LAWRENCE, Kan. — Kansas coach Mark Mangino resigned Thursday in the wake of an investigation into his treatment of his players, stepping down just two years after leading the Jayhawks to the greatest season in their checkered football history.
The university made the announcement as athletic director Lew Perkins informed the players of the news.
The school said last month it would probe Mangino’s alleged verbal and emotional abuse of players. In the following days, many former players described insensitive, humiliating remarks they claim he made to them in the heat of games or practice, often in front of others.
But next came a wave of support by former and current players who remained loyal, insisting Mangino had strengthened the long-struggling program with structure and discipline, crediting the rotund 53-year-old with making them better players and men.
Perkins declined to describe the school’s settlement with its former coach, other than to say it was satisfactory to all parties. After going 12-1 in 2007, winning the Orange Bowl and being honored as the national coach of the year, Mangino was given a raise and contract extension through 2012. He would have been due $6.6 million if fired without cause.
“It’s been tough on a lot of people, but probably the most important thing is the kids,” Perkins said. “It’s been pretty tough on them. The kids are the ones I’m concerned.”
Perkins said assistants David Beaty, Clint Bowen and Bill Miller would share interim coaching duties until a permanent replacement is found.
“I think it’s a great job. I think we have some of the finest facilities in the country,” he said.
Possible candidates include Texas A&M offensive coordinator Nolan Cromwell, a great wishbone quarterback at Kansas in the mid-70s, Houston coach Kevin Sumlin and Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen.
Many players were laughing as they emerged from the brief meeting Thursday, though one said that was only because of the cluster of reporters shivering in the cold waiting for them.
“Some players will be happy to see him go and others will be sad to see him go,” defensive back Justin Thornton said. “He did a lot of good for a lot of people here.”
Mangino coached the past two games while the probe was ongoing and remained defiant, insisting he had done nothing wrong and intended to return for a ninth season. He and his supporters said his trouble with Perkins, who arrived at Kansas after Mangino was hired, stemmed mostly from the season-ending, seven-game skid.
Perkins declined to answer when asked if Mangino was given the option to stay.
After winning their first five games this year and rising to No. 16 in the rankings, the Jayhawks were favored by many to win the Big 12 North. But instead they failed to win another game, finishing the season with a 41-39 last-second loss to archrival Missouri. That final, hard-fought defeat kept them from becoming bowl eligible for what would have been a school-record third straight year.
The investigation into Mangino was conducted by Lori Williams, Kansas’ assistant athletic director for risk management. Mangino went 50-48 with the Jayhawks, finishing two victories shy of A.R. Kennedy’s school record set in the early 1900s.
Since Mangino arrived, Kansas has been able to upgrade its football facilities far beyond what they had been.
“Mark did a great job,” Perkins said. “He did some things that needed to be done, and I think the university and our football program is much better today than it was the day he took the job.”
Voted the nation’s top assistant coach when he was with Oklahoma in 2000, Mangino came to Kansas in 2002 and inherited a program in shambles, one that had always taken a back seat to basketball. He was thought to be in trouble after the 2006 season. But in 2007 Todd Reesing established himself as one of the nation’s top quarterbacks and the Jayhawks enjoyed their finest season.
Mangino was the consensus choice for national coach of the year and grateful fans and alumni poured in donations into the athletic department, triggering a wave of building projects designed to bring the facilities up to Big 12 standards.
In 2008, the Jayhawks followed up their big year with an 8-5 record and a victory in the Insight Bowl, the first time Kansas had even been to postseason games two years in a row, let alone won two straight. The 20 wins in two years also was a school record.
The 2009 season began with great promise, but Reesing and the rest of the team went into a slump and the Jayhawks were skidding when news broke that Perkins had told the players he was appointing someone to investigate allegations of verbal and emotional abuse by their coach.
A bear of a man who tips the scales at around 400 pounds, Mangino was often made fun of because of his girth. But he also won admirers for overcoming humble beginnings to rise to the top of a tough profession.
Throughout his tenure, Mangino was plagued by anger issues, starting when he was involved in an embarrassing row with officials while watching his son’s high school game. Also, following a close loss to Texas, he accused officials of rigging the game so the Big 12 could get a second school into a BCS game and make more money. He issued an apology later that night.