By Mark Janssen
MANHATTAN, Kan. - At mid-morning today, Kansas State zooms out of Topeka on a charter loaded with a travel party of roughly 350 for the New Era Pinstripe Bowl in New York City.
There will be a total of 122 Wildcat players, every 'Cat that took part in a practice this year, plus an immediate football support staff of 78, plus 150 athletic department members, plus families.
In the understatement of the recent weeks since the announcement was made on the Kansas State versus Syracuse game on Dec. 30, Director of Football Operations Sean Snyder said, "There has been a lot of organizing to do."
While K-State's team hotel of the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers was designated by bowl officials, the Wildcats have been pretty much on their own to lock down other arrangements.
That starts with securing the charter, which is no easy task.
"Until you have your practices set, you can't book a plane," said Snyder, who estimated the cost of a charter at $300,000. "This time of year there are so many teams booking planes that information received on a flight at 11 in the morning can be completely different at 11:30. You hear, 'That plane is gone, but we have this plane available.'"
Snyder indicated that the decision between one plane and two went back and forth several times before a single larger plane was finalized on Dec. 15. Because of the size of the plane, the team will be bused to Topeka rather than leave from the Manhattan airport.
Prior to the departure of the team today, two semi-trucks packed with gear, medical staff needs, video equipment, extra luggage and bowl gifts left Manhattan on Thursday.
K-State could have used the New York Jets' indoor facility, but opting for an outdoor practice site, the team will be working out at Columbia University.
"They have been phenomenal to work with," said Snyder. "It's in the northern part of Manhattan about nine miles north of the hotel, but we're well aware that a short bus ride can turn into 45 minutes or more in New York City.
"We've done our best to schedule our events around the least amount of traffic time," said Snyder. "We're sure there will be some travel issues, but we're doing our best to avoid that."
The Wildcats will have full practices today, Monday and Tuesday, before going through a walk-through at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday afternoon. The game is then slated for Thursday at 2:30 p.m. (CT), and telecast on ESPN.
"It's a first-time bowl so there have been some scheduling conflicts, but the Yankees have done a great job with the bowl," said Snyder. "They want to be a major player in bowl games. They want to make it a first-class bowl, but until you've gone through it a couple times, there are always first-time questions.
"The Yankees are used to dealing with teams of 25 players, or so, and here we're bringing a squad of 122," said Snyder. "That can cause some issues."
Coach Bill Snyder has also been impressed with the organization of the Pinstripe Bowl after his visit to New York City earlier this month.
"It was an impressive sight with the field already laid out within the stadium," said the Wildcat coach.
In addition, coach Snyder indicated that members of his staff had talked with the football teams of Notre Dame and Army that played a regular season game at Yankee Stadium last month.
"It will be different from a fan standpoint," coach Snyder said of the field layout that extends from home plate to center field, "but I don't think they will redesign the stadium for us. It will all work out, and the Pinstripe people have been very gracious."
As for being a past Yankee fan, the 71-year-old St. Joseph, Mo., native said, "Wasn't everybody a Yankee fan? I remember Mickey Mantle coming through my home town before he was really Mickey Mantle. In my day, the Yankees were America's team, so I joined right along. Who could not be a fan of some of the great players and managers they've had through the years?"