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Cats Need Strong Finish for Chance at History

By Mark Janssen

Have a seat, my K-State friends, for a Wildcat tale that you're going to find hard to believe. 
 
First, this assembly of wordage is to say that Kansas State still has the chance for a historical fall-winter sports year. Further defined, the 'Cats still have the opportunity to be on the plus side of .500 in football "and" men's basketball this year - 2010-2011 - in Big 12 Conference play. In the Big 12 that means "at least" 5-3 in football; in the Big 12 that means "at least" 9-7 in basketball.
 
Again, we're here to say "over" .500 in the sports of football and men's basketball in the same academic year is what K-State could accomplish.

What's the big deal about that, you ask?
 
Well, without madly going through your KSU media guides, my question to you is this: When is the last time that you think that it happened ... football "and" men's basketball "above .500" in conference play in the same year?
 
(Writer's note: Sitting here whistling the Wabash Cannonball ... and your time is up! Your answer, please. Sorry, but whatever you guessed, I'm guessing, is not the right answer.)
 
Hop on board and let me navigate you through a 400 Level course in Wildcat History.
 
HUGGINS/MARTIN ERA: It's true that K-State basketball has won 10, 10, 9 and 11 Big 12 games in the last four years, BUT, the footballers did no better than 4-4 in the league, which included the 2006 Texas Bowl season. That's not "above" .500.
 
SNYDER'S MIRACLE: In an 11-year period from 1993-2003, Bill Snyder's Wildcats were one of the rulers of the Big 12 Conference with 6-2 being the average season during a run when the 'Cats rang the Big 12 North title victory bell four times. BUT, during that same 11-year period, K-State finished .500 only once in 1995-96 when Tom Asbury's club went 7-7 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. That's not "above" .500.
 
Even in the 1993-94 season when Dana Altman led K-State to the Final Four of the NIT, it came following a regular season when the 'Cats were just 4-10 in the Big 8.
 
DICKEY'S BOWL YEAR: Nope! K-State finished 6-5-1 and advanced to its first ever bowl game (Independence Bowl), but the trip followed only a 3-3-1 season in the Big 8. Plus, hoops went a dreadful 4-10.
 
Allow me to take a quick timeout to remind you that the Wildcats have celebrated only 21 plus-.500 conference seasons in football ... ever. Eleven of those were under Snyder and eight came prior to ... get this ... prior to 1940.
 
(How many of you have already guessed wrong?)
 
PURPLE PRIDE: Vince "We Gonna Win" Gibson came barreling into town in the late-1960s, and with Lynn "White Shoes" Dickey at the helm, the 'Cats humbled the Oklahoma Sooners, 59-21, BUT, it was one of just three Big 8 wins, while the Cotton Fitzsimmon's era ended with a glossy 10-4 mark.
 
In 1970 Gibson's 'Cats did go 5-2 in the Big 8, BUT, that was Jack Hartman's first season at the helm when the 'Cats finished 6-8.
 
GLORY YEARS FOR HOOPS: From 1955-1956 through 1963-64, K-State won seven Big 7/8 titles and placed second twice during a nine-year span. BUT, during those same nine football seasons, K-State won a total ... that's total ... of 11 conference football games. Bill Meek's Wildcats did go 3-3 in 1954, but in no other season did K-State win more than two league games.
 
1953-54 / 1954-55: Those were years when K-State won 13 football games, which included a 4-2 Big 7 record in 1953. BUT, that was Tex Winter's first season and the 'Cats were just 5-7 with the round ball.
 
The next season, both teams went .500 in league play - 3-3 and 6-6.
 
(For those of you playing along, how many of you are now still alive with your guess?)
 
THE GARDNER YEARS: From the 1947-48 season through the 1952-53 campaign, the guys in Purple won three hoop titles, placed second twice and third once. BUT, those were six fall seasons when Sam Francis, Ralph Graham and Bill Meek produced ... oh my! ... only one conference win.
 
In fact, from 1935 through 1952, K-State either won one or zero league football games in 16 of the 18 seasons.
 
MISSOURI VALLEY CHAMPS: In 1934, Lynn "Pappy" Waldorf guided the 'Cats to a 7-2-1 overall mark and 5-0 in the Missouri Valley for the league title. BUT, that same year Frank Root's basketball team went just 4-12 in the Big 6, which included five losses to Kansas.
 
(There ... did that eliminate everyone else still standing?)
 
BO KNOWS FOOTBALL: Bo McMillin coached the football gladiators to league records of 3-2, 3-2, 3-2, 2-3 and 4-1 in a five-year period between 1929 and 1933. BUT in basketball, those were years when the 'Cats went 4-6, 5-5, 5-5, 4-6 and 2-8. Close, but none were "above" .500.
 
FINALLY, WE HAVE HISTORY!: In 1925-26 ... a long, long, long time ago ... Hall of Fame coach Charles Bachman coached the football Wildcats to a 5-2-1 record, which included a 3-2-1 mark in the Missouri Valley Conference. Amazingly, it was a season when K-State scored touchdowns in just four of the eight games, and a total of two points ... yes, that's total of two points ... in the other four games combined.
 
Later in that academic year, Charles Corsaut's basketball team, captained by Fritz Koch, went 11-7, which included a 9-3 Valley record.
 
That is the record that Bill Snyder and Frank  Martin are chasing in 2010-2011. 
 
OTHER NOTES:
• K-State's football team also finished above .500 in league play in 1921 (4-2) and 1922 (3-1-2), BUT, those were 3-13 and 2-14 years, respectively, in basketball.
• In 1918, K-State went 4-1 in football with wins over Baker, Fort Riley, Washburn and Iowa State, plus a loss to Kansas, while basketball went 10-2. BUT, here's the problem. While the 'Cats were involved in the Missouri Valley in basketball, the football team, with that five-game schedule, was not affiliated with a league.
• During the Mike Ahearn days - 1905-1910 in football and 1906-11 in basketball - of coaching both sports, multiple times K-State was well above .500, BUT, at that time the school did not have an alignment with a conference.
 
Well, thanks for bearing with me. It's been an 1,100-word, or so, weave through K-State history with this point to be taken.
 
If not history making, this 2010-11 athletic season can be a twice in the history of the school experience, so don't miss it in these final home football games with Oklahoma State and Texas!
 
The football 'Cats need to win three of the next four - OSU, Texas, at MU and at CU - before passing the baton to Jacob Pullen and company to complete the historic mission.