MIAMI, Fla. - When Kansas head football coach Mark Mangino and his team walked off the plane in Miami, Fla. on Thursday afternoon, they were greeted with 81 degree weather, a far cry from the 27 degrees back in Lawrence that morning.
The Jayhawks are in town to begin preparation for the FedEx Orange Bowl game, which will take place on Jan. 3. Eighth-ranked Kansas will face third-listed Virginia Tech in the Bowl Championship Series game.
"We're excited to be here," Mangino told a media gathering after getting off the plane. "We have waited a long time to get down here to south Florida and get ready for the Orange Bowl. We are pretty excited. We will have a team meeting tonight and will get to work tomorrow on the practice field."
The team left Lawrence with a send off, which included members of the KU band, as well as a large number of fans. The Jayhawks arrived in Miami to an orange carpet with orange-coated bowl committee members handing out welcome gifts as the party exited the plane on to the tarmac.
The gift bags included an orange, disposable camera, sunscreen and and Orange Bowl patch. The players then boarded a pair of busses, which were decorated with photos of the team.
"This is one of those things where it is like a fantasy," said KU safety Darrell Stuckey. "You come off the plane in Miami and you feel like a celebrity."
The traveling party included 33 of the 104 players KU is bringing to the game. Other members of the team were flying to south Florida on their own after going home for Christmas break.
"This is an exciting day," said KU defensive end John Larson. "It was nice to see the support of the Orange Bowl committee. It has been amazing to see all of the support we have had from everyone since the bowl announcement came out."
The only activity scheduled for Thursday was a team meeting scheduled for 6:30 p.m. On Friday the team will hold a morning practice. A dinner and bowling outing will take place Friday night.
Saturday's itinerary includes a morning practice and a beach party in the afternoon.
The team will hold workouts every day through Jan. 2.
Orange Bowl Notable - KU head coach Mark Mangino will be coaching in his 12th bowl game. He coached in six bowl games as an assistant at Kansas State, three as an assistant at Oklahoma and now three at Kansas... Mangino was the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma when the Sooners won the Orange Bowl and national championship in 2000... KU's coaching staff has a combined 53 bowl games of experience under its belt counting this season. Defensive coordinator Bill Young will be coaching in his 15th bowl game all-time.