Jayhawks Happy With Orange

It's 7 p.m. and the anticipation is building at Hadl Auditorium inside Allen Fieldhouse. Over 50 media members and KU athletic staffers are on hand to find out where the Kansas Jayhawks will be bowling over the holiday season.

Reporters glue their eyes on the big screen while watching the Fox BCS Selection Show.

After Hawaii was selected to the Sugar Bowl, USC and Illinois were matched up in the Rose Bowl, and Oklahoma and West Virginia were pitted against each other in the Fiesta Bowl, Kansas finally flashed across the screen at 7:18.

Live it up Jayhawk fans, No. 8 KU (11-1, 7-1) is headed to Miami Gardens, Fla., on Jan. 3 to play No. 5 Virginia Tech (11-2, 7-1 ACC) in the FedEX Orange Bowl at Dolphin Stadium. This is the first time Kansas football will be playing in January since KU lost to Penn State in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 1, 1969. It's also the first-ever BCS bowl for the 'Hawks.

“It’s an exciting day for the University of Kansas,” said KU head coach Mark Mangino. “What you see here is a culmination of a bunch of young players working hard, working together, playing together, making great sacrifices. A great staff of assistant coaches, tireless work (and) family sacrifices to get Kansas’ football program in the national spotlight.”

With players Joe Mortenson, Derek Fine, Todd Reesing, James McClinton, and Brandon McAnderson flanked by his side holding oranges, along with 15 assistant coaches and support staff, Mangino thanked Chancellor Robert Hemingway, his staff, and athletic director Lew Perkins, “who worked tirelessly on this bowl situation staying up all night talking to people all over the country.”

Kansas was speculated by some observers to be headed to the Fiesta Bowl to face Big 12 champion Oklahoma. Mangino had actually talked and laughed with Sooners head coach Bob Stoops about that possibility at 12: 30 late Saturday night after OU’s victory over MU in the Big 12 title game. Mangino was a former assistant coach under Stoops in Norman, Okla.

“When you go to play a bowl game, you like to play against another conference,” Mangino said. “It’s conference pride versus their conference. That’s what makes the bowls a lot of fun. If it’s the only way we could have played in a BCS bowl, then fine, we’d play Oklahoma. ...We’re very pleased about where we are right now.”

“I was confident it would be a BCS bowl, but I just didn’t know which one,” Mangino added. “We didn’t know until just before the show on Fox that we were going to go to the Orange Bowl.”

Perkins broke the news by throwing out a bag of oranges to the players at 6:30 before the Fox Selection Show. Heck, McClinton was so excited he started chomping on the orange immediately, without even peeling the fruit. Indeed, it was a dream come true for Kansas football.

Or was it?

“Dreaming is a passive state, we talk here all the time with our players you can dream or you can pursue,” Mangino said. “This is the product of our players and coaches pursuing this goal and working hard to attain it. Maybe some guys dream about it, maybe some days I did. But dreaming is passive, we talk about pursuing. I think that is the reason why we’re going to the Orange Bowl."

For Mangino, his players, and the entire football program, Christmas came a little early this year.

“It was just great to stand in the room (Naismith Room) in Allen Fieldhouse) and watch those kids when they found out,” Mangino said. “It was like when my kids were knee-high on Christmas morning. They were grinning from ear to ear. It was fun as a coach just to observe that and watch them. They earned it and I’m so proud of them.”

So is Perkins.

“I think the last Orange Bowl (we played) was in 1969,” Perkins said. “So it’s history there and the fact that the old Big Eight used to play there all the time. It’s a huge bowl. We’re playing the ACC. There was some talk about them (Virginia Tech) going to the national championship, too. I mean this very sincerely, we couldn’t be any happier and more excited. It’s a great opportunity for our kids and our program.”

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