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Former Kansas University athletic director Al Bohl, who hired Mark Mangino at Kansas and Gary Pinkel at Toledo, discusses why he thought both men would make successful head coaches.
A glance at the Associated Press Top 25 rankings is all that's necessary to validate Lew Perkins' ability to hire a winning football coach.
Perkins was the athletic director at University of Connecticut when the time came to find the right coach to bring the school from the less competitive Division 1-AA to Division 1-A. He hired Randy Edsall, whose Huskies are ranked 20th in the nation.
Don't count Perkins among those worried that he'll need to try to repeat his hiring success any time soon.
Typically, when a school not known for its football tradition has a break-out season, such as the one Kansas University is having under sixth-year coach Mark Mangino, the coach's name surfaces as a candidate for a more prestigious job.
Will Kansas be able to keep Mangino, whose Jayhawks are ranked second in the country and take an 11-0 record into Saturday's rivalry game against Missouri at Arrowhead Stadium?
"Keep Mark?" Perkins echoed. "We hope so. We love Mark, and I think he likes it here, too. I think the one thing Mark realizes is we showed confidence in him, personally and professionally, when everyone was saying this is not good. We said this is good. We stood behind him."
The athletic department did so by rewarding Mangino with a new contract heading into the start of the 2006 season that raised Mangino's guaranteed income from $610,000 per year to $1.5 million per, when his record at Kansas was 19-29, thanks largely to a 2-10 first season.
"Why is it as soon as one guy wins games it's, 'He's going to leave Kansas?"' Perkins asked. "Why is he going to leave Kansas? He's 11-0. We've got a great facility (on the way). Why do people have him leaving Kansas? That's what happened previously. Why leave? It's a great place. It's a great university. It's a great place to coach football. It's a great place to coach basketball. Now if Ohio State, or Michigan or Notre Dame were interested, I would understand if he would look at it. After that, I'm not quite sure why he would look at anything."
A native of New Castle, Pa., Penn State might appeal to Mangino if it were to come open, but not necessarily as much as KU appeals to him, considering his family is entrenched in the Lawrence area, and considering the new football complex is set to open next year.
Coming into this season, the issue was more whether Mangino could endure another 6-6 season than it was whether a traditional football power would try to steal him from Kansas.
Perkins was asked: Did Mangino have to do it this season to keep his job?
"I don't think he had to do it," Perkins said. "Did he have to be 11-0? Of course not. Mark and I both said we don't want to be mediocre anymore. We weren't afraid to say that. I think that was what people couldn't understand. We said that's not good enough for Kansas. We said it. He's obviously gone out and done it."
Mangino has a 36-35 record at KU. The last football coach with a winning KU career record, Jack Mitchell, last coached at the school in 1966.
Until a house was constructed between their homes, Mangino and Perkins were next-door neighbors. Still, from the day Perkins was hired, whispers about their relationship made their way to Perkins' ears.
"When I first got here everybody said, 'You're going to fire your football coach. He's not my guy.' Bill Self was already hired when I came here, too. Mark's my guy," Perkins said. "We gave him a five-year deal. Why do people say that? Why did people say he's not my kind of guy? The easy thing to do is fire people. The hard thing is to stay with people. If you're going to stay with someone, you've got to give them the tools to be successful. And the one thing Mark said to us is I need a facility. They've been talking about a facility for 50 years. Exaggeration, but Glen Mason was talking about it. Terry Allen talked about it. Well, let's go build a facility. Enough talk. Let's go get it done. And that's what we did."
Asked to compare the revival of the KU football program to the rise of UConn's, Perkins said: "I think obviously there is more history and tradition here, much more, playing the Big 8 and the Big 12, and we've had great players here and played against great players, but probably the biggest similarity we had to overcome at Connecticut and we had to overcome here - and I think we have overcome it at both schools - is 'Oh, you're a basketball school.'
"There is no such thing as basketball schools. We're athletic programs. When I came here and when I was at Connecticut, we talked about being very good at everything. I kept saying to people, 'Why do we have to be just a basketball school? Why can't we be a football school, a golf school? We're an athletic program.' At Connecticut, we had won 64 conference championships in all kinds of sports. We need to do that here at Kansas. There was no reason why our football program couldn't compete and win at the highest level. We were competing at the highest level because of our conference, but why can't we compete and win?"
Now that Mangino, hired by Al Bohl and extended by Perkins, has KU ranked second in the nation, the question no longer has to be asked.
"Obviously, we had a lot of confidence in Mark last year," Perkins said. "That's why we gave him that contract. I really believe in studying history and tradition. Every time there was a problem here it was, 'Get rid of the coach.' That's not the problem. We had all kinds of other things we had to overcome. 'Get rid of the coach' doesn't solve the problem. We have to get a facility. We have to sell tickets. We've got to promote the program, and we've got to say it's OK to let him go coach. We saw what he was doing the last couple of years."
Mangino was doing the same thing then that he's doing now: Sawing wood. He's one stroke away from winning the Big 12 North title outright, two strokes from a Big 12 championship, three strokes from a national championship.