Kansas City, Mo. Jan. 3, 2008. A cold night in Miami. Mark Mangino, the football coach who recruited and drilled talent so well that Kansas University won the Orange Bowl with a 12-1 record, stood on the podium and held up an orange to an adoring crowd. Lew Perkins, the athletic director who maneuvered to help KU land the game, stood beside him and beamed approval.
Life smiled on both driven family men.
Nothing lasts forever, but how could it all go so sour, so quickly for both bosses?
Perkins didn’t hire Mangino, but when they joined in celebrating the Orange Bowl victory they sure looked like a winning combination.
Now, 29 months later, my gut tells me Turner Gill will coach his first football game at KU working for a man who didn’t hire him.
The second I learned Perkins had launched an investigation into Mangino’s treatment of players in the middle of the 2009 football season, Mangino’s departure became a matter of when, not if.
In the likely event KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little authorizes an independent investigation into whether Lew Perkins violated any rules of ethics in accepting the delivery to his home of exercise equipment for which he did not pay, Perkins’ departure clock starts ticking. Such an investigation could lead to Perkins having to answer whether anyone who ever did anything for him personally was repaid in any way with a privilege not made available to others.
Why would Perkins, who has set up his family nicely already and accomplished big things for his current employer in the way of new facilities, want to stick around to answer questions such as: Why did this person who didn’t give as much as that person sit in that seat at Allen Fieldhouse, or why did this person get a seat on a team flight when that person didn’t?
Watching Perkins talk about why he couldn’t talk about what everyone wanted to ask him about at the opening day of Tuesday’s spring Big 12 meetings called to mind watching Mangino in the closing weeks of his KU career conducting post-game news conferences without any sarcasm.
Only those who delight in the misery of others could feel anything but bad for Mangino in his public appearances while he was walking the plank. Ditto for Perkins on Tuesday. His signature swagger didn’t make the trip with him to Kansas City.
Hearing Perkins talk about how protecting KU’s conference affiliation is what he needs to focus on recalled Mangino answering questions about the investigation into his conduct by saying he needed to concentrate on preparing his team for its next game.
Remember Mangino saying he had no regrets? Perkins sounded a similar sentiment about the exercise equipment: “I think it’s very clear — and I hate to use the word because it sounds bad, but the word victim — I’m the victim.”
After a loss at Texas, I asked Mangino if he thought he would coach the Missouri game. He rightly said to ask someone else. Now Perkins isn’t the person to ask about his future. It’s a question the chancellor must answer. Her magnificent poker face won’t betray her thoughts and feelings.