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Archive for Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Jayhawks nearing end of difficult season

November 12, 2002

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Mark Mangino has been to bowl games the last nine seasons in a row.

If Kansas UniversityâÂÂs first-year football coach wants to see a postseason game this winter, heâÂÂll have to buy a ticket.

Mangino is preparing his team for SaturdayâÂÂs season finale against Oklahoma State without any incentives for bowl games or a conference title. KU (2-9 overall, 0-7 Big 12) will be playing for pride and trying to avoid a winless conference season when it plays host to OSU (4-5, 2-3) in a 1 p.m. Senior Day game at Memorial Stadium.

âÂÂThe seniors want to go out on a positive note,â Mangino said Monday during the Big 12 teleconference. âÂÂAnd our senior class has played with great spirit all year despite the fact that we have not won very much, so weâÂÂre looking forward to it.âÂÂ

Mangino lost two senior starters before the season began. Guard Kyle Grady, who started 10 games last season, wasnâÂÂt able to recover from a knee injury during the offseason.

And receiver Harrison Hill, a team captain, quit during preseason practices because of chronic dehydration.

There were other defections as well. Junior cornerback Carl Ivey, who started 10 games in 2001, transferred during the summer. Heralded freshman receiver Jerome Lewis bolted during preseason camp. Junior running back Reggie Duncan, the teamâÂÂs leading rusher last season, left the team last week.

Mangino even lost an assistant. Offensive line coach Ken Conatser resigned two games into the season.

âÂÂI think it has been trying at times, but I think thatâÂÂs what these rebuilding projects are all about,â Mangino said. âÂÂYouâÂÂre going to encounter a lot of issues that you have to deal with. And youâÂÂve just got to hang in there and believe in yourself and believe in the people around you and just keep at it. Nobody likes losing. I donâÂÂt like it, our players donâÂÂt, our coaches donâÂÂt. But I really believe that our players see the difference in our program right now, even though it hasnâÂÂt translated into wins just yet. I think our players really feel a difference in the impact that weâÂÂve had here. But weâÂÂve got to keep going. WeâÂÂve just got to keep working at it. I feel good about the direction weâÂÂre going in.âÂÂ

Mangino has been through this before as an assistant coach. He joined Bill SnyderâÂÂs coaching staff at Kansas State after SnyderâÂÂs second year in Manhattan and helped the Wildcats evolve from the worst Division I program in the nation to one of the best teams in the Big 12 Conference.

Mangino also worked under OklahomaâÂÂs Bob Stoops, who returned the Sooners to national prominence in just two seasons following five subpar seasons under three different coaches.

âÂÂOur situation is a lot similar to Kansas State when Bill Snyder took over there, more so than Oklahoma,â Mangino said. âÂÂWhen we got there at Oklahoma, there were a lot of issues to deal with there and the athletic department was in the red and there were a lot of personnel issues that Bob had to deal with. But one of things about Oklahoma is they have that tradition. Bob played hard on the tradition of Oklahoma to rally the troops and kids responded to that.

âÂÂWeâÂÂre like Kansas State. We donâÂÂt have much of a tradition here, so we have to talk about the present and the future and what weâÂÂre going to build here and how weâÂÂre doing it.âÂÂ

K-State had only two winning seasons in the 34 years prior to SnyderâÂÂs arrival in 1989. The Wildcats endured losing seasons in three of the coachâÂÂs first four years before bursting on to the national scene with a 9-2-1 record, a victory against Wyoming in the Copper Bowl and a top-20 ranking in 1993.

Kansas will conclude its seventh straight losing season Saturday. What happens after that is largely up to Mangino, who will mark his one-year anniversary at KU on December 4.

The coach and his staff plan to get an early jump on recruiting. Every other Big 12 team has at least one more game remaining after this week, not to mention the conference title game and bowls.

The Jayhawks already have a handful of oral commitments, including Lawrence HighâÂÂs Brandon McAnderson. KUâÂÂs staff will try to sell recruits on the opportunity to play right away at Kansas, as opposed to red-shirting at an established program.

Coaches will undoubtedly mention that the Anderson Family Strength and Conditioning Center will open in the spring. They might also illustrate growing optimism about the program by pointing out that KU sold its highest number of season tickets since 1978.

âÂÂI thing everything is going in the right direction with the exception of the wins column,â Mangino said, âÂÂand that will come.âÂÂ

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