Mark Mangino gave eight years of his life to Kansas State football.
To succeed in his new job, Kansas University's first-year head coach must recruit against, compete with and eventually defeat his mentor, K-State coach Bill Snyder.
"I thought about that long and hard when I accepted this position here," said Mangino, whose team plays host to K-State at 1 p.m. today. "My wife and I talked about it. We made a lot of sacrifices and put a lot of time in to help contribute at Kansas State and help make it what the program is today.
"And now we're going to go back to the same state and be their in-state rival and compete against them. And all the hard work you invested there ... now you've got to invest it at KU and try to do for KU what coach Snyder did for Kansas State. Let me tell you, I thought about it long and hard. I thought about it for days and hours."
At one point during the interview process, Mangino removed himself from consideration. Among his concerns were the fact he would be competing with two of his former employers Snyder and Oklahoma's Bob Stoops in the Big 12 Conference.
When Mangino saw a commitment from the Kansas administration to build the football program, he reconsidered.
"I'm standing here at KU and if that rubs some people the wrong way, that's just too bad," he said. "I put eight years of dedicated work there, loyalty to the program. I wasn't there the first two years with coach Snyder, so I wasn't there when it was rock bottom, but I came in the spring after his second season and I know the hard work and the time and the trials and tribulations that go with building that program and I feel privileged to be a part of it."
Mangino's program might not be at rock bottom, but the Jayhawks are clearly in the Big 12 cellar after losses to Baylor which had lost 29 straight conference games before beating KU 35-32 on Oct. 5 and Missouri, which was winless in league play before stomping the Jayhawks 36-12 last weekend.
Mangino's rebuilding effort will be measured, in part, with how KU fares against its in-state rival.
"It should be a rivalry, but we haven't kept up our end of this rivalry," said Mangino, who spent the previous three seasons on Stoops' staff at OU. "We've suffered several defeats."
Nine in a row, to be exact.
It hasn't always been that way. In fact, Kansas leads the all-time series with Kansas State, 61-33-5. KU's 61 victories against the Wildcats are its highest total against any opponent.
Former KU coach Glen Mason had a one-year head start on Snyder, replacing Bob Valesente after the 1987 season. Mason defeated coach Stan Parrish's woeful Wildcats 30-12 in 1988 and Snyder 21-16 and 27-24 in their first two Sunflower Showdowns.
Snyder earned his first victory against the Jayhawks, 16-12, in 1991 Mangino's first year in Manhattan.
"I think the roles were reversed then," Mangino said. "At Kansas State we talked about not getting the respect we deserved in the state of Kansas. We'd have to earn that respect, and we'd have to go out and beat KU to do it. Now the table's turned."
After a 31-7 KU victory in 1992 at Lawrence, KSU reeled off four victories against Mason and five more against his successor, Terry Allen. The games were close at first. K-State squeaked out a 10-9 victory in 1993 at Manhattan and won 21-13 the following year in Lawrence.
Then things turned ugly. K-State has outscored Kansas 323-69 in the last seven meetings; the closest game being a 26-point blowout in 1996. Even Mason's 1995 club, which finished 10-2 and ranked in the top 10, couldn't touch KSU, falling 41-7 in Manhattan.
"Early in my career there at Kansas State, it was a big game," Mangino said. "Late in my career there, it was not because KU could not make it competitive. Usually during the KU week, we spent 50 percent of the time on KU and 50 percent on the opponents after the KU game."
Fans aren't expecting a close game today, either. No. 14 K-State is a 31-point favorite against the Jayhawks, and the crowd at Memorial Stadium is likely to have a purple hue.
"We realize not many give us a chance," Mangino said. "That's OK. We understand that."
Mangino is looking for something anything that might give his team an edge. He said Kansas State is a great team at home, but the Wildcats are only "a very good team" on the road.
He's right. K-State is 73-14-1 at KSU Stadium since Snyder arrived in 1989, but the 'Cats are 38-37-0 away from home during that time.
"Does that mean will win the game? No," Mangino said. "We need a lot more than that to win the game, but it's one of the things we're looking at and feel like it gives us a chance to compete against them and have half a chance to win the ballgame.
"Kansas State is a well-coached football team, one of the best-coached teams in America. I think coach Snyder has proven that. He's orchestrated the greatest turnaround in the history of college football, not this decade, not in the '90s, I mean in the history of the game. So when you go up against coach Snyder and his ballclub if you're playing in a parking lot you better be ready to play them or they're going to whip you."
Snyder has repeatedly said he wished "the apples fell farther from the tree" when referring to Mangino and Stoops, a pair of former KSU assistants who have set up shop in his conference. Since Stoops returned to the Big 12 from Florida in 1999 and raided Snyder's staffs for assistants, including Mangino, the Sooners are 3-0 against the Wildcats.
The knowledge his former aides have of his program weighed on Snyder's mind as he prepared to face Mangino for the first time.
"There is just an awful lot of things that coaches who spent an awful lot of time here know about us," Snyder said. "Whether the knowledge is philosophical or schematic, it puts you in a position where you have to make changes."
Mangino has made many changes in 11 months on the job, including the coaching staff, uniforms and media policies.
Now, he'd like to see his team change its losing ways against the Wildcats.
"We have to make it a ballgame," he said. "We have to do our share to make this game a rivalry, get some victories in this game and make it something that everybody in Kansas is excited about."