With Kansas State coming off a 5-7 season and projected to finish fifth in the North by the league's media, one area reporter asked Ron Prince during the Big 12 Media Day last week if the third-year head coach sensed that the expectations for the Wildcats were "the same as they've always been" in Manhattan. Prince couldn't speak for the public at large, but K-State prepares for the start of its fall camp on Aug. 4 and its season opener against North Texas carrying the same goal.
Prince hopes fans are on the same page with the team.
"I hope their expectations are as high as ours, which is to compete and try to win the North this year," Prince said. "If we do what we're supposed to do, we can be hard to beat. But that's all rhetoric until we get on the field."
Understandably, the success of two nearby division foes -- Top 25 Missouri and Kansas -- crept into discussion. While Missouri and Kansas shared the North crown, the Tigers went to their first Big 12 Championship game and finished arguably their best season in history at 12-2 and ranked No. 4 nationally with a 38-7 beatdown of Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl. Kansas also finished 12-2 and No. 7 with a 24-21 win against Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl, its first victory over a top-five team in 13 seasons.
Somebody asked Prince whether it was possible to admire a rival's success. Given the well-documented climb by Gary Pinkel and Mark Mangino[db], could they stand as a living testament that if it can happen there, it can happen other places?
Prince didn't bite.
"It's happened here and there's a long tradition of it happening at Kansas State," he said. "This is a program where all the players and coaches expect to win and expect to compete for championships and that's one of the things that made this program attractive to me.
"Clearly, we didn't get in the situation we were in overnight. It's just a matter of us working our plan so that we never go back to where we just had come from. That's really where my focus is."
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