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November 18, 2009While Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins continues his investigation on current football coach Mark Mangino, former players are coming out and giving their thoughts on Mangino. Players have mixed reactions on the controversial head coach.
Wide receiver Dexton Fields said he felt during his time at Kansas that Mangino crossed the line with his conduct towards players.
"I have heard guys have things said to them that you wouldn't even think a coach would tell a player," Fields said. "Some of the things I witnessed over the years were just too bad for me to sit here and not tell the truth."
One story involved former Kansas wide receiver Raymond Brown during preseason practices. Brown's brother had recently been shot and was recovering in St. Louis. When players were asked during a meeting to describe their commitment to the team, Brown stood up and told his teammates and coaches about the incident. Brown said he was trying to get the message across that life was too short to waste. Shortly after in practice, Mangino and Brown got into a confrontation on the practice field.
"Don't yes sir me, or I will send you back to St. Louis so you can get shot with your homies," Brown remembers Mangino saying.
Brown said he looked around at other players and coaches, all shocked at what Mangino had just said.
"We tell him all that as personal stuff, but he uses that to break down his players," Brown said. "It's not a motivational tool, it makes you not even want to play for him."
The Brown incident wasn't an isolated one. Other players recall Mangino mocking their religion, pointing out a player's alcoholic father or terminally ill relative as a way to push the team's buttons.
"Cursing and screaming, every coach does that," Fields said. "When it comes to personal issues though, that is when it crosses the line."
Not everybody though has a negative opinion of Mangino. Former linebacker Nick Reid, who won the Big 12 defensive player of the year award in 2005, had no problems with Mangino's approach.
"He will bring the best out of you and if you do the right things for him then he will do right by you," Reid said. "We know how the program was not that long ago. Mangino's first year and my first year, it was horrible. We were 2-10 and got blown out every game so us older guys can really see the progress and how far KU football has really come."
Reid said players just have to know how to handle Mangino's more aggressive style of coaching.
"You just got to have thick skin and just know that he is trying to get you to be the best that you are going to be for the team and yourself," Reid said. "We respected our coaches and he respected us. We didn't take his yelling as a bad thing or a personal grudge."
Count former safety Tony Stubbs as another player who is in Mangino's corner. Stubbs was brought in by former Kansas coach Terry Allen, and remembers the days when the players ran the program before Mangino arrived.
"I knew the first couple of years, he was just trying to weed out the bad apples," Stubbs said. "He had to lay down the foundation that this was going to be a disciplined team. I rolled with the punches and went along with it because I wanted to have a winning program. I thought coach Mangino was okay."
Stubbs' teams under Mangino never finished with a winning record, but he still noticed that progress was being made.
"I really believe that kind of coaching style worked because we really needed it at that time," Stubbs said. "My junior year we went to a bowl game mainly just because coach Mangino pushing us and our strength and conditioning coaches pushing us to the highest level."
Not all players that were around during the early Mangino years had positive things to say about the coach. Former fullback Austine Nwabuisi said he thought Mangino went beyond just being a tough coach.
"It wasn't just the way he treated his players, he had trouble treating his assistant coaches with respect in my opinion," Nwabuisi said. "If you want to leave it in the locker room that is one thing, but the way he treated people was ugly a lot of the times."
Players said Mangino would verbally abuse coaches in front of the entire team and threaten them with their jobs.
"I always thought you should chew out your coaches in the meeting room and not in front of the players," Brown said.
Nwabiusi said that Mangino's terrible communication skills made it even more impressive that he rebuilt the program and eventually won the Orange Bowl.
"I will give credit where credit is due, he did a great job managing that team," Nwabiusi said. "I think he hired some great coaches. I think defensive coordinator Bill Young was one of the greatest things to ever happen to the program at the time. I don't know if he ever got as much credit as he deserved."
The future remains uncertain for Mangino, but players like Fields said it was only a matter of time before Mangino's past - both good and bad - came into full view.
"What's in the dark is always going to come into the light," Fields said. "A lot of us chose Kansas because the team is so close and we don't want to bring a lot of distractions to the team. It has been on a lot of people's minds and the guys that are there now and benefited from the program feel the same way."