Archive for Saturday, August 28, 1993


August 28, 1993


Kansas football coach Glen Mason, athletic director Bob Frederick and everyone else involved in letting the Jayhawk players have some fun on this weekend's jaunt to the New York area are to be congratulated.

Too often kids are rushed into a site and out of it without getting any chance to enjoy themselves. As hard as they work and as many demands as there are on their minds and bodies, they deserve every chance that arises for a few frills. That's why last December's Aloha Bowl trip was so great -- a reward for a job well-done.

So Kansas used all the Aloha funds. The enjoyment was worth it for a lot of deserving young people. With KU due to make good money from this early opener against Florida State, it's great for the guys who do most to make the profit possible to benefit.

"SOCIALIZING" was the reason Wilt Chamberlain said he often enjoyed track and field while he was at KU rather than the in-and-out, play-and-be-gone aspect of college basketball.

"Thing about track," Wilt told me during one Kansas Relays weekend, "is that you can move around and meet guys on other teams and have a little interchange between events. It's great just to get to talk. You make a basketball trip and it's such a rush you can't do that. It's hard to get to know the other competitors."

Wilt was a high-jumper and hop-step-jumper who as a junior tied for the league's indoor high jump crown. True story. One Friday night he played his tail off in Lawrence to help the KU basketeers beat an excellent Oklahoma team. Wilt took a brutal pounding from the Sooners. Next night, he's in Kansas City, tying for the high jump title after only a couple cursory workouts.

Tall he was, but the 7-2 powerhouse was also a terrific, talented, all-around athlete.

ONE OF THE mainstays from one the brightest periods of Kansas football is ailing. Merlin Gish deserves all the prayers and best wishes we can send his way. Merlin, 62, is undergoing chemotherapy for blood cancer that caught up with him while he and wife Myril were on a recent trip to Russia and Ireland. He deserves any good things that can happen.

He's been Shawnee Mission North High's track coach for over 35 years and has been a successful football coach. At Kansas in the 1950-52 period he was a tremendous center-linebacker in football and a weightman in track.

Gish, a native of Kingman, was a member of one of the best freshman squads Kansas had up to 1949. As a sophomore in 1950, he started out at linebacker and went the full three-year route, also helping ably at center on offense when needed.

Merlin's was a freshman crop that included quarterbacks Chet Strehlow, Jack Rodgers and Arch Unruh, quarterback-halfback-end Jerry Bogue, guard-tackle George Mrkonic, tackle Oliver Spencer, guard Dick Rossman, center Bud Roberts, halfbacks Charlie Hoag, Pat Murphy, Bob Brandeberry and Hal Cleavinger, fullback-linebacker Galen Fiss and fullback Bud Laughlin.

KANSAS HASN'T had any three-year periods of high-profile football success to top the 6-4 of 1950 (easily could have been 8-2 or 9-1), the 8-2 of 1951 (which might well have been 10-0, honest) and the 7-3 in '52 (which should have been 9-1 except for injuries to Hoag and Gil Reich).

Merlin Gish and that outstanding freshman crew of 1949 had a major hand in those proceedings. Man, there were a lot of near-misses in that stretch.

The 1950 season was the one that saw three Big Seven halfbacks -- Hoag of Kansas, Billy Vessels of Oklahoma and Bobby Reynolds of Nebraska -- burst onto the scene as brightly as any soph trio in college history. It was a tremendous year for rookies (no freshmen eligible then) and the dedicated, dependable, intelligent and able Merlin Gish was on a par with any of them.

May the Good Lord take a special liking to Merlin real quick.

FRESHMAN TEAMS? The one Jack Mitchell recruited for the fall of 1958 wasn't too shabby, either. Some still consider it the finest yearling assemblage KU ever had. That crew figured in a 1959-61 Jayhawk record of 19-10-2 that included a 33-7 Bluebonnet Bowl victory, the first postseason triumph in school history.

Mitchell's 1958 freshman backfield included four Kansas all-state choices -- quarterback Lee Flachsbarth of Atchison, left half John Hadl of Lawrence, right half Gib Wilson of KC Wyandotte and fullback Jim Jarrett of Coffeyville. Hadl played halfback as a 1959 soph, made All-American at quarterback in 1960 and 1961. In its two 1958 frosh games, KU obliterated Missouri and Kansas State.

There were ends Larry Allen, Mike Deer and Benny Boydston (also starred at guard until senior season). Tackles included Mike Fisher and Newton King and the guard corps had fierce Elvin Basham and Jim Mills. Kent Staab was a stellar center and Ron Michaels worked out of the fullback slot.

Anybody recall a better gang of recruits?

Commenting has been disabled for this item.