I know a guy who knows a guy who got his start in the college football coaching business as a spy. This is how the spy didn't do his job: He didn't wear a big red "S" on his forehead. He didn't wear a Groucho Marx nose, glasses and mustache set. He didn't carry a briefcase.
This is how the spy did his job: He peeled back a few bills from the huge wad of cash one of the coaches paid him, purchased a round-trip airline ticket, and arrived in town mid-week, late enough that if he were spotted, the enemy couldn't redo its entire game plan. He immediately stopped at the bookstore to load up on gear, so that he could wear it around campus and blend in.
He might pose as a student reading on a hill, or a friend of a construction worker. He would be spotted doing something innocent, so when he strolled closer, no alarms sounded. All the while, he would be taking mental notes. When he drifted into a hidden area, maybe behind a dumpster or a tree or a giant crane, he would whip out a tiny tape recorder and record his mental notes.
Back home, he would present his detailed information to the coaching staff.
Spies don't announce their arrivals and departures. The problem with having practice fields visible from so many different public vantage points, as with Kansas University's two new ones, is that it leaves the head coach with one of two choices, neither free of downsides. Mark Mangino can either assume that everyone watching his practice from public property is a spy or he can assume nobody is.
Taking the first path means offending numerous innocent bystanders, well-wishing KU football fans so excited about the impending football season they just want a preview of the action. Nobody likes being told they aren't wanted, indirectly almost being accused of spying.
Going with the second option - and nobody wants to hear this - leaves Kansas vulnerable to spies and therefore less likely to win football games. Intelligence gathering that uncovers a trick play here, a new formation there, might change one play that turns one game from a victory into a loss. Nobody ever will know why. Maybe it happens once every five years.
A third option, working out on Kivisto Field and leaving the practice fields to the kickers, would represent a huge waste of money.
If you're Mangino, which path do you take?
Wander into Allen Fieldhouse some day during one of Bill Self's basketball practices and you'll find the doors down, shutting out the public. Viewing isn't an option and nobody needs to police anything. Mangino doesn't have that luxury.
Mangino brushes off questions about spying, not wanting to be labeled as paranoid. No easy solution exists to his quandary, but the best approach might lie with Mangino addressing it head-on with a statement somewhere along the lines of: "We're all in this together. We all want Kansas to field a winner. I'm asking you to trust me that the best way to build a winner is to practice in private. We'll be asking you to leave if you decide to watch. I hope you understand our position." Those who stand their ground get put on a spy watch list. Just what college football needs, another watch list.