Wednesday, July 22, 2015


Column: Kansas football losing games, fans


Just as the 2007 Kansas University football season that ended 12-1 with an Orange Bowl victory wasn’t built in months, the decay didn’t happen all at once.

It has been gradual, relentless, complete. The bottoming-out leaves Kansas with a maximum of 62 players who originally came to school as scholarship athletes healthy enough to play in 2015, well below the scholarship limit of 85.

Recruiting too many prospects bad at life, bad at football, or both, in addition to career-ending injuries, have left Kansas heading into a season with a roster woefully lacking in quantity and quality.

Just five players on the roster started as many as half of the games last season: defensive lineman Ben Goodman (12), offensive tackle Larry Mazyck (nine), defensive back Tevin Shaw (eight) and a pair of driven walk-ons since rewarded with scholarships, center Joe Gibson (seven) and defensive lineman T.J. Semke (6).

Goodman, as the team’s lone player with two years of experience as a full-time starter, has developed into a leader.

Mazyck, his first season at Kansas marred by an unusually high number of false-start penalties, didn’t show the passion for football the coaching staff had hoped to see during the spring. It’s getting late for that.

Big things are expected of Shaw, a strong and intense force at nickel back.

Gibson is coming off an injury that prevented him from showing what he could do during spring practices.

Semke doesn’t stand out physically, but brings an edge to his job on every snap.

The five returning starters don’t have careers around which to market, and the fan base understandably has grown suspicious of newcomers, having seen so many over-hyped ones under-deliver.

There is no reasonable way to view the 2015 season as anything but the low point of the 21st century. It’s reasonable to expect a subtle upturn as soon as 2016, but not this coming fall.

That translates to the likely extension of a pair of embarrassing streaks for the program.

More than the standings reveal the decline of KU football. The turnstiles tell the story as well.

Unless Kansas can draw an average crowd of greater than 34,077, this will mark the seventh consecutive season with a decline in attendance.

Every season except Mark Mangino’s last of eight had bigger crowds than the previous season. And in his final season, Mangino’s team was watched at Memorial Stadium by the second-largest average attendance in school history.

Average attendance figures, starting with Mangino’s first year: 2002: 34,333; 2003: 38,750; 2004: 41,066; 2005: 43,675; 2006: 44,137; 2007: 46,785; 2008: 50,907; 2009: 50,581; 2010: 44,851; 2011: 42,283; 2012: 41,329; 2013: 37,884; 2014: 34,077.

The fact that this year’s homecoming is on Halloween won’t help at the turnstiles.

And then there is the matter of not winning a game played outside of Memorial Stadium this decade. The Jayhawks have lost 33 in a row since defeating UTEP, Sept. 9, 2009.

The most realistic shots at ending that streak come Sept. 26 at Rutgers and Oct. 3 at Iowa State, a pair of games in which KU likely will be a double-digit underdog. The streak could grow to 38 by season’s end.


Doug Cramer 7 years ago

"Just as the 2007 Kansas University football season that ended 12-1 with an Orange Bowl victory wasn’t built in months, the decay didn’t happen all at once"

The decay did happen at once. The minute Perkins announced his witch hunt, this program was done.

Bryce Landon 7 years ago

I disagree. The defense in 2008 wasn't quite as good, and several key players from the Orange Bowl team graduated or left for the NFL (Aqib Talib). Mangino and his staff failed to bring in solid recruits to take their place. Also, the 2009 team was deep into its losing streak before Perkins announced his investigation. Had Mangino stayed beyond 2009, I reckon he might have had a losing season in 2010 (though not as bad as 2010 actually was under Gill) because he had no one adequate to fill the shoes of Todd Reesing. Obviously we'll never know for sure what KU football from 2010-2014 would have looked like if Mangino had stayed or if worthier coaches than Gill and Weis had come to Kansas, but the decay began well before Perkins announced the investigation. We were all too busy reveling in our Orange Bowl and Insight Bowl victories to see it.

Joe Ross 7 years ago

Come on Bryce. If youre gonna tell it, tell it all. True the investigation wasnt announced until November, but Perkins was bringing the heat on Mangino well before that. The "final straw" for Perkins was an incident in the Colorado game in mid-October when Mangino allegedly did something to a player in pre-game. Prior to that game we had not lost a game that season. We lost that game on Saturday, but Mangino was already in Perkins' office the following Monday morning getting an earfull. Lew Perkins was not a shrinking violet, so you can imagine that he was probably already threats to Mangino's employment status in that conversation.

