Norman, Okla. Brent Venables knows what it looks like to Kansas State football fans that he bailed out on a program that had given him his start, spurning a nice promotion to instead make a lateral move, and that he did it without so much as a second thought.
Some will never be convinced otherwise, he knows, but Venables says it couldn't be further from the truth.
The truth, he says, is that the weeks that passed from the time he accepted Bob Stoops' offer to coach at Oklahoma and the time he left KSU were the most difficult of his life.
"Oh boy, it was unbelievable, the emotions that I went through over the course of a month," Venables said.
There are four Oklahoma coaches with strong ties to Kansas State.
Stoops served eight years under Bill Snyder, leaving in 1996 to become defensive coordinator at Florida. After three years there, he was named head coach at Oklahoma.
Mike Stoops joined KSU's staff in 1992 and replaced his brother as defensive coordinator. He was promoted to assistant head coach in 1998.
Mark Mangino had been at KSU since 1991. He was running game coordinator, recruiting coordinator and assistant head coach when he left for OU.
Then there is Venables. He grew up in Salina, played two years at Garden City Community College and two more at KSU. In 1991 he contributed to the Wildcats' first winning season in nine years. His senior year, he was an honorable mention All-Big Eight linebacker.
He served three years as a graduate assistant, was promoted to linebackers coach in 1996, and in 1998 became defensive run game coordinator and linebackers coach.
All four men, working under Bill Snyder, played a part in transforming KSU from laughingstock to powerhouse.
A victory over Texas A&M; in the 1998 Big 12 title game would have sent the Wildcats to the national title game. But A&M; rallied from a 15-point deficit and won in overtime.
Three days later, with the program and its fans reeling, it was announced that Mike Stoops and Venables would join Bob Stoops' staff at OU.
"The timing stunk," Venables said.
Mike Stoops' decision made sense he would be working with his brother. But Venables?
Here was a Kansan who, after Mike Stoops decided to leave, was offered a promotion to assistant head coach and defensive coordinator. He was 27.
Venables felt loyalty to Snyder, who had given him a chance to play and coach. But he also felt loyalty to Bob Stoops, who "went to bat for me to be a graduate assistant," and later, while defensive coordinator, urged Snyder to hire Venables as the linebackers' coach.
"People say, 'You owe coach Snyder, he gave you your chance,' and I do, and I'll never be able to repay him," Venables said. "And he understands that I was never not grateful to him.
"But at the same time, I'm indebted to Bob as well, and I'm very fortunate because of him. I'm here today because of him."
As he hoped, the move has been a good one. Last year, Oklahoma had its first winning season since 1993. This season, the Sooners are 5-0 and ranked No. 8 heading into today's game with No. 2 K-State.