Originally published November 19, 2009 at 07:08p.m., updated November 20, 2009 at 12:00a.m.
Norman, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops is sticking by his former assistant — Kansas coach Mark Mangino. Mangino is facing an internal investigation by the school over an undisclosed personnel matter.
Stoops says Mangino has always been close to and concerned about his players.
Mangino was OU’s offensive line coach in 1999 and the Sooners’ offensive coordinator in 2000 and 2001 before becoming head coach at KU.
Kansas University football coach Mark Mangino denied recent accusations that he has made a habit of orally abusing players during his eight-year tenure in Lawrence.
Though he didn’t address certain allegations specifically, Mangino — speaking Thursday during his weekly radio show, “Hawk Talk with Mark Mangino” — said he took exception to comments made by former players in the days since KU athletic director Lew Perkins launched an internal investigation concerning the actions of the coach.
“I’ll be honest with you, some of the stuff is flat-out embellished and just not true,” said Mangino, whose Jayhawks (5-5) will travel to Texas on Saturday for a meeting with the No. 3 Longhorns. “... I think there are people embarrassing this program just for their 15 minutes of fame.”
Later, he added, “I can’t do the work of some parents, what they should have done before (the players) got to me. Some are just bitter ... and I can’t do anything about that. There’s some things, for 18 years, that happened in their lives that I can’t change in four years of college. I can’t do it. Can’t change their behaviors, can’t change their attitudes.”
Since the Journal-World first reported the ongoing investigation Tuesday morning, some former players have come forward with less-than-glowing experiences involving the coach, allegations that have included near-daily oral abuse of players and coaches, threats of revoking scholarships and the airing of players’ personal matters in a team setting.
Mangino, who received multiple ovations from the Buffalo Wild Wings crowd during his one-hour live show, stood by his previous assertion that his approach is comparable to other coaches across the Big 12 Conference, insisting he is more than comfortable with the manner in which he runs his program.
“When you do things the right way and you do things to help young people and bring some discipline and structure and try to lead them to earn a college degree, that’s all I’ve done,” he said. “I’m at peace with myself. I’ve got nothing to worry about because I know how we take care of our program and how we take care of our players.
“I can’t tell you that every guy we’ve had here has been an outstanding person to work with. We’ve had our share of slackers and corner-cutters and all those kind of things. We just try to show them the way. Some young people want discipline in their life. They benefit by it. They want structure. They understand the big picture. And some don’t. But to me — I’m good, man. I’m feeling great. I’m doing what I know how to do and doing it to the best of my ability.”
Informed of Mangino’s comments late Thursday night, former Kansas running back Jocques Crawford chuckled.
“I would expect him to say something like that,” he said. “That’s a bail-out.”
Crawford, who transferred from Kansas last summer and is now a walk-on at Tennessee Tech in Cookeville, Tenn., also told the Journal-World on Thursday that players felt pressured to play injured.
“My first game at KU, I sprained my ankle really bad, and I came to the sideline, and I told them I hurt my ankle, and the coach said, ‘Was I going to be a (wimp) about it or was I going to go back in?’” Crawford said. “So I felt like I had to prove something to him.”
Another former player, however, reiterated Thursday that Mangino is far from the man he has been made out to be by some.
Former defensive tackle Travis Watkins spoke glowingly of a coach who was tough but fair, and unlike previous players, who say they left the program with no real relationship with the coach, said he speaks to Mangino a handful of times every year.
As an example of the coach’s support of his players, Watkins pointed to Mangino’s postgame rant following a controversial loss to Texas in 2004 in which the coach implied that the game’s officiating had been rigged based on a desire for the Longhorns to play in a BCS game.
According to Watkins, Mangino walked into the locker room before attending the postgame news conference and teared up at seeing the disappointment of his players.
“He was in there crying with us,” Watkins said.
Watkins said that, like any college football program, there were good times and bad times, and there was no denying that playing college football at Kansas was not an easy thing to do.
But there was always a method to Mangino’s madness, Watkins said, and the rants — no matter how severe — always served a specific purpose.
“I definitely went through times when I was like, ‘This guy’s crazy,’ ‘He’s an (expletive)’ or whatever,” Watkins said. “But the older I got, and the more I got into the program, after going through everything, in every instance you look back — he might have at times said some crazy things, but it was all to make you a better player and a better person.”