mark in 1910 and left, stung by the fact Kansas tied with Missouri, 5-5, in the final game. Bert’s 52-9-4 record still is the best multi-year mark. Mangino left at 50-48.

Then in the haggling over re-signing Kennedy, there were charges that some KU fraternity members on the team, a lot of them Phi Delts, had been so self-immersed they upset team chemistry. Sounds like an old movie. The university also took note that fraternities had lower grades than the general school population and demanded improvement. Also creating problems was a “drinking fraternity,” Theta Nu Epsilon, which had been outlawed but still caused trouble due to some footballers.

Earlier days; simpler times? Not when you realize how much so-called “changes” have kept us much like we were 100 years ago, and ever since.


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