Every so often, Kansas University football coach Mark Mangino and members of his coaching staff will be sitting in their respective offices at 9 or 10 p.m., going about their business, when a player will drop by to talk football.
Usually, the late-night visitors are seeking extra tutelage — a player hoping to discuss something he noticed while scanning extra film or talk specifics about an upcoming opponent — and the coach can’t help but to be encouraged.
“Our kids are really learning that (practice) is a good foundation for weekly football preparation,” Mangino said Wednesday. “But we’re finding our kids now are kind of hungering to do more.”
When Mangino arrived at KU in 2002, he said, only four or five players — including former quarterback Bill Whittemore — would go above and beyond the allotted 20 hours per week college teams are allowed to use for practice and game preparations. By the following year, however, players had begun to see the advantages of working ahead, and as time has passed, players stopping by the football offices in their free time has become a common occurrence.
While the NCAA’s 20-hour limit prevents coaches from over-working student-athletes — a mandate, surely, that programs across the country are monitoring carefully in the aftermath of a recent report that Michigan’s coaching staff allegedly exceeded the NCAA’s allotted hours on a regular basis — players are allowed to do as they please in their free time.
And in the case of the 16th-ranked Jayhawks, who host Iowa State at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, there are plenty that devote that time to football.
“We come in a little bit extra before practice starts and everything, get 15, 20, 30 minutes in everyday,” said defensive end Steven Foster. “But we definitely need that full 20 hours a week to get prepared for each game.”
Mangino said he wouldn’t have much trouble figuring out how to use a few additional hours with his team — “As a coach, it’s never enough,” he joked — but said he also understands the need for limitations of student-athletes.
Still, his players’ initiative has him smiling.
“One time, years ago, someone said, ‘Well, you know we ought to give the kids the summer off, and the NCAA should lock all the weight rooms up,’” Mangino said. “Let me tell you, our kids would knock the lock off the weight room, because they know they’re going to play against good people, they want to be ready.”
“We’re finding our kids are motivated to do more on their own,” he added, “which is a sign of a ball club that is maturing.”