Kansas Football Coach crosses the line in role as disciplinarian
So often, a coach justifies his style of discipline as ‘tough love,’ as a necessary means to build a team and to shape the character of young men. To tear you down, then build you back up. To make you aware of your mistakes to a point that you never want to make them again. I am aware of those arguments and can agree with them to a point. But the anecdotes from previous players of Coach Mark Mangino, if true, go far beyond this style of supposed positive discipline. Even if we accept that a harsh disciplinarian approach to coaching is positive, which in itself is arguable, I would want to know the lesson Mangino thought he was teaching in two examples from ex-players. Read on.
First, a player privately shared personal information that his father was an alcoholic, to which the coach then flaunted in front of the team, “Are you going to be a lawyer or do you want to become an alcoholic like your dad?” What lesson does this send? How can that fall anywhere within a style of tough, yet positive, discipline? I can only imagine how tough it was for the player to confide in the coach and the trust he must have had in doing so. Here the coach had an opportunity to be a consoling and supporting father figure that the kid probably never had, but instead, he completely exploits that trust. The lesson? Do not open up to people even if you think you can trust them. Thanks coach; you are doing an excellent job of shaping these young men.
Raymond Brown, a senior Jayhawk last season, recalled that first story, and a second that was personal. After dropping a pass, Coach Mangino yelled, “If you don’t shut up, I’m going to send you back to St. Louis so you can get shot with your homies.” Brown’s younger brother had previously been shot in the arm. The only lesson here is that you can be a racist, condescending coach and still have a job. But will he still be head coach after a losing season and now that these stories are coming out?
The biggest roadblock to dismissing Mangino is the $6 million owed for his contract over the next three years. According to the Kansas City Star, if Kansas University terminates him for cause, they do not have to pay the remaining years of the contract. However, the causes are quite explicit. The most likely provision is, “Discreditable conduct that is inconsistent with the professional standards expected of a head coach of a collegiate sports team and that is seriously prejudicial to the best interest of the university or athletics.” Another is, “Public or private comments that disparage KU, its personnel, programs, policies and/or departments, or that cause damage to KU’s reputation.”
As I have written above, I would argue that his remarks and behavior go sufficiently beyond what is the acceptable “professional standard expected of a head coach.” Instilling toughness and discipline is one thing, public embarrassment that cannot be justified as positive is another. Further, I think Kansas could make a strong case, based on the racist remark to “get shot with your homies” and any others he may have made during his tenure as “public or private comments … that cause damage to KU’s reputation.” If he indeed made all of these remarks, and probably more, I would argue that KU’s reputation has already suffered due to the bad publicity in these past weeks. I would predict that if dismissed, cause being found or not, the sides will settle on a dollar amount far too high for Mangino to deserve receiving.