NEW CASTLE —
When Urban Meyer, the head coach of Ohio State University, asks you to spend three days with his team and then evaluate his offense, you’re special.
When Brigham Young University flies its entire offensive staff to your home to discuss offensive strategy, you’re somebody who is recognized by peers as an expert in the field.
When Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops extends an open invitation to you to weigh in on the Sooners’ preparation, you are a football genius.
When New Castle native Mark Mangino says that you should never use his name and the word genius in the same sentence, he is just being humble.
Mangino has won 14 national coach of the year awards in his career. Included in the list are awards given by the Associated Press, ESPN/ABC, Sporting News, Walter Camp Football Foundation, Maxwell Football Club and the American Football Coaches Association. Mangino also has won the Coach of the Year Award associated with three of the greatest college coaches of all time — Paul “Bear” Bryant, Woody Hayes and Eddie Robinson.
As offensive coordinator for the Oklahoma Sooners in 2000, his team won the BCS national championship and he won the Frank Broyles Award as the top college assistant in the country. At Kansas, his team produced the top three offensive seasons in school history — so using the word genius is not an overstatement.
As head coach at the University of Kansas, Mangino took a program that hadn’t had a winning season in six years prior to his arrival and turned it into a national power. He won the Orange Bowl for the first time in school history in 2007 when the Jayhawks recorded a 12-1 record and reached No. 2 in the national polls. His teams won back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history while setting home attendance records for five straight years.
And it might not be long before Mangino is again pacing the sideline in college football. This past year, Mangino has had schools approach him about head coaching and coordinator positions.
Mangino has been out of football since stepping down at Kansas in 2009 after disagreements with then-athletic director Lew Perkins concerning the discipline of players. Perkins resigned in 2010 as reported by the Associated Press, “following a year of controversy and embarrassment for both himself and the school.”
“I had some chances to return to coaching this past year,” said Mangino, looking fit, energized and upbeat — all a product of his recent workout regimen — while in New Castle visiting family over Thanksgiving. “But my wife (the former Mary Jane Fiorante), had been diagnosed with breast cancer in October of 2011 and I needed to be with her. She had to undergo surgery, radiation and chemotherapy and she was out of it. She was a sick girl for a while, but she’s doing better now.
“When I return I want to work for good people at a school where football is important. I want to go to a school where winning the right way is a priority.”
Winning the right way always has been important to Mangino. While at Kansas, his teams exceeded the highest previous team GPA four separate years. He coached 45 Kansas players who were Academic All-Big 12 team members. During his eight years as head coach at Kansas, his players had few off-the-field incidents.
“I’ve had some great players,” Mangino said. “I had 32 players make it in the NFL. But not all college players will make it at the next level. If I don’t insist that they attend class and excel as student-athletes while on my watch, then I am crippling them for life.
“My goal is to give more back to my players and the school than they give to me. Instilling structure and discipline in my players is a life skill that goes far beyond their football career.”
In support of that philosophy, Mangino instituted a “Character First” program while at Kansas. Dr. Frank DeSalvo, Dean of Students at Kansas, designed the program for Mangino. The goal of the program was to focus the players on being successful at life.
Mangino also instituted an advanced cardio screening program while at Kansas to detect potential life-threatening heart conditions. In the first year of the program, four heart defects were identified on players that lead to changes in their training regime while one player was not allowed to play because of a life threatening heart ailment.
“I still get calls from former players,” Mangino said. “Some need help finding jobs while others just need a pep talk. Even though they don’t play for me anymore, I feel that I will always be their coach.
“I’m willing to help anyone who asks.”
It won’t be long before the call for help will come from a big-time Division I college football program. A program that wants to win big time football games the right way. A program where the success on the field does not take precedence over the success and health of the student. A program where Mark Mangino will have the chance to again give back more than he received.
(Larry Kelly is a partner in the law firm of Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George, P.C., and an occasional contributor to the sports pages of The News).
UPDATE: Mark Mangino could return to the sidelines at Colorado, based on a report from Tom Deinhart of the Big Ten Network. According to Deinhart, Mangino and Colorado have met already and a second meeting between the two parties is in the works.