In the sea of crimson helmets Saturday during Oklahoma's football game at Kansas State, a college sophomore was roaming the Sooners' sideline, soaking in the atmosphere and seeing old friends.
It wasn't a former OU player, a current Sooner student or anyone that so much as took a class on the Norman, Okla., campus.
It was Tommy Mangino, son of Kansas University coach Mark Mangino. Tommy graciously accepted an invitation from an old family friend -- OU coach Bob Stoops -- and bounced to Manhattan to catch the Sooners' 31-21 victory over the Wildcats.
"(Stoops) took him in the locker room and talked to him and was bringing him around to see some of the players he knows," Mark Mangino said of Tommy, a Lawrence High graduate and sophomore baseball player at Johnson County Community College.
Stoops and the younger Mangino have been friendly since Tommy was a tyke in Manhattan. Back then, Stoops and his wife, Carol, hadn't started a family yet and adored Mangino's two children, Samantha and Tommy.
"Bob and Carol always made a big fuss over them," Mark Mangino said with a grin.
That's the kind of bond the Mangino and Stoops families have, though the two coaches may be enemies for about three hours Saturday when Kansas and Oklahoma face off at noon in Norman, Okla.
"There's a lot of close, personal friendship there that's been built over a good number of years," Stoops said. "But once you get on the field, I never look at anything, no matter who we're playing, as anything personal."
Stoops and Mangino have risen similarly through the college football coaching ranks. Both grew up in towns a short drive from each other --Mangino in Pennsylvania and Stoops just across the state line in Ohio.
After Stoops finished a fine playing career at Iowa and served short assistant-coaching stints at Iowa and Kent State, Bill Snyder lured him to Manhattan to start what would become a remarkable turnaround of the Kansas State program.
Mangino joined two years later to be an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator.
"Those were fun years," Mangino said. "A lot of the guys at K-State were close, and that's where Bob and I developed our friendship."
Stoops left for Florida in 1996, then returned to the Big 12 Conference in 1999 to become head coach of the Sooners. He immediately hired Mangino as an assistant.
There, the families' bond continued to strengthen. Mangino recalled a story of seeing his OU game-day attire laid out for him one Saturday, dry-cleaned and neatly pressed. Next to his outfit was a little something extra.
|1989: Bob Stoops joins Bill Snyder's coaching staff at Kansas State as defensive-backs coach.1991: Snyder hires relative unknown Mark Mangino as assistant coach and recruiting coordinator.1999: Stoops hired as head coach at Oklahoma; Mangino immediately hired as assistant.2002: Mangino hired as head coach at Kansas University.|
"Bob had it directed that my son had a hat and shirt on game day," Mangino said. "He really cared about him."
Mangino came to KU in late 2001 with Stoops' blessing. Since then, the two have admired each other from afar -- Stoops keeping Oklahoma at the top of the college football world; Mangino slowly building KU's program.
Today will be the first up-close look for both coaches wearing different colors. They've never been on opposite sidelines before. For a few hours, it'll be all business.
Soon after, though, it will be all friendship once again.
"We share a lot of similarities in our thinking," Mangino said. "It's been a good friendship that I value."