KU can't buy this kind of exposure
The lead image and headline on ESPN.com's college football page made for a beautiful sight.The photo was of Kansas University quarterback Jason Swanson busting through two Houston defensive players for a big gain during KU's 42-13 Fort Worth Bowl victory televised on ESPN. The headline: Kansas Romps.It's the very kind of publicity fourth-year coach Mark Mangino's club has needed. Sure, the victory itself was sweet for a number of reasons. It rewarded KU seniors such as Banks Floodman, Kevin Kane and Nick Reid for their commitment to building the program during the past four years. It rewarded fans who have been patient with Mangino as he has steadily upgraded the program's talent pool. It gave the Jayhawks their first winning season since 1995.But Mangino knows the publicity his program received means a lot more than the payout Kansas will receive as its share of the Big 12 Conference's bowl money. You can't buy the kind of publicity the Jayhawks got on Dec. 23.They pummeled the Houston Cougars and their No. 14-ranked offense during a televised game on ESPN. Throughout the contest the announcers continually lauded the Jayhawks' ferocious defense for its aggressiveness at stopping the run and its overall level of skill. Then came the photo and the friendly headline on ESPN.com.Why is this exposure so valuable? In a word: Recruiting. The top high school football prospects want to play at a program with good facilities, respected coaches, a winning tradition and national exposure. Memorial Stadium is fine. Mangino and his staff are earning plenty of respect for making Kansas competitive again. The tradition : well, that's in the works. But the kind of exposure KU received during and after its Fort Worth Bowl bash are unprecedented for this program.Sports media has made radical growth since Kansas last won a bowl game - the 1995 Aloha Bowl. The media plays a much greater factor in the recruiting game now than it did a decade ago.The paycheck and the winning record are nice rewards for winning the Fort Worth Bowl, but the real reward will come in the next two years when Mangino lands bigger recruits who now believe the Kansas football revival is legit.