The history book, otherwise known as the Kansas University football media guide, informs us it has been worse.
For example, the season-opening loss to North Dakota State must be considered the worst of this season, but it’s not the worst ever. Kansas lost to Kansas City YMCA, Nov. 27, 1890, in the second game in program history.
The active three-game losing streak during which the Jayhawks have been dominated by an average margin of 53-8 by Baylor, Kansas State and Texas A&M;, sounds awful, but again, it’s been worse.
In Bob Valesente’s first season, 1986, the Jayhawks lost the last four games of a 3-8 season by an average margin of 50-3. Valesente went winless in the Big Eight that year, but was given one more year to show that was a fluke. The team did better in conference, going 0-6-1, with a 17-17 tie at Kansas State. After going 4-17-1 in two seasons, Valesente didn’t get a third chance. In ’87, his team was outscored by an average of 51-13 during one four-game span.
Glen Mason inherited that talent and couldn’t do much better with it in his first season, going 1-10 overall and 1-6 in the Big Eight. During the ugliest four-game span in 1988, Kansas was outscored by an average of 47-12.
In 2001, two coaches had a hand in a four-game skid of historically bad proportions. In the final two games of Terry Allen’s reign and the first two of Tom Hayes’ three-game stay as interim head coach, KU was outscored by an average of 55-5.
In the final three games of Mark Mangino’s first season, 2002, Kansas State, Nebraska and Oklahoma State put an average beating of 55-9 on Kansas.
The most encouraging aspects of that mine-field trip down memory lane come from the initial seasons of Mason and Mangino. By instilling discipline in hard-headed fashion, both men proved it is possible to drag a program from the depths to respectability.
Mason went 39-30 in his final six of nine seasons in Lawrence, his best record coming in 1995, when KU went 10-2 and celebrated Christmas by torching UCLA in the Aloha Bowl, 51-30. Mason’s first winning season came in 1991, which ended with a 53-29 victory against Missouri in the game Tony Sands rushed for 396 yards.
Mangino took his second Kansas team to the Tangerine Bowl and picked up his first winning record in his fourth season, when KU punctuated a 7-5 record with a 42-13 victory against Houston, then bossed by current Baylor head coach Art Briles.
Kansas coach Turner Gill’s style differs greatly from those of Mason and Mangino.
Reversing the current direction of the program will require Gill tweaking the coaching staff in the offseason. Meanwhile, the path to improvement starts where it always must, with recruiting better talent. Based on the commitments Gill has received so far, he clearly is attempting to bring more size to the offensive line, more speed everywhere else.
A nice tonic for all KU fans whose spirits understandably drag when their thoughts turn to football: Check out a highlight tape of 6-foot, 196-pound quarterback Michael Cummings of Killeen, Texas, who runs a 4.6-second 40-yard dash and has made an oral commitment to attend Kansas on a football scholarship.