Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Keegan: Mangino faces decision


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.


Michael Leiker 11 years, 9 months ago

Simple...practice stuff people have seen before and do other normal drills on the practice fields...throw in a few BS trick plays that you will never use in case people are watching, and maybe a few plays out of new formations that you would never use and practice the new stuff at Anschutz or Kivisto.

EternalHawk 11 years, 9 months ago

Practice is just the foundation. Come game day you have to adapt and make decisions on the fly. It doesn't really matter what a "spy" sees if you succesfully keep opponents guessing what you'll do next. This is football not politics.

quigley 11 years, 9 months ago

When Mangino first started I walked up to the fence at Memorial one day during practice. I was asked by an assistant to leave. It was very hard to see anything anyway and they saw me instantly. I don't know if this is as big of a problem as people would think. Unless someone is up in a tree with a telephoto lense or something.

Dirk Medema 11 years, 9 months ago

Nothing new here. Move along.(AKA Don't these guys read what their coworkers write?)Fans get an eyeful at new fieldPosted Saturday, Aug. 9, 2008It may be the best deal on Mount Oread these days: A free, almost daily glimpse of the Orange Bowl Champion KU football team.Leaders of the Kansas University Athletic Department may not have planned it this way when they built a new $31 million practice field and football complex south of Memorial Stadium, but it now appears that members of the public will get a free look at the team even during "closed" practices.A spokesman with the Athletic Department said Friday that individuals standing on public property surrounding the university's practice complex would no longer be asked to leave during practice times.Spokesman Jim Marchiony said he was not aware people were being asked to leave public areas during closed practices, but he said that was not an appropriate policy."If that happened, it won't happen again," Marchiony said.The Journal-World received two reports from members of the public who said an individual wearing KU gear told them Coach Mark Mangino was asking them to leave the area. Both individuals were in parking spots along Mississippi Street that overlook the practice fields. Several other public places - including the top floor of an adjacent parking garage and several locations on The Hill - provide clear views of the practice fields.One individual who reported the incident was a local business owner who asked not to be named for fear that it would damage business relationships with the university. The other was a member of the Journal-World news staff, who stopped at the parking area as part of a Sunday morning drive.At a Thursday evening "closed" practice, several fans agreed that the new complex provided a unique behind-the-scenes view of major college football. At any given time, about six people were in the Mississippi Street parking area, and three to four fans were on the top level of the parking garage.Fans are close enough to the action to clearly hear coaches shouting instructions at players and to hear the crack of shoulder pads colliding."It's great," said Arnold Beevers, who was visiting the campus from Wichita. "We were surprised to see them out there practicing in the open. It's really pretty entertaining."Many college football coaches try to keep their practices closed to the public out of fear that someone loyal to another program will see plays, formations or other information that could be used as an advantage in a game.But Marchiony said that shouldn't be a major concern with the new practice complex."Nobody is too worried about it here," Marchiony said. "If they want to put new wrinkles in, there are other places they can do that."

5DecadeHawk 11 years, 9 months ago

Up a tree with a telephoto lense?STALKER ALERT!Ladies, close those curtains!

troutsee 11 years, 9 months ago

Practices should be closed. Period. Exclamation point.

jayhawkintx73 11 years, 9 months ago

I have no problem if we are scouted out well. We should also be scouting our opponents too. It doesn't mean we have to sneak into their practices either. Last season, OU was proven to be vulnerable if a team they play against plays physical, which we do, and discplined, which we do. We have lots of speed in key positions, and we have lots of experience. So, watch their video and analyze the habits and tendencies of their players.

5DecadeHawk 11 years, 9 months ago

There are more options Keegan. You're missing the incredibly obvious!ANSCHUTZ!! Hey Tom? Remember that big indoor practice building? Is it so unreasonable to hold the secret portions of practice in Anschutz? Yeah it's on the other side of the hill, but with some reasonable tweaks to a practice schedule it's very doable.Perhaps another option is for Coach to TALK TO LEW PERKINS.There is another very economical long term solution to this problem. Install a few posts to support a TEMPORARY ALL WEATHER CURTAIN.This curtain need not be hoisted all the time. It could be raised like a flag up a flagpole just for the duration of practice, and then lowered. This would preserve the scenic beauty of the hill.The curtain need not shield all practice fields from prying eyes. One is sufficient. Ideally, the curtain would probably not be used for all practices, and not necessarily for entire practices. KU putting at least a portion of its practices on display is an outstanding Public Relations move. That should continue.With a little preparation, Coach Mangino can easily draw up a practice schedule where nothing secretive is worked on Mondays and Tuesdays. The rest of the week might employ the curtian to as limited extent as possible.A creative AD would take advantage of this curtain and use it like a billboard. He could put a message of goodwill and thanks to the fans on the outside of the curtain.This is a solveable problem. It need not be expensive. It need not be an eyesore.

zissou 11 years, 9 months ago

This column brings good points, but I would argue a few of them. First, basketball practices aren't entirely closed. The doors may block the view on the ground level, but upstairs there are no doors. I spent a lot of time during camping hours as a student watching the team run through plays. I found that if you didn't make yourself obvious and you weren't obnoxious about it, nobody would bother you. Also, it's not like the previous practice fields were completely blocked from view. If someone were as motivated as Keegan's spy friend, they would have quickly realized that the view from the 5th floor and above of Oliver Hall provided great insight into the team. That came in handy in 2003-04 watching the likes of Brian Luke run bootlegs, I'll tell you what.

rolo2383 11 years, 9 months ago

Last year I thought it was one of the practices that was open to the public so I walked right out onto the sidelines and stood about 20 feet from the players who were watching. There were a couple of other guys standing there watching so I stood with them. It turns out the practice wasn't open but no one kicked us out. Mangino looked right at us but didn't say anything. It was kind of cool to be that close to the players as they practiced.

danimal33 11 years, 9 months ago

"We're talkin 'bout practice....Not a game; practice." -Allen Iverson

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