Jan. 11, 2012
by Mark Janssen
I was just a cub radio reporter … 24 … at KMAN, and just three years out of Kansas State.
Standing outside of Vince Gibson’s office at what is now the Vanier Complex, I heard Vince tell someone that he was resigning his Kansas State coaching duties.
When my turn came, I lugged my bulky reel-to-reel tape recorder into his office for what was to be a normal end-of-year wrap on the four-win 1974 season.
Asking Vince if what I just heard was true, he gave a hearty laugh before drawling, “I’m going to make you famous. I’m leaving town and won’t be available to anyone else.”
We questioned-and-answered for the next few minutes before parting our ways.
I had the first major scoop of my career and had every newspaper in Kansas calling me for quotes. Being naïve, I made the mistake of handing them out left and right. Some gave the station credit, others didn’t. So much for the scoop!
When I heard that Gibson died on Monday evening at the age of 78 from ALS, that was the first memory that flashed through my mind.
After that, it was “We Gonna Win!” and “We Got Pride” that zipped through my mind, plus the day I purchased a yard of K-State’s first artificial turf for $12.50 when that’s the way it was sold in 1970.
You see, Vince was Bill before there was Bill.
Vince inherited a 21-game non-winning streak; in the seven previous years, K-State had scored exactly zero … that’s 0 … touchdowns against KU; the ‘Cats had never defeated a ranked team; there were rag-tag facilities.
Then Gibson arrived.
“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.”
Chuckling, he added, “I don’t think many of them could understand me because of my southern drawl, but they sure did back me.”
On his move from the Tennessee staff and taking his first head coaching position for $17,500, Gibson said, “I was nuts. 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.”
Perhaps not the world, but he whipped the State of Kansas into frenzy. He filled the brand new 36,000 KSU Stadium with purple. Purple was everywhere, including women’s hair.
Like Snyder has done more recently, it was Gibson who invented pride when there was none; he developed hope, when there was none; he turned extreme apathy into caring.
Gibson, a 1955 graduate of Florida State who coached on the legendary Bobby Bowden’s Seminole staff, would coach eight seasons from 1967 to 1974. He won 33 games, which was 23 more than K-State won in the eight seasons prior to his arrival.
In his first game, K-State defeated Colorado State in Fort Collins, 17-7, to snap a 15-game road losing streak.
When K-State knocked off Colorado State 21-zip to open the 1968 season in the sparkling new 36,000-seat KSU Stadium, it was the first home win for the Wildcats in four years, and first shutout in 13 seasons.
Gibson defeated Nebraska in Lincoln in 1968. Such a win north of the border would not be cheered again until 2003.
Gibson’s No. 18 Wildcats defeated No. 11 Oklahoma, 59-21, in 1969. It was the first K-State win over the Sooners dating back to 1934; the first win ever against a ranked team (KSU’s next win over a ranked team would come in 1993); and, it was the most points ever scored against the Sooners.
After the game, “Voice of the Wildcats” and SID Dev Nelson phoned the score into ABC. Thinking it was a prank call, ABC called back to the press box to see if it was really an accurate score.
Gibson’s love affair was with the K-State family.
A year ago, he said, “K-State has been my favorite job because the people were so nice. The people are so sincere. There isn’t any BS to them. Those Kansas people … there are none better. They are the most genuine people I’ve ever met.”
And the same could be said for Gibson. He was who he was … full of vim ‘n’ vigor and one who changed the culture of K-State football.
Again, he was Bill before there was Bill.
K-State knew nothing about football pride as apathy soared. Winning? It wasn’t even in the conversation with seasons of 0, 0, 3, 2, 0, 2, 1 and 2 wins in the eight previous seasons before he arrived saying:
“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.”
Vince Gibson was anything but that. He made us proud!
We thank him; we’ll miss him.