By Mark Janssen
DeLoss Dodds vividly remembers one of his lowest days as a young K-Stater. It was Dec. 9, 1950. He was a 13-year-old.
While that was a day of heartbreak, not to mention jealousy, there were many days of giddiness that followed in Dodds' early-teen years in Riley, Kan., located just 20 minutes to the northwest of Manhattan.
"A buddy and I would walk to the gas station, put the flag up on the post so the bus knew to stop, and we waited for the bus to come through. I think it cost 50 cents ... maybe not even that much. We would get dumped off at the depot in Manhattan, walk to Memorial Stadium and pay 35 cents to sit in the north bleachers," reflected Dodds, mentioning the name of Elmer Creviston in football, and Ernie Barrett, Dick Knostman and Jim Iverson in basketball as his childhood heroes. "It's amazing what parents would let kids do in those days when things were safe."
With tongue in cheek, he quipped on purchasing a game ticket, "And you didn't have to make a donation to the Foundation, or anyone else."
A star athlete for the Falcons, Dodds was billed as "The Riley Flash" when he enrolled at K-State on a football scholarship as a running back/defensive back, plus he was offered an invitation from Tex Winter to play basketball for the Wildcats. Instead, injuries encouraged him to the area of track as a member of legendary coach Ward Haylett's Wildcat team.
Dodds would run to the Big 12 quarter-mile championship in 1959, while his biggest fan, Mary Ann, became the Royal Purple Homecoming queen.
Of Haylett, an assistant coach for the USA Olympic team in 1948, Dodds said, "I caught him toward the end of his career, but he was a perfect gentleman. He stood for all the right things."
After a stint in the Army, Dodds returned to K-State to help Haylett with his program as a volunteer, but was soon approached by K-State athletics director Bebe Lee to be the school's ticket manager.
"I said I didn't have a clue about what a ticket manager did, but if he would let me be an assistant track coach, I'd be glad to learn the ticket business," Dodds reflected.
Two years later, Haylett resigned with Dodds given the chore of hosting the coaching candidates - names like Bob Timmons (later a legendary coach at Kansas) and Ralph Tate (the same at Oklahoma State) - when they came onto campus.
"Finally Bebe asked me if I wanted to apply, and I said, 'Sure.' " Dodds said. "I talked to Bebe and then President (Jim) McCain, and after about 45 minutes he asked me what I was going to do if I didn't get the job. I said I'd probably go somewhere and be a high school track coach.
"Mary Ann was working in his office at the time, and I remember him saying, 'Well, I'd sure hate to lose Mary Ann,' and that's how I got my first track job," said Dodds, who was 25 at the time. "Bebe wanted to push baseball, so I also think he thought this young kid wouldn't mess with him too much."
Coaching the 'Cats from 1963 through 1976, K-State teams won six Big 8 cross country and indoor track titles, plus scored several seconds during the outdoor season, which helped him to be inducted into the United States Track and Field Hall of Fame.
Dodds left K-State in 1977 to become an assistant commissioner in the Big 8 office before returning as AD, which is a post he held from 1977 to 1981.
"The Big 8 experience was great, but we wanted to get back on a campus where it's more vibrant," said Dodds. "Campus life is where you can be for someone, instead of being for eight schools. We just thought K-State had so much potential and we knew the people were so passionate."
When Dodds arrived at K-State, he said the budget was a little over $2 million. The department was also coming off six years of football probation in a 10-year period, and the department was $500,000 in debt.
After K-State, Dodds became AD at the University of Texas in 1981, and now into his 30th year with the Longhorns, he has taken the department's budget from $4.2 million to $140 million with UT claiming 13 National Championships and 100 Southwest/Big 12 titles under his watch.
Dodds inherited a program that was in debt, and one that was receiving only $400,000 from boosters. Today that has turned into $37 million in gifts from 14,000 donors to the Longhorn Foundation.
UT's chief financial officer Kevin Hegarty calls Dodds "... absolutely the best business guy on campus, and that's coming from one of the business guys on campus."
Among the line items on the Dodds resume are: 2005 National Athletic Director of the Year; National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame Award; US Track Coaches Hall of Fame; Texas Sports Hall of Fame; and the Kansas State Sports Hall of Fame.
In looking at K-State, Dodds acknowledges, "They're filling their football stadium and their basketball arena. That makes them a player in the conference. On the side of being healthy or unhealthy, they're healthy. As always, the biggest thing they have going is the passion of their people. They know how to win, and they know how to lose. They're just classy people."
"The word I think of with K-Staters is 'wholesome.' They are very caring people about each other and caring about their school," said Dodds. "You can't be any good unless your people are hard-working and have passion. K-Staters are Middle America, which goes back to being wholesome."
He continued, "K-Staters should not worry about being one of the top programs, because they are one."
Of the current Wildcat landscape, Dodds gave a sincere salute to the leadership of President Kirk Schulz and AD John Currie: "K-State's future is doing what they're doing now which is just trying to continue to get better. K-State is a part of a vibrant conference, so it just comes down to getting up every morning and doing the little things, and then being prepared when something big comes along and take advantage of that. I have great appreciation and confidence with the direction K-State is headed."