Tell it like it is.

Dirk Medema 7 years ago

Joe, you are right about the final straw, but you're not telling it all if you think the program hadn't declined in the preceding year plus.

IMO, the decline began on the sideline even before the team got to the award stand at the Orange Bowl. How many other coaches have refused to allow their team to celebrate with the Gatorade shower? That's on par with winning the World Series, and telling the players they can only celebrate with mineral water because champagne is uncomfortable. Then on the awards stand, the head coach praises the other coaches and is actually a bit dismissive toward the players. Definitely better than the infamous "pile of crap" comment, but something along the lines of - Our players aren't very good, but we sure have a great group of coaches. We sure wouldn't have won much if the coaches hadn't put the players in the perfect position. There's probably plenty of truth there, but definitely didn't go towards motivating the team for the off-season or endearing himself to future recruits.

And realistically, it probably goes well past that point, because something drove DC Young away from KU, allegedly to retire in FL, only to return to the Midwest at the next available DC postion. If you check the records, I think you'll find that Mangino drove away a lot of good assistants, tho it's not likely that those specific words will be used.

Jonathan Allison 7 years ago

I agree with Bryce that the decay was already in effect before the 2009 season.

Ironically, the first leading indicator of the decay may have actually been the signing of Todd Reesing on signing day in January of 2006. Coach was not confident in Kerry Meier who we had believed to be the QB of the future at KU, and failed to land anyone except a late addition 5'10" 2 star Texas kid that few other programs were interested in. In a twist of fate that recruit became the savior of the program and one of KU's all-time great football players. With the kind of success we had with Reesing at the helm, one would think that the staff could sell some highly regarded QB recruits on running a high-powered offense at KU, but that was not the case. Instead we landed a 3 star Arkansas decommit from Dodge and some rural high school kids who put up big numbers against weak competition.

Jonathan Allison 7 years ago

those attendance numbers tell a really sad story.

I really hope that this coach and team can find a rallying cry this year and give us fans something to hope for. Unfortunately I haven't helped the attendance numbers any since 2006, and this year won't be any different.

Calvin Miller 7 years ago

Those aren't even the actual attendance numbers. Those are "tickets sold" numbers. NO way that attendance averaged greater than 30,000 in 2013 and 2014.

Jim Stauffer 7 years ago

Somehow I am not convinced that we have poor quality just because they haven't been starting for 3 years.

Some short fat guy who can't walk and chew gum at the same time and often writes poor articles does not convince me the 62 kids we do have are poor FB players. That is the essence of a statement that says we don't have quantity or quality.

Taylor Wright 7 years ago

Taking personal shots at the writer? Classy! If you don't like the articles, then why do you read them? Did you expect to see some optimism about KU football this year? I, for one, love Tom's realism. It makes reading the articles much more interesting and puts the upcoming season in perspective, rather than giving us false hope. Don't like it? Leave!

Aaron Paisley 7 years ago

The quality of our players is not good compared to the competition we have to face. That's been evident for several years now.

Steve Corder 7 years ago

A distinction without difference perhaps, but losing games and fans is a misnomer. Losing games and dropping attendance is more accurate, because I will always be a Jayhawk fan.

Am I alone on this, or is this a recycled column?

Bryce Landon 7 years ago

Unless HCDB has some Mangino or Snyder-esque magic in him, this article is going to be recycled a lot more.

Eliott Reeder 7 years ago

On the other hand, those attendance numbers show that with just a few wins here and there, tens of thousands of Jayhawk faithful are ready and willing to come out of the woodwork and pay their hard-earned money to come and support this football team. Mangino went 4-7 his third year, but there was still a steady jump in attendance numbers the next season. Granted, perhaps both of those big 50,000+ years can simply be tied to the phenomenon that was Todd Reesing, we'll never know. Gain a win or two per year and the attendance will follow suit... it's pretty simple. And we will never do that unless we give a coach more than two or three years at a time to build a system and culture.

Michael Lorraine 7 years ago

Oh well. There’s a decent chance football will die of its own obsolescence in a decade or two and if that happens all of this becomes a moot point. Basketball becomes king of college sports and we will be well positioned in that scenario.

Jim Pendleton 7 years ago

Well consider what will happen if the football program does ever go away. KU no longer will be in the Big 12 or any other power conference. Basketball, while it will always be king around here, and will continue to succeed, it will not be any where near the level we have seen the past 30+ years. Kids want to mostly play for power schools in power conferences.

