Mark Mangino has been to bowl games the last nine seasons in a row.
If Kansas UniversityÃ¢ÂÂs first-year football coach wants to see a postseason game this winter, heÃ¢ÂÂll have to buy a ticket.
Mangino is preparing his team for SaturdayÃ¢ÂÂs 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.
Ã¢ÂÂThe seniors want to go out on a positive note,Ã¢ÂÂ Mangino said Monday during the Big 12 teleconference. Ã¢ÂÂAnd our senior class has played with great spirit all year despite the fact that we have not won very much, so weÃ¢ÂÂre looking forward to it.Ã¢ÂÂ
Mangino lost two senior starters before the season began. Guard Kyle Grady, who started 10 games last season, wasnÃ¢ÂÂt 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 teamÃ¢ÂÂs 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.
Ã¢ÂÂI think it has been trying at times, but I think thatÃ¢ÂÂs what these rebuilding projects are all about,Ã¢ÂÂ Mangino said. Ã¢ÂÂYouÃ¢ÂÂre going to encounter a lot of issues that you have to deal with. And youÃ¢ÂÂve 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 donÃ¢ÂÂt like it, our players donÃ¢ÂÂt, our coaches donÃ¢ÂÂt. But I really believe that our players see the difference in our program right now, even though it hasnÃ¢ÂÂt translated into wins just yet. I think our players really feel a difference in the impact that weÃ¢ÂÂve had here. But weÃ¢ÂÂve got to keep going. WeÃ¢ÂÂve just got to keep working at it. I feel good about the direction weÃ¢ÂÂre going in.Ã¢ÂÂ
Mangino has been through this before as an assistant coach. He joined Bill SnyderÃ¢ÂÂs coaching staff at Kansas State after SnyderÃ¢ÂÂs 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 OklahomaÃ¢ÂÂs Bob Stoops, who returned the Sooners to national prominence in just two seasons following five subpar seasons under three different coaches.
Ã¢ÂÂOur situation is a lot similar to Kansas State when Bill Snyder took over there, more so than Oklahoma,Ã¢ÂÂ Mangino said. Ã¢ÂÂWhen 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.
Ã¢ÂÂWeÃ¢ÂÂre like Kansas State. We donÃ¢ÂÂt have much of a tradition here, so we have to talk about the present and the future and what weÃ¢ÂÂre going to build here and how weÃ¢ÂÂre doing it.Ã¢ÂÂ
K-State had only two winning seasons in the 34 years prior to SnyderÃ¢ÂÂs arrival in 1989. The Wildcats endured losing seasons in three of the coachÃ¢ÂÂs 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 HighÃ¢ÂÂs Brandon McAnderson. KUÃ¢ÂÂs 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.
Ã¢ÂÂI thing everything is going in the right direction with the exception of the wins column,Ã¢ÂÂ Mangino said, Ã¢ÂÂand that will come.Ã¢ÂÂ