Tramel: Kansas football has become the most-depressed program in college football history
NORMAN — Mark Mangino no longer is angry at the University of Kansas.
“Good coaches, good people, get fired every day,” Mangino said Friday, almost 11 years after KU bought out his contract. “I got myself over that in a pretty short period of time.”
But a new emotion has settled in on Mangino when he thinks of Kansas football.
Saturday, the Jayhawks play the Sooners on Owen Field, and KU brings to town the most-depressed program in college football history, over a sustained time.
Oh, don’t believe it? Buckle up. The numbers are beyond staggering. Since Oct. 10, 2009, when KU beat Iowa State, the Jayhawks are 7-95 in Big 12 play.
Seven wins; 95 losses.
That’s more than 100 games of absolute futility. Never has college football seen such an abysmal league record, in one of the major conferences, over such an extended period.
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Not by Kansas State in its half-a-century of rampant losing. Not by Baylor in the first 14 years of the Big 12. Not by Oregon State in its Pac-12 drought of 40 years ago. Not by Northwestern in its Big Ten low. Not by Vanderbilt in the 1970s Southeastern Conference.
The 2007 Jayhawks went 12-1 and finished No. 7 in the AP poll. Two years later, KU had a seven-game losing streak, Mangino was fired and the Jayhawks haven’t won more than one conference game a year since. Four times in the last nine years, KU has finished 0-9 in the Big 12, and 2020 seems likely to join the list.
“It makes you cringe,” said Mangino, who had a 50-48 record in eight seasons with the Jayhawks but now is retired, splitting his time between Western Pennsylvania and the Florida Gulf Coast.
Mangino, who helped Bill Snyder stage the Manhattan Miracle at Kansas State and was a lieutenant the first three years of Bob Stoops’ Sooner renaissance, said he was apathetic towards Kansas his first several seasons away from Lawrence.
But now, Mangino said, he thinks of all the coaches and players who worked so hard to make Kansas a winner, and it bugs him.
KU is on its fourth head coach, Les Miles, since Mangino was fired, and its 15th starting quarterback, true freshman Jalon Daniels, since Mangino star Todd Reesing took his final snap in 2009.
What will it take to get the Jayhawks competitive again?
“That’s a tough question,” Mangino said. “I don’t know that I have the answer to that now. I don’t know the interworkings of the program. I see, like the average fan, the results. But I have to tell you, recently, I’ve become more frustrated with it.
“My coaches and our players worked their tails off. We worked. I hate to say it, we probably put that program, for eight years, ahead of our own families. The fact that players and coaches made so many sacrifices to make that program respectable, I’m frustrated. It bothers me.”
And Kansas seems to be getting worse. In 2018, David Beaty’s final season as the Jayhawk coach, KU went 1-8 in the Big 12 and its average margin of defeat was 17.2. In 2019, KU went 1-8 with a 21.5 average margin of defeat. In 2020, KU is 0-5 with a 31.0 average margin of defeat.
Miles said this week that he believes KU athletic director Jeff Long understands the rebuilding takes time. Miles is not taking shortcuts; the Jayhawks are recruiting and playing more high school recruits, as opposed to transfer-heavy rosters over much of the last decade.
That includes quarterback. Daniels joins a club that includes Miles Kendrick and Peyton Bender, Carter Stanley and Ryan Willis, Montell Cozart and Michael Cummings, Jake Heaps and Dayne Crist. Remember any of those guys?
The school that begat John Hadl, Bobby Douglass, David Jaynes, Nolan Cromwell and Chip Hilleary thirsts for a difference-making quarterback.
“Get some quarterback play,” Miles said of the recipe to elevate the program. “I think Jalon is doing a great job in the short team, accommodating what we need him to do and learning in the same way.”
Mangino developed good quarterbacks in Bill Whittemore and Reesing. Either would be hailed now as a KU savior.
But Mangino said his impression is that KU has another major issue. Basketball. He says some in the Jayhawk community don’t go all in on football, fearful that it would cost basketball.
“That’s not true,” Mangino said, adding that hoops coach Bill Self and his staff were incredibly supportive and not part of the attitude. But he said that attitude exists around the university.
“They need to have the faith and confidence that they can do both,” Mangino said. “But because basketball is their identity, there are people that want to protect that at all costs and don’t want to take a chance, because their mindset is it would hurt basketball.”
Kansas basketball certainly has continued to soar, but football is depressed. As depressed as any program ever.
“They’ve put themselves in tough spot,” Mangino said. “I’m at the point where it kind of bugs me.”
The most depressed program in college football history should bug us all.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at oklahoman.com/berrytramel.
The worst major conference-play stretches in college football history, minimum 60 games:
School — Years — W-L — Win%
1. Kansas — 2009-20 — 7-95 — .069
2. Kansas State — 1959-67 — 5-55-1 — .090
3. Northwestern — 1974-81 — 6-62-1 — .094
4. Oregon State — 1975-87 — 10-86-2 — .112
5. Baylor — 1996-2009 — 14-98 — .125
6. Indiana — 1949-66 — 18-90-3 — .167
7. Vanderbilt — 1970-81 — 13-62 — .173
8. Kansas State — 1971-89 — 17-85-3 — .176