Gibson a K-State Icon
"I was nuts," said the now 77-year-old Gibson from his New Orleans, La., home. "They hadn't won a game in over two years (0-20-1). I was 32 years old at the time and had no earthly idea how bad of a situation it was. All I knew is that I wanted to coach and I thought I could whip the world." Gibson was so excited about being offered the position that he didn't even ask about a salary until after he said that he would take the position. "I was making $17,000 as a defensive assistant coach at Tennessee and I came here for $17,500," said Gibson, who will be recognized at a quarter break at Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Saturday during the Central Florida game. Gibson was also Snyder-like in that he asked the K-State administration for total support. He asked for a giving-level that was seemingly beyond the department's means. "I kept asking for things, and they never said no," reflected Gibson. "I wanted an athletic dorm, and they said yes. I wanted a swimming pool at the dorm, and they said yes. I wanted a new stadium, and they said yes. I asked for a sauna when I didn't really know what a sauna was, and they said yes. "They kept saying yes, and then they would send Ernie (Barrett, then an assistant athletic director) out to raise the money," said Gibson. "Ernie Barrett ... now that is a great man ... Mr. K-State. He was the K-State rock you could always turn to." Gibson hit Kansas with a southern personality, not to mention a boot camp mentality resulting in as many players leaving the program, as those who stayed. "I think by the end of that spring I was down to 35 or 40 players. They were dropping every day," Gibson reflected. "But those who stayed ... now those were tough-minded Wildcats." After scoring a total of 66 points during the entire 1966 season under head coach Doug Weaver, the Gibson era opened on Sept. 23, 1967, with a 17-7 victory at Colorado State. The win snapped a 15-game road losing streak. Upon returning to the Manhattan airport, the team was greeted by several hundred K-Staters. "K-State has been my favorite job because the people were so nice," said Gibson, who also had head coaching stints at Louisville and Tulane. "The people are so sincere. Those western Kansas people ... there are none better. They are the most genuine people I've ever met." Chuckling at the memory, Gipson said, "I don't think many of them could understand me because of my southern drawl, but they sure did back me." That opener would be the only game K-State would win in 1967, but like Snyder, Gipson improved from a single victory to go 4-6 in 1968, which included two Big 8 wins to snap a 25-game conference losing streak. Ironically, the game that broke the skid was a 12-0 win at Nebraska. K-State would not defeat the Big Red again until 1998, and not win a game at NU's Memorial Stadium until 2003. What Gibson sold was his own enthusiasm. "We sold 'We Gonna Win,' and 'Purple Pride' when there wasn't much to be found," said Gibson. "I had come from Tennessee where a basketball coach started 'Big Orange,' so I tried to get people to care about wearing purple." Laughing he added, "But we had to be competitive. All that motivation stuff is no good unless you win some games." Gibson did win games. Five games into the 1969 season K-State was 4-1 and ranked nationally (No. 18) for the first time in the school's history when it rocked No. 11 Oklahoma, starring Heisman winner Steve Owens, 59-21. K-State won six games in 1970 for the school's first winning season since 1954. Among the wins were a 21-20 upset of No. 8 Colorado and a 17-13 decision over No. 17 Missouri. In 1971, the Cats won five games in a year when the Big 8 finished 1-2-3 in the national polls. "The Big 8 got tough when it started hiring coaches from the South," said Gibson. "I came from Tennessee, Pepper Rodgers landed at Kansas, and Iowa State hired Johnny Majors. All of a sudden, the league had some coaches that were going to get after it." As for the Kansas State-Kansas, Gibson-Rodgers relationship, Gibson, who was just 2-6 against his arch-rival, gave a soft reflective chuckle. "Oh, we hated each other. I mean, hated each other. That was my biggest mistake in coaching. It became me against him and we fought like cats and dogs." A three-year NCAA probation followed, and Gibson and the Wildcats would not recover until the arrival of a man named Snyder in 1989. K-State won just three, five and four games in Gibson's final three seasons, which included a 4-17 record in Big 8 games before he resigned after the 1974 season. "I was just burned out. It was such a tough job and that probation made it all the tougher," said Gibson. "I prayed about it for a long time, and one morning I woke up and knew I was supposed to leave. The President (James McCain) told me I could stay as long as he was in place, but it was time. I was burned out." Tomorrow, Gibson talks about Mack Herron and Lynn Dickey, as well as life after his days at K-State. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or Kansas State Director of Athletic Communications/SID Kenny Lannou at email@example.com.