Success-wise, it's been a 3-2 season for head coaches who never played football as collegians. Three are Big 12 people.
At the start of the '07 campaign, there were five non-gridder coaches in the major college ranks: Mark Mangino of Kansas, Paul Johnson of Navy, Mike Leach of Texas Tech, Charlie Weis of Notre Dame and Dennis Franchione of Texas A&M. Mangino (11-1), Johnson (7-4 to date) and Leach (8-4) have had good to excellent seasons; Weis suffered through a devastating 3-9 at Notre Dame; Franchione (7-5) was fired at A&M.
By now, you're aware of Mangino's struggles to get an education via Youngstown State and acquire enough football acumen to enter coaching - first at the high school and small college levels, then as a key assistant at Kansas State and Oklahoma. His family stuck with him through the most difficult of times, and they also deserve merits for such loyalty and devotion.
Not normally a demonstrative type in the public eye, the droll Mark in six seasons has brought the Kansas Jayhawks from the depths of despair after the Terry Allen floppola. They actually had a shot at a national title before Missouri did them in. Any time 10 games is the most a school has won in one season and a group of warriors produce an 11-1, the head coach, his assistants and the young men they assembled have done superlative work. You'd have a tough time convincing anyone that Mangino's lack of a football letter in college would have produced anything better.
And this team isn't going to any humpty-dumpty, second-thought bowl game. They'll be blessed with extra practice and organization time en route to one of the biggies - which they richly deserve.
The other Kansas-oriented guy in the no-letter mix is Franchione, a native of Girard, Kan. He attended Pittsburg State where he later head-coached. His momma was afraid he'd be crippled or killed in football, so he lettered in baseball but spent all the time he could around the football operation. It paid off with head coaching jobs at TCU, New Mexico, Alabama and A&M before something went wrong, and he lost the confidence of his players, the Aggie administration and the alumni. He once was a hot prospect to succeed Glen Mason at Kansas. Terry Allen got the job.
We might be aligned more closely before long with Johnson of Navy. He's due to be interviewed for the Nebraska job. Johnson, a Western Carolina grad, had a 62-10 record at Georgia Southern. His first year at Navy was a 2-10. Since then the amazing record for a service academy has been 41-19, with the Army game yet to go. Included was that 46-44 four-overtime victory that snapped a 43-game losing streak against Notre Dame.
Johnson has a star quarterback named Kaipo-Noah Kaheaku-Enhada. Joe Ganz at Nebraska would be easier to talk about. Announcers for the Army-Navy game probably groaned when they found that Kaipo-Noah would come off the injury list for the 2007 showdown.
Texas Tech's Leach studied, but didn't play, football at Brigham Young and has made all kinds of waves at Texas Tech. Weis attended Notre Dame, wasn't a footballer but earned three Super Bowl title rings as an assistant with the New York Giants and New England Patriots before going back to the Golden Dome and the '07 deflation.
But right now, the Golden Boy of the non-lettered coaches (and most others) is Mangino.