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Know Your KU History: Glen Mason

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We’ve already featured KU coach Pepper Rodgers in this column space. Now it’s time for two-time Aloha Bowl champion coach Glen Mason.

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It was 1995 and I remember sitting on my couch, angry as Glen Mason announced he was leaving Kansas and heading to Georgia. I wasn’t so much angry because he was leaving KU for Georgia because the move was a huge upgrade. The part that angered me was the timing. KU was preparing for the Aloha Bowl and after a 9-2 regular season, I really thought that a win in this bowl game would set KU up for the future. After all, that 1995 season saw KU beat #15 Oklahoma and #4 Colorado on the road and a win against UCLA in the Aloha Bowl would be the icing on the cake and the beginning of a string of successful seasons for the Jayhawks. I was mad that Mason’s timing was going to ruin all of that.

Of course, Mason wound up staying, citing a "change of heart" on his decision to lead the Bulldogs and coached the Jayhawks in that Aloha Bowl game. They won that game 51-30 to become the first KU team since 1905 to win 10 games in a season. The problem is, KU went 4-7 in 1996 (again beating Oklahoma in the process) and Mason left for Minnesota after the season was over. KU then had eight more losing seasons (even the Tangerine Bowl team of 2003 finished 6-7 overall) and my daydreams of winning football were far in the distant past.

But back to Mason. He came to KU from Kent State and immediately suffered through a 1-10 season in 1988. That lone win came against the 0-11 KSU Wildcats. But Mason won seven games combined in 1989 and 1990, and although that seems futile, he was building something. KU had its first winning season in a decade in 1991 behind star running back Tony Sands and quarterback Chip Hilleary. That team posted a 6-5 record and set the table for the following year.

And the 1992 season was when the program really seemed to take off under Mason. That team went 8-4 and beat #25 Brigham Young in the Aloha Bowl. It was KU’s first bowl win since the 1961 Bluebonnet Bowl. Led by Hilleary on offense and future NFL stars Dana Stubblefield and Gilbert Brown on defense, it looked like KU was destined to shine.

But, both Stubblefield (first round, #26 overall pick by San Francisco) and Brown (third round, 79th overall pick by the Vikings) were gone to the NFL and Hilleary graduated, leaving the KU warehouse pretty bare. Despite that, Mason led KU to a 5-7 record in 1993 and a 6-5 record (no bowl) in 1994.

Perhaps what should endear Mason most to the KU faithful, even more than that tearful retraction of the Georgia job, is his record against KU’s biggest rivals, Missouri and Kansas State. Mason was 9-9 total against these rivals. Mark Mangino gets praise (rightly so) for routinely beating MU and K-State, and his record was 8-8 against those teams. Shouldn’t it be about time that Glen Mason gets the respect he deserves in this regard as well? To me, it’s a shame that Mason left for Minnesota when he had so many more years that he could’ve given Kansas.