I keep a small file on my computer with topics I might like to write about. Get an idea, add it to the list, and when time allows and inspiration strikes, I bust something out for you.
Over the weekend I made a single word addition to the list: Mangino. After another fourth quarter collapse against Nebraska, I got to thinking about the pressure that was mounting against the KU football coach and how appearances matter.
Examples: if you are pleasing to the eye, you get a lot of leeway for lack of success, unfulfilled promise, and/or outright incompetence. A certain unemployed politician who has been in the news a lot lately is a prime example. On the other hand, if you don’t fit society’s ideal for appearance, it seems like things can snowball quickly when things do not go as planned.
That was going to be the gist of it, with more detail and eloquence, of course.
And then Tuesday happened.
The situation is fluid, to use a cliche, but it sure seems like the Mangino era is going to end sooner rather than later. And KU’s football program is going to be harmed significantly in the process.
I’ve been in several e-mail threads on the subject over the past day, and as I said in one, I always figured his anger would get him, just in the form of a heart attack or stroke or some other debilitating health issue. I didn’t figure he’d go Woody Hayes / Bob Knight. Not that he didn’t have the potential, I just assumed his heart could give out before he had the chance.
The warning signs have always been there. Early in his time at KU, he caused controversy by berating an official at his son’s high school football game. We applauded when he lambasted the officials after a late, controversial call that cost us a win against Texas four years ago. We chuckled when he lit into players on the sidelines for minor transgressions. We heard the stories of blowups in the hallways of the athletic department and angry meetings with other administrators. We didn’t care because he was standing up for a program that seemed to be getting better. After the laissez faire Terry Allen regime, a little discipline seemed in order.
I’m disappointed in myself and most other KU fans who looked the other way because he was winning. I’m disappointed that people inside the athletic department, who knew first-hand of all these issues, kept quiet, again because he was winning. It seems like this is his personality type and is so ingrained that he is unable to change. But perhaps if someone had stepped in earlier, the outbursts would not have reached the point where there was a long list of incidents and a brewing insurrection inside the program.
I’ve always liked Mangino. I admired the work he put into building the program. I appreciated the way his teams always played hard.* But all along I’ve been hoping that there weren’t things being ignored just because of those positives.
(Until a month ago. Looks like I was right when I wrote a couple weeks ago that something was going on.)
Things looked very bad yesterday. Today there’s been more news that makes me wonder if whatever happened this year isn’t relatively minor, and the pressure on Mangino is more because of his collected incidents since he was hired. It looks like he picked the wrong time to lose five straight games (going on six and seven probable).
Oh, and I think my original argument holds: appearances matter.
We’ll always have Baby Mangino, though.