Mark Mangino firing at Kansas a lesson in adaptation

The ability to reinvent ourselves as we age is a gift from God. Everyone has circumstances, whether of their own doing or not, which can drag them down or derail them given the opportunity. The ability to adapt and change to circumstances as we age and develop personally and professionally is vital.

It’s that lesson which is the most important one to take out of the almost surreal firing of University of Kansas football coach Mark Mangino.

It is a hard row to hoe for any coach coming to a school with a losing tradition. It’s an even harder job for someone at a school where that losing tradition is matched against phenomenal success in another major sport.

For decades Kansas has been a powerhouse in college basketball. The Jayhawks are routinely a Top 10 team and legitimate Final Four hopefuls on the hardwood. They are currently the top-ranked team in the country.

Kansas football, by comparison, has been historically dismal. Rare are schools such as Florida and Texas – which may be lined up for a meeting in the national championship for college football after tomorrow – that can boast simultaneous top-drawer success in football and basketball.

When Kansas brought Mangino in before the 2002 season, understandably not much was expected nationally. The Jayhawks were playing in a Big XII Conference long dominated by Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska. The talent pool, comparatively, was thin.

Mangino built his program up the way most schools which seemingly come out of nowhere do, taking recruits who were castaways elsewhere and blending them into a winner. That takes big-time coaching recruiting and coaching skills, and Mangino had it. Kansas became an annual contender in the Big XII North Division and had become a bowl game mainstay, neither of which had happened before Mangino’s arrival.

But as The Wichita Eagle summed up well today, Mangino’s tough as nails style with his players wore down as the school’s success bred stronger recruiting classes. Allegations by former players of verbal and physical abuse, including charges of disparaging remarks made to players about their families and backgrounds, surfaced. KU understandably went in the tank. The end result was Mangino was let go yesterday with little fanfare.

The valid point the story makes, and the larger lesson for everyone, is that adapting to changing circumstances is essential for well-being. A rags to riches story which is appealing in sports, business or personal lives will stall once that person or organization which achieves success becomes stagnant — or worse.

That is a cautionary tale to learn from regardless of whether or not you follow football.

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