KU to place trees along new practice fields

Friday, August 22, 2008

If Kansas University football coach Mark Mangino was concerned about the lack of privacy provided by his team's new practice fields, he now can rest easy.

KU associate athletic director Jim Marchiony told the Journal-World on Friday afternoon that 100 pine trees will be planted around the fields in an effort to enhance privacy during team workouts.

"You can say we're doing it for the sake of those who use Mississippi Street so they won't feel like they're disturbing practice if they make noise," Marchiony joked. "Also, it's an effort to assist the campus in going green."

"The real reason," he added, "is just to allow for more privacy during practice with respect to how much can be seen and heard."

The project is set to begin sometime next week, with an expected cost of $90,000 - a sum that will come from the Kansas Athletics budget.

Since the $31 million Anderson Family Football Complex was completed, the public nature of the practice fields has been an issue. Located in an open space at the foot of Campanile hill, the fields are in plain view of anyone in the general vicinity.

The addition of trees - which will be 10 to 20 feet tall and located along Mississippi Street, the north edge of parking lot 91 and the west side of the practice fields - likely will conceal the view of the team's practices.

Friday night, however, Mangino pooh-poohed the idea that he had a problem with the location of the practice fields and the exposure they provided.

"I'm not at all concerned about that stuff," he said during an alumni kickoff rally in Prairie Village. "I think it's a tempest in a teapot. Much ado about nothing."

Mum's the word: Although Mangino said Friday that he has selected starters at two of the team's key positions heading into Saturday's home opener against Florida International - kicker and punt returner - he declined to say who those selections might be.

"We have a couple of guys working there," Mangino said of the punt-returning position, one of the team's weakest areas a season ago. "There's one guy in my mind that will probably be working there."

Perhaps the biggest area of concern, though, is placekicker, which took a substantial hit earlier this week. On Monday, red-shirt freshman Stephen Hoge's father confirmed that his son had transferred from the program, while it was also revealed sophomore Jacob Branstetter could be ineligible due to transfer complications.

"We'll be fine at that position," Mangino said. "I feel good about it. In fact, I think we've improved ourselves (there) in the last three days."

Seriously, mum's the word: A question about the status of Branstetter also wasn't directly addressed Friday, as Mangino declined to get into specifics. Branstetter, who arrived at KU in January of 2007 following a short stint at the Air Force Academy, is petitioning the NCAA's compliance office for clearance to play this season.

"I don't have any information," Mangino said. "Nothing has changed in that department."