How'd that trucker on the old recording put it? . . . "Mercy sakes, we got ourselves a convoy!" You might substitute "rivalry" for "convoy" the way the Kansas-Kansas State football-basketball linkage is shaping up. Lots of fun ahead.
Kansas football coach Mark Mangino has assembled a promising crew that could do as well as 8-4 or 9-3 in 2006, including victories over K-State, Nebraska and Missouri. If Mark can do that, will KU boost his salary higher than that of Ron Prince, the articulate new KSU coach who is creating quite a footprint with his barnstorming? (A personality comparison for Prince and predecessor Bill Snyder is like pairing Calvin Coolidge in a debate with Teddy Roosevelt). Prince is using his bully pulpit to spread tons of Catnip.
Kansas finally renewed the grid rivalry when it upset K-State in 2004. Can Mangino and Co. restore KU dominance of the series with another win in 2006? The heat is building.
Then there's Bob Huggins, the credentialed but controversial Cincinnati ex who now heads up KSU basketball. Like Prince, Huggy Bear is cutting a wide swath with his recruiting coups and glib outreach. K-State broke a KU chokehold on the court scene last season and is drooling about ending that humiliating Kansas win streak in Manhattan.
A clause in his contract, however, makes it clear Bob needs to do all this, and more, legitimately with good kids so he won't leave town as Thuggy Bear. Lots of his previous players had issues, so to speak; Huggins' personal bombastity is a concern of some KSU people.
Meanwhile, Kansas coach Bill Self, with the best 10-deep roster in school history, is not trying to barge onto the publicity scene with ill-chosen appearances and peevish talk. Cool Bill knows what he has and he's lying back like the incomparable Robert Duvall in "Broken Trail," biding his time. The Jayhawks are definitely better than the Wildcats will be, new guys and all. But Huggins has rekindled old rivalry flames that will pack the halls here and there, the latter for a welcome and needed change.
Back to that Mangino-Prince salary thing now that we've begun to get excited about the 2006-07 football-basketball confrontations.
Things may have changed, but a recent Des Moines Register rundown on Big 12 coach salaries had Oklahoma's Bob Stoops on top at $2.6 million a year and Texas's Mack Brown at $2.5 million. Texas A&M's Dennis Franchione was next at $2 million, Nebraska's Bill Callahan gets $1.5 mill, Texas Tech's Mike Leach $1.3 mill, then Iowa State's Dan McCarney, Baylor's Guy Morris and Missouri's Gary Pinkel bank $1.1 mill. Colorado's Dan Hawkins and Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy are listed at $850,000, followed by KSU's Prince at $750,000 and KU's Mangino dead last at $650,000.
With several $5,000 to $20,000 bonuses for beating Nebraska, winning a bowl game, winning a major televised game, and including radio and television and athletic gear and stuff, Mangino probably has about a $1 million package. His contract runs until Dec. 31, 2008. Are The Suits letting him lag the likes of Prince, Pinkel and such on purpose, or do they have some scintillating new perks in the mill? Would a 9-4 (bowl win added) boost Mangino into the league's first division salary-wise, as it should?
The revived Kansas-Kansas State rivalry is only one of a batch of intriguing questions about KU athletics in 2006-07.