Friday, November 30, 2007

Mayer: Mangino best of letterless


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.


John Strayer 10 years, 7 months ago

Since when does play a sport give you a leg up?

Anyway, if you are really good at a sport, chances are you will play professionally and be able to avoid have to "work" when you are done.

Being a college head coach is more like being a salesman and a CEO wrapped in one: a salesmen to sell your vision to potential players and potential assistant coaches, and a CEO to successfully be a leader.

John Strayer 10 years, 7 months ago could be a leg up..but to say someone who hasn't played won't necessarily be a good coach is perplexing.

10 years, 7 months ago

aTm finished 7-5 this year, not 8-4. Rumor has it SMU is looking hard at Franchione.

William James 10 years, 7 months ago

It always frustrated the hell out of me to go into one of those Kansas stores and see KU Basketball stuff, KSU football stuff and no KU football stuff. Very frustrating.

sevenyearhawk 10 years, 7 months ago

well jpstrayer ... someone correct on this if I'm wrong ... Our Former Coach Roy Williams was the first (and only) coach to win an NCAA title who wasn't a former player?

I suppose it gives you an understanding of what the players are experiencing and/or more credibility in their eyes?

May I also add, and their is no tactful way to put this: I don't know what has "changed" with Mr. Mayer recently, but his last few columns have been remarkably eloquent!

Keep up the great work ...

sevenyearhawk 10 years, 7 months ago

hey Tex ... glad you made it back home safely ...

Go pretty much the Big XII and Conference USA are going to swap coaches with Briles to Baylor; and Franchione to SMU?

Interesting ...

justanotherfan 10 years, 7 months ago

Having played gives you an advantage in recruiting - players relate well to other players. If you didn't play you just have to make up for that by being able to relate well to the players as people. Its just something you have to work around if you didn't play.

William James 10 years, 7 months ago

Hey Tex, you gonna go to the bowl game ya think?

seattlehawk_78 10 years, 7 months ago

7year, didn't Roy sit the bench for one year at UNC?

10 years, 7 months ago

Thanks, sevenyear. It is nice to be back in somewhat warmer weather!

fabio, one of the guys I tailgate with put in a ticket application for all of the possible bowls our team may go to, so we should be there. Do you and the sausage king think you guys will make it as well?

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