- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 3, 2008

MIAMI — Mark Mangino had Kansas within one win of a perfect regular season and a shot at the BCS championship. Still, an Orange Bowl appearance is anything but a letdown for the sixth-year coach.

After all, a BCS bowl in South Florida is a far cry from the bottom of a ditch or the driver’s seat of an ambulance. Before his rise through the college coaching ranks, Mangino dug ditches and drove an ambulance to make ends meet while serving as an assistant at New Castle (Pa.) High School in the early 1980s.

Since then, Mangino has ascribed to a different sort of hard labor — constructing successful college football programs. The 2007 Big 12 coach of the year helped build a powerhouse at Kansas State in the mid-1990s as an offensive assistant and helped reawaken Oklahoma in 2000-01. But when the mammoth Mangino left to coach the Jayhawks, it seemed like he might be taking on an impossible task.

But after toiling in obscurity — Mangino estimates his annual income during his days at New Castle was around $27,000 — taking a chance in Lawrence did not seem so difficult.

Before he began winning games, Mangino won over his players with a laid-back attitude, something he still possesses.

“I [joke around] with everybody, and that’s my way of keeping people loose,” Mangino said. “We’re playing a football game. We’re not going to fight a war. The kids should enjoy the experience.”

Mangino has enjoyed his stay on South Beach.

“I’ve done what I like to do,” Mangino said. “I don’t particularly need to go to any clubs or do anything like that.”

Senior trip

Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer and his staff will lose 10 senior starters off this team, including the entire wide receiving corps and two-thirds of the linebacking bunch in Xavier Adibi and Vince Hall.

“It’s a bittersweet time,” defensive coordinator Bud Foster said. “I’ve seen these guys come in as young people and grow into young men. I’m going to miss them when they go on.”

The class of 2007 has posted a school record 42 wins, four 10-win seasons and two conference titles.

Tide of talent

Fifteen Hokies hail from the 757 area code — the talent-rich region of coastal Virginia that includes Hampton, Newport News and Chesapeake. Both Adibi and Hall represent the area, as well as safety D.J. Parker and quarterback Tyrod Taylor.

“There’s a lot of us,” Chesapeake’s Branden Ore said. “It’s like family around here. We try and stick together and help each other out as much as possible.”

The group follows in a long line of former Hokies greats like defensive lineman Bruce Smith and quarterbacks Michael and Marcus Vick.

No fun in the sun

When the Hokies and Jayhawks were selected for the Orange Bowl, they no doubt looked forward to catching rays. But the weather has not cooperated. New Year’s Day brought torrential downpours, and yesterday’s high temperature hovered around 55 degrees accompanied by 30 mph gusts.

Despite the unseasonable conditions, both teams would rather be here than home in Blacksburg (cloudy and 19 degrees) or Lawrence (clear and cold at 20 degrees).

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