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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Jayhawks add ULM to football schedule

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It wasn't without a little bit of 11th-hour sweating. But Kansas University completed its 2006 football schedule Wednesday and, really, got exactly what it wanted out of its nonconference slate - three home games and a slow progression in challenge.

Louisiana-Monroe was added to the 12-game schedule to finish the puzzle Wednesday. KU's nonconference slate will feature NCAA Division I-AA Northwestern (La.) State on Sept. 2, ULM on Sept. 9, Toledo on Sept. 16 and South Florida on Sept. 23. All except the Toledo game will be at Memorial Stadium.

"I knew that they were still open," associate athletic director Larry Keating said of ULM. "They had the date. The date we were looking for was open, and that was the big thing."

KU coach Mark Mangino annually says the first game of the season is unpredictable, making a I-AA opponent like Northwestern State appealing. From there, the schedule gets more challenging as the weeks go, until KU finishes the nonconference slate with South Florida, a Big East foe which played in the Meineke Car Care Bowl last season.

"I think that's the strategy, but I can't admit that (it went according to plan)," Keating said with a laugh.

Kansas could have completed the slate long ago, but Florida International backed out of a Sept. 9 date so it could play a series with nearby Miami University.

KU entered a two-for-one deal with ULM, with the Indians coming to Lawrence again in 2011 and Kansas slated to travel to Monroe, La., in 2012.

KU's Big 12 Conference schedule kicks off at Nebraska on Sept. 30 and finishes Nov. 25 at Missouri. KU will play Texas A&M;, Oklahoma State, Colorado and Kansas State at home. Kickoff times will be announced later for the nonconference slate, and the Big 12 kickoffs usually are determined about two weeks before each game.

¢ KU ties: ULM is coached by Charlie Weatherbie, father of former KU quarterback Jonas Weatherbie. Also, former KU quarterback Bill Whittemore will be a graduate assistant on Charlie Weatherbie's staff this season.

¢ Toledo moved up?: The possibility still remains the Toledo game will be moved up to Thursday or Friday night for television purposes. In the past, the Rockets have played several of their games on weeknights to get on ESPN, and Keating said talks had taken place between the two schools and the cable giant regarding the matchup.

"Friday is better than Thursday," Keating said. "It's a problem for the coaches. It really has to do with pre- and postgame regimen. If you're coming off a game on the ninth, you have to give the kids a day off. If you're playing on Thursday, that's only three days to prepare."

¢ Still no word: KU still is anxiously awaiting news on Eric Butler.

Butler, a defensive tackle, is seeking more eligibility after emerging as a key role player on the 2005 KU defense. He has played only two years of college football, but originally enrolled in college five years ago, thus starting his eligibility clock.

KU petitioned the NCAA several weeks ago and recently was contacted by NCAA officials who requested more information. Mangino said Feb. 1 that the Jayhawks "haven't gotten encouraging news."

¢ Mangino's future?: The Sporting News recently ran an opinion piece on Mangino's contract status. TSN called for KU athletics director Lew Perkins to give Mangino an extension on his contract, which expires after the 2008 season.

Perkins won't comment on such matters to the media, but one source says KU officials may be waiting until after the results of the NCAA investigation are released to discuss Mangino's contract.

Football was one of the sports punished internally last summer for eight NCAA violations. The report was submitted to the NCAA, which currently is finishing its own investigation.

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