LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) -They have competed for recruits, faced each other on the field, waged epic battles on the racquetball court.
None of it has dimmed the tight bond between Oklahoma's Bob Stoops and Kansas coach Mark Mangino.
It won't be any different on Saturday, either.
No matter the implications on the rest of the season, the potential for one team to be knocked from the national title chase, the relationship between Stoops and Mangino is too strong, goes back too far to let one game come between them.
``We understand our role in this world, what we're asked to do and what the expectations are for us professionally, and that's all that matters,'' Mangino said. ``There's no one football game, no one recruit that's going to change the relationship that we have.''
That relationship is rooted in Youngstown, Ohio.
for Iowa.
Stoops' father, Ron Sr., helped lead Mooney to four state championships in 22 years as its defensive coordinator, spending many evenings poring over game films cast from a 16mm projector onto the family fridge. Bob followed his father's footsteps into coaching, as did brothers Mike and Mark, both now at Arizona.
Mangino grew up in New Castle, Pa., a mere 20 miles from Youngstown. He decided not to play football at Youngstown State after graduating from high school in 1974, then returned to the game in the 1980s to coach junior high and high school teams in his hometown.
After dropping out from Youngstown State in 1976, Mangino returned to school, juggling classes and duties as an assistant coach with a night job as a first responder on the Pennsylvania Turnpike - driving an ambulance and scooping up dead deer - before graduating in 1987.
After a few stops, the two coaches came together under Bill Snyder at Kansas State in 1991, Mangino as a graduate assistant, Stoops as the defensive coordinator after two years as defensive backs coach.
Together, they helped Snyder turn a program that had won one game from 1987-89 into a powerhouse that had six straight seasons of at least nine victories.
nt football coaches, tremendous leaders in their own right.''
Stoops and Mangino became close friends in five years together at Kansas State, their ties to steel country strengthened by lunchtime battles on the racquetball court, the long days that come with being an assistant coach.
Stoops left the program in 1996 to serve as defensive coordinator at Florida, where he won a national title with Steve Spurrier. When he became Oklahoma's head coach in 1999, Stoops immediately thought of his friend, hiring the fiery and meticulous Mangino as his assistant head coach.
``More than anything, he has a great work ethic, he has great discipline, and I love just the fire in him,'' Stoops said. ``The emotion, the passion to coach, to do well, and he's a bright guy on top of it all. I like that he always had a tough mind-set in what he expected of his players and how he wanted them to play. Mark's got a lot of good qualities there.''
Stoops and Mangino worked together in Norman for three years, winning a national championship in 2000.
Mangino left Oklahoma in 2002 to become the coach at Kansas, eventually turning the perennial laughingstock of the Big 12 into a national contender, leading the Jayhawks to a 12-1 season and a victory in last year's Orange Bowl.
titles after Mangino left.
It's no surprise to Snyder. Even when they were young coaches trying to make a name for themselves, Snyder could see what was in store for his two assistants.
``Had I been asked the question at the time, it would have been easy to answer very honestly that these young guys will become successful head coaches,'' he said.
Success - and playing for rival schools - hasn't spoiled the friendship.
The bond between Stoops and Mangino survived two previous meetings, Oklahoma winning both times, 19-3 in 2005, 41-10 the year before.
It isn't likely to change Saturday in Norman, either.
It's an important game for both programs, Stoops' fourth-ranked Sooners needing to bounce back from a loss to rival Texas, Mangino's 16th-ranked Jayhawks trying to stay in the hunt for the Big 12 North title.
The outcome just won't affect the friendship. Stoops and Mangino have too much invested to let competition tarnish what they have.
``I'll put it to you like this: he's a very close friend of mine,'' Mangino said. ``He's a guy I can count on and he can count on me, but we're both competitors. It has absolutely no effect on the competition taking place on the field on Saturday.''

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