LAWRENCE, Kan. - Although some would say KU football coach Mark Mangino's high water mark was winning the Orange Bowl in 2007, I think the defining moment for Mangino came earlier that season when Kansas overcame decades of futility to thrash Nebraska 76-39 in Lawrence on November 3, 2007. Nebraska had never had any team, ever put up 76 points on them.
My brother and his son, along with hundreds of other fans, waited outside the locker room after the game for Mangino to exit the stadium. When Mangino appeared, he was mobbed by the fans like a rock star. He could barely get to his car, as fans praised him for ending decades of frustration at the hands of the Cornhuskers.
But that was then. This is now. In sports, like in politics, people want to know: "What have you done for me lately?"
Historically, KU has been a basketball school. For whatever reasons, most basketball schools have mediocre football teams. (Kentucky, Duke, and Kansas). And most football schools have mediocre basketball teams. (Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Alabama.) One program tends to be the "sun" program, shining it's light on the weaker "moon" program. At KU, basketball has always been the shining sun, and football the weaker moon.
But things changed in 2007, the year KU went 12-1 and won the Orange Bowl. That's also the year that Florida won the NCAA title in both football and basketball in the same year. Athletic Directors like KU's Lew Perkins began to think: Why not have two "sun" programs like Florida?
But history says "no." Kansas, for whatever reason, has always been, on average, mediocre in football. Coach Mangino will leave with a winning record of 50-48, but the 8 coaches who preceded him all had losing records:
Terry Allen (1997-2001) 20-33 .379
Glen Mason (1988-96) 47-54-1 .466
Bob Valesente (1986-87) 4-17-1 .205
Mike Gottfried (1983-85) 15-18-1 .456
Don Fambrough (1979-82) 17-24-4 .422
Bud Moore (1975-78) 17-21-1 .389
Don Fambrough (1971-74) 19-25-1 .433
Pepper Rogers (1967-70) 20-22 .476
And keep in mind, Mangino inherited an empty cupboard when he took over Terry Allen's program. When one looks at the entire body of Mangino's work, it exceeds his eight predecessors.
Lew Perkins may create two powerhouse major programs at Kansas---basketball AND football. I hope he is successful. However, history says "no." Nobody would like to see KU be consistently great in both basketball and football than me, but it would defy history. "What's past is prologue," as any Shakespeare professor at KU can quote you.
The day Mangino was mobbed by appreciative fans after stomping Nebraska was magical, but how soon fickle people change their opinions. Mangino raised the bar too high in 2007, and the fans came to expect too much. Mangino was an unforgettable character, and he is and always will be a winner.