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Thursday, October 10, 2002

Grand marshal, former coach is ‘sold on coach Mangino’

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Don Fambrough has faith Mark Mangino will turn Kansas University's limping football program into a winner.

Fambrough should know. He helped salvage the KU program before not once, but twice.

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"I don't think there's any doubt in my mind he'll turn the program around," Fambrough said. "None of us are patient. But I'm sold on coach Mangino."

Fambrough, a former Jayhawk player who served as KU's head coach from 1971 to 1974 and from 1979 to 1982, will serve as grand marshal in Saturday's Homecoming parade. The parade is at 10:30 a.m. on Jayhawk Boulevard.

KU's record in 1970, the year before Fambrough took over as coach the first time, was 5-6. It took him three years to reach a 7-4-1 record and the Liberty Bowl, which KU lost 31-18 to North Carolina State.

He became assistant director of the Williams Fund in 1974, then took the reins of the football team again in 1979. Once again, it took him three seasons to reach a bowl game that time the Hall of Fame Bowl, a 10-0 loss to Mississippi State.

Overall, Fambrough was 36-49-5 during his eight seasons at KU.

Fambrough said he saw parallels between Mangino's situation and his own quests to energize the program.

"It's very similar," he said. "Any time you have a coaching change, you have this rebuilding job to do. Just like when I was head coach, recruiting is the name of the game. We could dig up Knute Rockne, but without the players, they're not going to be successful."

Fambrough said he was convinced the only way to build fan support for the football team would be to have a winning program.

"It's hard to be patient," he said. "We want it to happen right now. That's not the way it works. My advice to fans is give the man (Mangino) a chance."

Looking back on his career, Fambrough said every victory against Missouri was a highlight. He was 4-4 against the Tigers as a head coach.

"I didn't like those folks," he said. "Everybody knows that. I get asked a lot why I don't like them. I say it's because they're too easy to dislike."

Fambrough attends KU football practices nearly every day as a spectator, and he never misses a game. He'll celebrate his 80th birthday next Saturday by attending the KU game against Texas A&M.;

He said it was a "big thrill" to be riding in the Homecoming parade as grand marshal.

"I'm excited about that," he said. "I get excited about anything that has to do with KU football. It's a big honor for me."

Tyler Waldorf, a Leawood sophomore and parade co-chairman, said Fambrough was the perfect choice for grand marshal because he represented tradition in a time of change. This year's Homecoming theme is "Traditions anew in 2002: A hawk of a good time."

"He's a large part of KU football history," Waldorf said.

Or as Fambrough said: "They wanted something old and something new. Obviously I'm something old. I'm glad to play that role."

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