Congratulations to everyone involved in Kansas University's 2003 football team as they head to the Tangerine Bowl.
In a few days, members of the Kansas University football team, coaches and some administrative staffers will head to Orlando, Fla., for the Tangerine Bowl football game against North Carolina State University.
This is the first bowl appearance by a KU football team since 1995, and the fact KU is headed to the Tangerine Bowl is a tremendous testimonial to the accomplishments and dedication of the 2003 Jayhawk team. In two years, coach Mark Mangino, with the hard work of the players, has turned the KU football program around from a poorly motivated, poorly disciplined and questionably coached team into a team that has rekindled enthusiasm among KU players, students, alumni and friends.
Aside from the players themselves, few people know or appreciate the hard work required of today's players if they and their teams are to achieve success. It involves intensive training throughout the year, physically demanding practice sessions and exposure to dangerous, possibly career-ending, injuries.
It's still a game but a high-stakes game that is played by players who are bigger, faster and under increasing pressure to win.
The bowl trip is a great reward for the players. And it serves as a tremendous promotional event for the university as well as the football program.
The players deserve to have fun on such a trip, but they also must conduct themselves in a manner that reflects credit on the university, its football program and the state of Kansas. Mangino and members of his staff are to be congratulated for the manner in which they have developed the team over the past two years and how they have positioned the Jayhawks to become an even better squad in coming years.
The timing of the game, just a few days before Christmas, and the uncertainty of whether KU would be playing in a bowl, has not helped ticket sales. Many who might have wanted to attend the game already had made Christmas plans and could not fit in a trip to Florida.
Another factor is the previously scheduled KU basketball game in Reno, Nev., only a few hours before the football game kicks off in Orlando. Consequently, there will not be as many fans in Florida for the game as might have been the case if the timing and scheduling could have been announced much earlier.
Nevertheless, there is sure to be a strong, enthusiastic and noisy contingent of KU fans in the stands, even if the numbers are smaller than some had hoped.
Seniors on the KU team are sure to be thrilled to end their careers with a bowl game, after one, two or three years of frustration and more losses than wins. Underclass players have every right to be happy about the trip as well as the prospects of playing on an even better team next year.
It's a happy time for KU players and coaches and a time for KU fans to extend an enthusiastic "thank you" and "congratulations" to all those who played a role in the turnaround of the KU program and the success of this year's team.