Editor's Note: Today, "K-State Sports Extra" concludes a two-part story on Kansas State Hall of Famer Vince Gibson, who coached the Wildcat football program from 1967-1974.
By Mark Janssen
Vince Gibson hit the ground on a dead sprint upon his hiring as Kansas State's head football coach prior to the 1967 season.
Speaking at a Salina Catbacker event, he offered, "I don't think K-State people realize what a great school they have and the potential it offers in the competitive area of collegiate football. Don't let anyone tell you that this is an impossible job because of the losing tradition here. Now is the time when Kansas State can become a legend in the annals of collegiate football. But let me assure you, this job is not for the timid, the skeptic or the lazy."
Gibson was none of the above -- timid, skeptic or lazy -- but while the Wildcats did peak in the door of becoming a legendary name in college football in the late-1960s, that didn't truly become a reality until 20 years later with Bill Snyder.
Few can appreciate the job Snyder has done, and is continuing to do, more than someone who has walked the same sidelines.
"Bill Snyder is truly a miracle man," said Gibson, who will be recognized Saturday during K-State's game with Central Florida. "He was given what it took to build a program, but then he went out and did it. He didn't do it by himself because he had all that help from the administration, but he's the one that did it."
Gibson did get it going at K-State with a total of 20 wins in a four-year period from 1968-71. The win total was the highest over a four-year period dating back to 1931-34 when the Wildcats won 23 games under Bo McMillin and Lynn "Pappy" Waldorf.
Gibson did it with players like Mack Herron, Lynn Dickey, Mike Montgomery and Danny Lankas.
Of Herron, a 5-foot-5, 170-pound transfer from Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College, Gibson said, "He's at the top of the list of great athletes I've ever known in my life (laughing), but he also created some problems that drove me nuts. But what a great competitor, and what a great athlete."
And of Dickey, a product of Osawatomie, Kan., Gibson said, "Missouri and Kansas offered him scholarships, but neither one really threw the ball. We came in with a Florida State philosophy of throwing the ball all over the place."
Gibson was a 1955 graduate of Florida State where he teamed with legendary Seminole coach Bobby Bowden.
Later at South Georgia Junior College, it was Gibson who assisted Bowden on a two-man football coaching staff. In addition, Gibson coached basketball and track, while Bowden coached baseball.
"We never had a losing season," he chuckled when asked about his success as a hoops coach.
Gibson returned to FSU to be an assistant coach and later went to Tennessee before taking his first job as a head coach at K-State in 1967 at the youthful age of 32. In the next eight years, K-State won 33 games, which included six seasons of at least four wins and the school's first ever victories over ranked teams - No. 11 Oklahoma in 1969, and No. 8 Colorado and No. 17 Missouri in 1970.
K-State would not defeat another ranked team until 1993 when Snyder's Wildcats defeated No. 13 Oklahoma.
Gibson would go on to coach at Louisville for five years, which included one bowl game and then three years at Tulane, with one bowl game. He also proudly says, "We beat LSU twice in three years and Tulane hasn't beaten them since."
Out of football, Gibson was involved in the 1984 World's Fair in New Orleans in the area of popcorn and cotton candy sales.
"I didn't really know what I was doing, and I lost my tail," he laughed. "I got kicked between the teeth in that one, but it was a good learning experience."
More recently, Gibson was involved a sports travel company called "Spectacular Sports Special," and now has a smaller travel company called "World Sports Travel."
"I really enjoy that travel," said Gibson. "I've been to the Kentucky Derby for 35 straight years, to the World Cup, to the Olympics, and every Friday night at the Final Four, I have dinner with Ernie (Barrett)."
Gibson, who now lives in New Orleans, has been the victim of storms in the gulf, losing a condo in Pensacola, Fla., and then his home to Katrina.
"We were out of the house for nine months. We had water in it six to eight feet high, and that black mold was all over the house when we got back," said Gibson. "We had to move to Houston to keep our business going while we were out of the house."
After his first wife, Sharon, died, Gibson says, "I expanded my horizons" with his next wife, Cecile, who he met while he was coaching in Louisville.
Laughing out loud, Gibson said, "She was a ballerina ... did the ballet thing. She had never seen a football game, and I had never seen a ballet. We were quite the pair."
So Vince, how do you enjoy ballet?
"Let's just say I get into it in the fourth quarter when it's nearly over," he chuckled.
We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact either Mark Janssen at email@example.com, or Kansas State Director of Athletic Communications/SID Kenny Lannou at firstname.lastname@example.org.