Mark Mangino spent three years in college football exile, away from the game for the first time in decades, waiting on the right offer.
He had taken Kansas to the mountaintop, or close to it, but after a messy breakup at the end of the 2009 season, Mangino was out of a job.
On Friday morning, he was back in the game, accepting a job as an assistant head coach at Youngstown State, his alma mater. Mangino will also serve as tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator for the program, which competes in Division I-AA.
“This is a homecoming for me,” Mangino said. “I’m delighted to be at a great school with a great football tradition with a team and coach poised to do great things.”
Mangino, 56, who coached at Kansas from 2002 to 2009, was out of football after parting ways with the Kansas program when former KU athletic director Lew Perkins launched an internal investigation into allegations of improper treatment of players during the 2009 season, leading to his resignation. Mangino received a $3 million buyout.
Before the allegations, Mangino had led the Jayhawks to back-to-back bowl bids for the first time in school history, including a victory in the 2008 Orange Bowl.
When asked about those “red flags” in a news conference Friday in Youngstown, Mangino told reporters that he was proud of what he had accomplished at Kansas.
“We took care of the players,” Mangino said. “Ninety-nine percent of the kids had a great experience there. I had a great experience there. … I have no reservations about how we worked at Kansas.”
Mangino, a native of New Castle, Pa., has other connections to Youngstown State. He was an assistant under former Penguins coach Jim Tressel from 1985 to 1987. Current Youngstown State head coach Eric Wolford was an offensive lineman at Kansas State in the early 1990s, when Mangino served as an assistant under Bill Snyder.
This opportunity, Mangino said, felt like the right move. He’ll be close to family in New Castle, and he’ll be returning to his roots. It’s a return that may have come sooner, but Mangino spent the last year helping care for his wife, Mary Jane, who was battling breast cancer.
The family spent most of the last three years in Naples, Fla., where Mangino would often ride his bike in the morning and follow football from afar. Well, that’s not totally accurate, he says. He kept up with old friends in the coaching game — some who would send him game film to analyze — and others reached out. Mangino said former K-State assistant Raheem Morris called a few years ago and invited him down to spend time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers while Morris was still serving as head coach.
“He called me one day, and he asked me what I was doing,” Mangino said, “and I think I told him I was watching Andy Griffith.”
Finally, this offseason, Wolford called his former coach at Kansas State and offered him the position.
“I think Coach Mangino was one of those guys that did the most with the most difficult situation,” said Wolford, who is entering his fourth season at Youngstown. “Anyone that could take the University of Kansas to the Orange Bowl and win … ”
On Friday, Mangino said the story of his exile was exaggerated. If you wanted to find him, he wasn’t hard to track down. And he says he had other opportunities that he passed up. But on Friday, he was certainly ready to be on a sideline again.
“There’s no expiration date on coaching,” Mangino said. “You can sit out one year, two years, five years. … So I thought an opportunity would come if I was patient, I would get something I’d really be happy with.”