He hasn’t coached in decades, but Don Fambrough still considers the young men who wear KU on their helmets to be his players. That’s why nearly daily he stands on the sidelines and watches Kansas University coach Mark Mangino put the players through their drills.
Fambrough painted a somber picture of last week’s practices, which took place while the team’s coach, Mangino, was being investigated by Lori Williams, assistant to athletic director Lew Perkins.
“It was so quiet you could hear a pin drop,” Fambrough said. “Those players didn’t know what coach they were playing for, and they didn’t know what team they were playing against. And they went down to Texas and played their hearts out. That score wasn’t an indication of how well they played. They just didn’t have enough players to play with a team like Texas.”
Fambrough may stand on the sidelines during practice, but he’s not about to stay out of the picture when he thinks there’s something he can do to pick up the spirits of his beloved KU football program, especially during Missouri week.
Fambrough is asking everybody who cares about KU football to show up at the south gate of the east side of Memorial Stadium at 5:20 Wednesday as a show of support to the players. Coach Fam said he cleared the idea with Mangino.
Before the question could be asked, Fambrough answered it.
“This is strictly to show support for the players,” Fambrough said, his Texas twang thickening. “All anybody needs for a ticket is to like KU football and detest Missouri football. Strictly for the players. This is not about trying to save Mangino’s job, and it’s not about trying to get the athletic director fired. This whole mess has put the players in a pretty bad frame of mind, and they need to know people still support them.”
Fambrough is well aware that Wednesday evening, as practice winds down, some might already be preparing elements of Thanksgiving dinner. Others might be picking up loved ones at the airport. For those who can clear their calendars, Fambrough implores, park your car in the east parking lot adjacent to the stadium and do your part to get the players ready to beat Missouri.
Fans coming to Wednesday’s 7 p.m. basketball game against Oakland University, Fambrough notes, can arrive early, make a detour to the football stadium to support the players and take their seats in Allen Fieldhouse in time to watch warmups for the nation’s No. 1-ranked basketball team.
Fambrough always has supported Mangino and remains in his corner.
“I go to football practice every day, and I’ve never seen him mistreating players,” Fambrough said. “He’s a tough coach, but he’s fair. He doesn’t care if you’re the governor or the water boy. Sure, he’s tough, but this is football. You have to be tough.”
It will be interesting to see what sort of turnout will gather at the southeast corner of Memorial Stadium.
Fambrough has some magic to him.