Bob Lutz

Winning could cure what ails Jayhawks

In case you hadn't heard, Mark Mangino has not had a good week. Former football players are speaking out about his verbal and physical abuse. His athletic director at Kansas, Lew Perkins, has rushed to his defense with the same ferocity as France rushes to anyone's defense.

It was just two seasons ago that Mangino was the toast of Lawrence. Now he's just toast, likely headed out of town on a rail after this season unless something unforeseen happens.

You're with me here, aren't you?

What could be more unforeseen than a KU win tonight at No. 3 Texas? Now we know it's probably not going to happen. There are too many distractions for the Jayhawks, not the least of which is a five-game losing streak.

The cold spell is most to blame for the hot water surrounding Mangino, I believe. If KU was 8-2, would we have heard a peep about his supposed intolerance?

Yet the damage, according to many, has been done. Mangino can no longer be an effective recruiter, not with all these sordid tales soaring through the universe. And if you can't be an effective recruiter, the rest doesn't much matter.

Still, what if? What if Kansas rises up tonight in Austin and pulls off the unthinkable?

I have no rooting interest, but Kansas beating Texas would be the story of the year in college football.

Quarterback Todd Reesing is going to play in front of the home folks for the first time. He had his best game in a while last week against Nebraska.

KU hasn't been blown out by anybody, instead faltering late against Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Nebraska.

Nobody thought the Jayhawks could do much offensive damage against the Cornhuskers last week, but offense wasn't the problem. Texas' defense is stout, too, but Kansas has weapons.

I'm getting my hopes up for no reason except for the fact that a KU upset win would throw a huge monkey wrench into the Mangino proceedings.

What if the Jayhawks beat Texas, then defeat Missouri next week at Arrowhead Stadium to finish 7-5 and qualify for another bowl game?

Juicy, juicy stuff. As if this story needed more juice.

Mangino is getting jobbed. Someone (Perkins?) wants him out. How else do you explain the strange timing of these allegations?

Was Mangino baking his players chocolate-chip cookies two years ago when the Jayhawks won the Orange Bowl?

I have seen it proposed that Mangino's girth is to blame for his anger-management problems, as if everyone who is fat has a quick temper and low self-esteem. Most everyone who is fat eats too much. To generalize much beyond that gets into the dangerous area of stereotyping.

The Mangino I know never belittles a player in a public setting. What goes on in a KU practice or inside the dressing room or in Mangino's office is out of our sight. I'm sure he doesn't gather his players to read Hallmark greeting cards.

I refuse to believe, though, that Mangino's temperament is much different from that of most football coaches. The game calls for fire-and-brimstone oratory.

Forgive me for a small personal story about a coach losing his cool.

I was a sophomore in high school and was having one of my best basketball games. During a time-out, my coach grabbed me and started poking me in the chest, telling me he expected me to play the way I was playing in every game.

He screamed at me for the entire time-out, and I was playing well.

What I'm saying is that coaches always have and always will use varying tactics to try and get the best out of their players.

Sometimes they fail, but they are not usually malicious.

There are obviously players who have felt wronged by Mangino over the years. He's not a teddy bear, but we already knew that. He might sometimes cross the line that separates good-intentioned motivation and demeaning attacks.

Facts are difficult to grasp in this situation. But there is no disputing that Kansas football is in a far better place now — even in the midst of a losing streak — than it was when Mangino took over from Terry Allen eight years ago.

Today, this crazy, polarizing story could take its strangest twist yet. Imagine a Kansas upset win against a team that has its sight set on a national championship.

A poke in the chest suddenly might not seem like such a big deal.