As someone who has supported the football program for many years (can't go to many games any more as I moved out of the area, or I would still be going), it saddens me that other major sports at KU don't have the following basketball does. I hate it that as soon as football, or some other KU team loses a game, everyone asks when does basketball start?

I realize that we aren't good right now, and it will take a couple years to build back to some level of respectability. However, Mangino took us to a bowl in his 2nd year, coming off a 2-10 year in which all the losses were ugly, so it shows anything is possible.

People who aren't doing so already need to come out and support this program now. The team needs to see that Jayhawk Nation is behind them, regardless of win loss record. I know the losses are frustrating and there are a lot of reasons why the program is where it is today, but I honestly believe we have the right guy in place now, and with his previous KU Asst Coach ties, I for one think things can be competitive sooner than later.

Basketball obviously brings in a lot to the University, but everyone needs to come to grips with the reality that football pays the freight for everything else. I for one want to see all KU programs succeed, not just basketball. Yes everyone will continue to question play calls, etc, but we need to fill the stadium with blue every home game, and show everyone that KU is supportive of its football. We have done it before, we can do it again. In the long run, it will help future recruiting, as well as improve budgets for our other programs. Not to mention it is much better to see mostly blue and not 10-20K people wearing purple, red, or orange. Rock Chalk!!

Jonathan Allison 7 years ago

I believe that Michael was suggesting that football, as a sport, will die off because of the head trauma/crippling injury risk to its players.

It is plausible that the concussion settlements could cripple the NFL, while parents grow more reluctant to let their children play football. It's hard to imagine football going away as a sport, but it's not inconceivable that people decide that the risk of playing football doesn't match the reward for the millions of athletes who will never make an NFL dollar.

Suzi Marshall 7 years ago

The mere mention of the name Perkins makes my blood boil. Keegan does not make any mention of him in the article but he is a primary driver of the decline of Kansas football.

KU Chancellor Gray-Little forced Lew Perkins steps down suddenly on Sept. 4, 2011, a year earlier than planned, amongst a swirl of wrong doings and excesses associated with his abusive use athletic funds. Amongst the several disgraceful events were accepting about $15k worth of exercise equipment (remember Medical Outfitters) he installed in his basement, excessive use of chartered flights and over $3MM of theft of KU basketball tickets.

When you add to all Perkin financial dealings to the millions of dollars paid to fired football coaches (Mangino, Gill and later Weis), their can be little doubt that the performance of the football team on the field is mostly directly tied to the management of the athletic department under Perkins.

Perkins managed to get paid $85,000 per week in 2009, making him the highest-paid athletic director in the US. Despite the early “retirement”, KU agreed to pay Perkins the full $2 million salary he would have earned if he had stayed through September 2011, including a $600,000 retention bonus that he would have earned for working at KU through June 2011.

….and don’t forget the whole Bonnie ordeal, money and performance, Perkins brought KU athletics.

Perkins brought to KU from Connecticut an environment of greed, corruption and unethical behavior that permeates our society at the highest levels of leadership.

Joe Ross 7 years ago

While I dont agree that Perkins was responsible for the ticket scandal (if thats what you mean by corruption), I do whole-heartedly agree that Perkins is the sole person responsible for tanking Kansas football, and my reaction to his name is quite similar to yours. Some might ask if I excuse Mangino from responsibility. Yes and No. No, I do not excuse his behavior. But there has been much worse done by football coaches, not the least of which is the case of one Gary Pinkel who is dirty as the devil and still retains his job to this very day. But I do excuse Mangino in the sense that his actions could and should have been corrected in-house, and that his conduct never rose to the level of his being terminated. What Perkins did was the equivalent of using a tank to kill a horse. OVERKILL.

The course of the football program was collateral damage.

Suzi Marshall 7 years ago

Don't forget when Perkins put Mangino under "house arrest" to prevent him from attending the UT game in Austin, February '06, when he said:

"We simply feel, with the enormous importance of this Saturday's basketball game in Austin, we wanted to ensure that Coach Mangino was kept away from the basketball team. Not only do we want to surround the basketball players with people and ideas associated with winning, but we want to ensure that Coach Mangino doesn't eat Mario Chalmers."

With regards to the ticket scandal, recall at the time of his dismissal, Gray-Little left many questions unanswered. My impression for all this was a "court case" would be difficult to bring against Perkins but there was enough probable cause to get this guy out right away, at any cost, which is exactly what she did.

