By Joe Scalzo
The Youngstown State football team added one of the country’s most successful, and arguably most controversial, coaches of the past decade on Friday, hiring New Castle native Mark Mangino as the school’s tight ends coach, assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator.
“It’s a great opportunity to come home,” said Mangino, a YSU graduate who was an assistant under former Penguins coaches Bill Narduzzi (1985) and Jim Tressel (1986). “I want to be able to help this program get to the next level.
“Let’s face it, YSU is about winning national championships.”
Mangino was the head coach at Kansas from 2002-09 and was the consensus FBS national coach of the year in 2007 after leading the Jayhawks to a school-record 12 wins, a Big 12 North Division title and its highest final ranking (seventh) since 1968.
But he resigned in 2009 amid allegations that he physically and verbally abused his players, charges he has denied. The school also lost two scholarships in both 2007 and 2008 amid charges of academic fraud, some of them self-reported by the university. He has not coached since reaching a settlement with Kansas in 2009.
Mangino side-stepped most questions about the allegations on Friday, preferring to defend his overall record at Kansas.
“I’m very proud of what I did at Kansas,” he said. “Both on and off the field, there were way more positives than anything with the Kansas situation.”
Mangino said he’s had other opportunities to coach since 2009, “but it had to be somewhere I wanted to go.” Although one national writer described the hiring as ending his coaching “exile,” Mangino has visited dozens of schools, including YSU, over the past few years, speaking and offering advice.
“There’s no expiration date on coaching,” said Mangino, who was Oklahoma’s offensive coordinator when it won the 2000 national championship. “It’s either your glass is half-full or half-empty. There’s plenty of people who have been around me for years who have watched me coach and I’ve been very, very fortunate to have success at most places.
“So, if you watch my work, your glass is half-full. If you’ve just listened to second-hand information or sources that are not close to me or even have followed me closely, then you may have a different opinion.”
Penguins coach Eric Wolford, who played for Mangino at Kansas State and coached with him as a graduate assistant, said he had no reservations about the hire.
“I’ve known the guy since 1991; I know what kind of coach he is,” said Wolford, who first approached Mangino in January and said it took some recruiting to get him to join the staff. “Everything that happened was obviously allegations. There’s always two sides to every story.
“I would never put our program in any jeopardy, whether it’s bringing in a player I don’t think I can re-mold or a coach that would ever have any issues here with our players or embarrass our community.”
While Mangino has also drawn attention for his weight — some estimates had him weighing between 400 and 500 pounds while at Kansas — he looked noticeably thinner at Friday’s press conference and admitted he’s off to a “tremendous start” in that area.
“[But] I’m nowhere near my goals,” he said.
Mangino replaces Mauro Monz, who coached YSU’s tight ends the past two seasons. He is YSU’s fourth new coach since the season ended.
“I just want the fans to know we’re going to play hard and we’re going to win,” Mangino said. “I came here to win. This isn’t just a hobby for me. This is my life. This is what I do.
“When I put my signature on something, I want it to be good. And we’re gonna be good.”