LAWRENCE, Kan. -- University of Kansas officials are willing to talk with former players about allegations of abusive behavior by football coach Mark Mangino -- and two former players had plenty to say on Thursday.
Former Jayhawks receiver Raymond Brown recalled how in 2007, after his younger brother was wounded in a shooting near his home in St. Louis, teammates gathered around and warmly pledged their support.
A few days later, Brown said, an angry Mangino ordered him to the sideline during practice and made a shockingly insensitive comment.
"He went off on me yelling, which is fine," Brown told The Associated Press. "I kept saying, 'Yes, sir, yes, sir,' to everything he was saying. A teammate asked me what happened. Then he started on me again and I said, 'Yes, sir,' and he said, 'Don't you 'yes sir' me. I'll send you back to St. Louis where you can get shot by your homies."'
Brown and another former player also told the AP that Mangino made insensitive comments about a player's father being an alcoholic.
Mangino declined to return calls Thursday but defended himself later Thursday night on his weekly radio program, saying there were "people who are embarrassing this program just for their 15 minutes of fame."
"More than anything, some guys might be a little bitter because we have structure and discipline, because I've asked them to represent the football program and the university in a class way," he said. "Ninety-nine percent of our guys have done that. They have been great. I'll be honest with you -- some of this stuff is flat-out embellished and not true. Just not true."
The university this week confirmed that it is investigating allegations of verbal and emotional abuse by Mangino, the 2007 national Coach of the Year.
The probe by associate athletic director for risk management Lori Williams began Sunday after senior linebacker Arist Wright complained to athletic director Lew Perkins that Mangino had poked him in the chest while chewing him out.
None of the players interviewed by the AP had been contacted by the school, but they likely will.
"Lori Williams will talk to whomever she feels she needs to talk to conduct this review," associate athletic director Jim Marchiony said Thursday. "It will be thorough."
Mangino maintains he has done nothing wrong and is fully focused on getting the Jayhawks (5-5, 1-5 Big 12) ready to play at No. 3 Texas on Saturday.
"I have not done anything that's inappropriate," Mangino said after practice Wednesday night. "I have been in this conference for nearly 20 years, and what I can tell you is that our coaching intensity does not largely differ from the other Big Eight and Big 12 teams that I have observed. We have handled this program in terms of intensity and holding players accountable the same since 2002 to today."
Nevertheless, a rising tide of criticism seems to be threatening Mangino's job just two years after he received a raise and contract extension for going 12-1 in 2007 and beating Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. While some players voiced support for their coach, many former players have bitterly recalled instances where they say his comments went over the line.
Brown and former wide receiver Dexton Fields said a player was having a bad practice one day when Mangino became exasperated. They said they did not want to embarrass the player by naming him.
"He wanted to be a lawyer," Brown said in a telephone interview from his home in St. Louis. "He messed up, and Mangino said to his face, in front of everybody, 'You want to be a lawyer? You're going to be an alcoholic just like your dad."'
Fields, speaking from his home in Lawrence, said he was present.
"We all knew his father had a drinking problem," he said.
Mangino also said on the radio interview that some of the problems stemmed from players' parents.
"I can't do the work of some parents, what they should have done before they got to me. And some of those guys are bitter. And some that's the problem. And I can't do anything about that."
After starting 5-0 and rising to No. 16 in the AP poll, the Jayhawks have lost five in a row. Mangino indicated this week that the investigation was related to the losing streak.
"I've seen some instances where he said some pretty mean things to people," Fields said. "Did that motivate guys to play hard? Yes and no. It got you mad. So when you went out onto the field you had to do whatever you needed to do to take your anger out. But I don't think it makes you a better player. The negative outweighed the positive."
Senior quarterback Todd Reesing, a Mangino supporter, noted the program was in shambles when Mangino arrived in 2002.
"He's always been very stern in his resolve," Reesing said. "He came here to a team that was undisciplined and a program that lacked it and he established discipline and got guys to work hard and believe in themselves. He's done a lot of good things. The way he's approached football is the way a lot of coaches approach it."