Prairie Village — This time of year, Kansas University football coach Mark Mangino doesn't have to say much to get a crowd going.
An assurance that the players are working hard. A vow that this year's team is better. Sneak in the words "bowl game" near the end of the speech, and the ovation lasts until he steps off the stage.
Mangino did his job without saying much at all Friday at the KU Kickoff Rally in Corinth Square. About 3,500 fans took up a large chunk of the parking lot, where people of all ages shared a love for KU and an anticipation of the upcoming football season.
The crowd was a bit larger than last year's, something that encourages KU's sixth-year coach.
"Our fans are loyal. We knew they'd come out," Mangino said. "They want a good football team, and they're excited about the season. I'm really pleased all these folks turned out."
Mangino didn't give any interesting nuggets about his team when talking to reporters Friday - even getting a bit agitated when pressed about his quarterback situation. An official winner of the Todd Reesing-Kerry Meier competition, though, could be given as soon as today. Reesing is the expected choice.
Instead, Mangino saw Friday as a chance to reach out to the Kansas City-area fan base and pump them up for Sept. 1, when the Jayhawks will open the season against Central Michigan at Memorial Stadium.
"You can see the great support we have in Johnson County and the Kansas City area," Mangino said. "It's exciting to be here. Maybe a few years ago, this event wouldn't be as big as it is now."
Mangino got up on stage about halfway through the four-hour event as a crowd of supporters huddled around. His speech was brief, thanking everyone for their support, giving a general update on how the preseason is going and talking about the challenge of Central Michigan on Sept. 1. He then declared the 2007 Jayhawks better than the 2006 version that went 6-6, a crowd-pleasing sound bite.
After he was done, Mangino unsuccessfully tried to make it back to his sport-utility vehicle. He was stopped constantly to pose for pictures, shake hands and sign autographs.
The love was definitely there, as it is most summers before the grind of the season begins.
The key now is to keep his popularity high in November, after the 12-game regular season determines whether the season was a success or something less.
"We've got a good football team this year," Mangino insisted. "We won't disappoint."