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December 3, 2009As Kansas players walked inside the Anderson Football Complex on Thursday night, the mood was relatively light. They would be attending a team meeting led by athletic director Lew Perkins announcing the resignation of Kansas coach Mark Mangino
Players laughed and joked with each other as they headed into the thirty-minute meeting. One player even stopped to show off several dance moves before he headed through the glass doors. Senior linebacker Angus Quigley said the team's attitude was upbeat.
"It could be because guys were ready to move on with the situation or they were happy he was gone, you can take it either way" Quigley said. "Some guys feel like they weren't getting an opportunity under Mangino, and now they are getting a fresh start. With a new coach coming in, people can salvage their careers."
For most players, Mangino's departure from the program didn't come as a shock. Two weeks ago, the Kansas athletic department announced that they were conducting an investigation on Mangino regarding his conduct towards his players. Since then, numerous stories have emerged on former players' feelings towards the eight-year head coach, and whether his abrasive coaching style benefited the program.
During the investigation, the current players and coaching staff have been bombarded with questions about their head coach's future. On Thursday night, they finally had their answer, and nobody was surprised.
"The way I look at it, when you start seeing the stuff that piled up against him, that's not coaching, there is no room for that in football," Quigley said. "The case was building up against him, and I don't know how you compete against a case like that. Everybody kind of had that feeling."
When players met inside the Anderson Football Complex, athletic director Lew Perkins told the team the news. In a press release to the media, Perkins stated that the athletic department wouldn't release any documents in relation to the investigation or any information regarding the settlement. Every assistant coach was at the meeting except for cornerback coach Je'Ney Jackson and defensive line coach Tom Sims. Both are on the road recruiting. Several players privately wondered why Mangino wasn't present at the meeting.
"I am sure if he wants to, there will be a scheduled meeting, but this is all I know of," running back Toben Opurum said.
Coaches Davis Beaty, Bill Miller, and Clint Bowen will share the interim head coaching duties until Perkins makes his hire. Despite the fact that Kansas finished the season with seven straight losses, Perkins still thinks the position will attract top candidates.
"We have some of the finest facilities in the nation," Perkins said. "We have a great class coming in, and I talked with the coaches and they felt like we could keep all those kids. We have a great nucleus of kids coming back and we have one of the best offensive lines coming back."
Walking out of the meeting, senior safety Justin Thornton took time to reflect on his old coach. Thornton admired all that Kansas has accomplished during his time under Mangino, but it was the small things that eventually cost Mangino his job. The investigation started when Lew Perkins met with senior linebacker Arist Wright about an incident where Mangino poked the player in the chest during practice.
"I don't think it was necessarily that one incident, but that's what raised the red flag and had people asking questions," Thornton said. "I am sure none of us would be standing here if the season would've went the way we had planned. We had a talented team this year that didn't live up to expectations, but that is one of the things you learn from."
For the returning players, the focus turns towards the 2010 season, the underclassman will still continue their workouts with the strength coaches, and focus on end of the semester finals. When they return from winter break, there will likely be a new coach in place. Still, no matter what their opinion of Mangino was, his tenure at Kansas will be remembered for a long time.
"When I get old and am telling the stories of my KU football career, I am going to be telling stories of Mangino, and he is going to be a big part of my KU experience because he was the guy that took the chance on me," Thornton said.
"At the same time, that's life and things are going to change. It's one of those things you just got to move on from."