Bryce Landon 7 years ago

Actually, Perkins was forced out in 2010, not 2011.

Billy Derringer 7 years ago

bla-bla-bla-...Its spilled milk now, all we can do is clean it up an move on...

Bryce Landon 7 years ago

Problem is, the spilt milk isn't cleaned up. It's still sitting on the counter, rotting, stinking, evolving into an intelligent life form...

Glen Miller 7 years ago

Maybe instead of being fair weather fans, we could support our teams (all teams) through thick and thin. We've become a spoiled rotten fan base that says unless you win, we aren't coming. I went to the Oklahoma State game in Stillwater a few years back as I live in Oklahoma now. We were getting rocked, but I sat in the middle of the student section (I was with a friend who attended school there) in full clad KU blue cheering my ass off anyways........ I had just as much fun cheering my team in that moment than any other and I'm going to the OU game this year. It sucked that we lost, but I was one of a very few amount of people that got to watch my team and my school live that day. You can't pick and choose when you are a KU fan and when you are not. Being a fan means to love your team and support them no matter what. If I lived in Lawrence, I'd be a season ticket holder and it really sucks to sit here and listen to you guys bitch about losing and how you're not going to go to the game, when I'd love to have that opportunity. I debate this team and this school and scrutinize as much as the next guy does, but at the end of the day.... I suit up, head out and support my team and my school whenever I can and I sure as hell don't piss and moan about it. Grow up and learn what actually being a fan means.

Calvin Miller 7 years ago

The fans that post on here are the ones that attend games. KU needs the current students, and the alums who live remotely to regain interest in games. Alums will travel farther for a football weekend than they will for a 2 hour basketball game. The key is for Beaty to have the team competitive for the next 2 years, and then start winning in 2017. That's a steep hill to climb--the team will get rolled in conference games this year.

Chuck Woodling 7 years ago

Interesting to note that in 115 years of football, Kansas has had only one winless season -- 0-10 in 1954. Clearly, the 2115 team could become the second, but with 12 games on the schedule I don't envision an O-fer. On another subject, considering Perkins' history of hiring coaches, aren't you glad KU hired Bill Self before Perkins showed up? Self, you'll recall, was hired by interim AD Drew Jennings.

Suzi Marshall 7 years ago

Yes I am extremly glad Self was hired before Perkins showed up! Can you imagine who he may have hired....maybe Bonnie for the Men's team? I thank my luck stars Self re-upped for Kansas under the Perkins nutty time. It must have been very hard for Self....Pickens and his Alma Mater or the criminal Perkins. We are all very very lucky.

Clarence Haynes 7 years ago

Chuck, Doubt if any of us will be around in 2115:)!

Dirk Medema 7 years ago

Is Keyon Haughton not with the team anymore?

It continues to amaze me at the number of players that appear to be leaving the team with eligibility remaining. TK/Matt/... Is this something the FB staff would not appreciate having discussed? Seems like a reasonable article to me

Dirk Medema 7 years ago

Keyon is still listed on the athletic dept roster.

He started several games IIRC and played in a bunch I thought - Ooops, but there's the qualifier. Needed at least 6 starts to make TK's list.

Hmmm, who else was overlooked?

Greg Allen started three games in 2014, while playing in all 12 contests.

Courtney Arnick started five of the 12 games he played in 2014 and ended the season sixth on the team in total tackles with 45.

De'Andre Mann started one game in 2014, while seeing playing time in nine total contests.

Jordan Shelley-Smith played in all 12 contests, including a start at right tackle, in KU’s win over Iowa State.

Wow, even with removing the qualifier (6 or more starts), there are only 5 more with any starting experience. A few more that played a significant # of downs, but wow.

Jack Brooks 7 years ago

Keegan has become the John Madden of the LJ-World. Just about everything he writes is simply lazy opining about the obvious. Does he really collect a paycheck for this or is he actually retired and writing as a volunteer/fun thing to do?

Suzi Marshall 7 years ago

Why the animosity Jack? I enjoy Keegan's work and love the insight he brings to his work.

Jack Brooks 7 years ago

Suzi, it's because I find nothing insightful whatsoever about his "work." Matt Tait's the one providing insight and solid coverage of the football team.

Keegan's writing an op-ed about KU football losing fans because it's losing games is about as insightful as writing about water being wet.

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