Archive for Sunday, July 16, 2000

Football crowds need hike at KU

July 16, 2000


OK, the Roy Williams-North Carolina basketball epoch may run longer than the Elian Gonzalez debacle which perhaps it should, because it's a lot more important around here.

But with Roy staying at Kansas and Matt Doherty forsaking Notre Dame for Carolina, KU financial wizards can breathe easily about stable court ticket sales and focus on moving football ducats.

The Jayhawks need to start generating home grid crowds of 40,000 and up so they can pay more of the freight. Football needs to build a $4 million-plus profit commensurate to the basketball contribution. That's looking more reachable with the emergence of some bona fide headliners in the Terry Allen ranks.

(Indulge me a nutty Gonzalez scenario: The Williams stay-at-home decision could have had great Elian overtones. Picture Bob Frederick wearing a flak jacket, helmet and carrying an AK-47 breaking into UNC headquarters, storming up to a closet door, ripping it open and snatching Williams from the arms of a covetous Dean Smith. Heck, Oliver Stone already may be formulating a movie about it.)

Now back to KU football. How marvelous if there was a current fan climate to match that of 40 years ago. The Jayhawks were about to field one of the best teams in their history. Paying customers were pumped.

About this time in 1960, the late Earl Falkenstien, business manager and Max's daddy, announced KU already had set a new season ticket record of 10,000. Earl said it might top 11,000 before the Sept. 17 opener against TCU. The old record was 9,200 for the 1952 season. (Nowadays, that figure is in the unimpressive 15,000-20,000 range; 10,000 was big stuff then.)

Why such anticipation about '60?

Coach Jack Mitchell had taken an all-conference 1959 sophomore halfback named John Hadl and made him a quarterback because of the Lawrence native's athleticism. The other guys in the offensive backfield were to be left Bullet Bert Coan, a 210-pound transfer from TCU; right half Curtis McClinton, a 215-pound thundermug from Wichita; and fullback Doyle Schick, a terrific athlete who could run, block, catch, you name it, but, oh, how he could block!

I'm not sure there's ever been more excitement about a Jayhawk quartet. The line corps was anchored by all-league center Fred Hageman; he had two-way help from the likes of Larry Allen, Dick Davis, Elvin Basham, Benny Boydston, Stan Kirshman and Mike Deer. Other line talent included Andy Graham, Mike Fisher, Duke Collins, Bill Burnison, Kent Staab, Jim Mills, Larry Lousch, Joe Spurney, Pack St. Clair, Wally Barnes, Fred Eiseman, Grant Clothier, Kent Converse, Dick Green, Newton King, Larry Waylan and Mike Bogard. That's not all of 'em, and some of the guys I haven't mentioned (sorry) might start today.

Reserve backs were Rodger McFarland, Con Keating, Hugh Smith, Roger Hill, Jim Marshall, Jim Jarrett, Gib Wilson, Bill Crank, Willis Brooks, Fred Bukaty, Norm Mailen and John Suder.

Mercy sakes, Kansas had itself a convoy, long before the days of CB radio. Folks were eager to see them operate. We need that kind of enthusiasm and anticipation again. With some of the people Terry Allen has at his disposal, we have some salable personalities.

Some observers figured Jack Mitchell was nuts for his '60 quarterback "experiment." The 198-pound Hadl led the nation in punting in 1959 with a 45.6 average and led the club in five other offensive categories. Still, Jack had lost starter Duane Morris from 1959 and had to find a place for Coan. The Texas rocket's convoluted ineligibility case eventually cost KU its first clear-cut league title since 1930. Two forfeits knocked a 7-2-1 mark down to 5-4-l; the 23-7 thumping of previously unbeaten Missouri in the season finale was negated, on the books, anyway.

Kansas's stadium had not been expanded; its capacity could go to about 40,000 if you vaselined a lot of folks into the horseshoe. A league attendance record of 40,034 was set for the 1947 KU-Missouri game and the Jayhawks drew 40,000 here for the 14-7 loss to Syracuse and a 13-all tie with Oklahoma.

Get this. The home crowd for the win over TCU was only 32,000, Colorado drew only 33,000 and, believe it or not, there were only 28,000 in the stands for a 31-0 rout of Nebraska. Repeat, Nebraska.

Justifiably, quarterbacks Morris and Hadl are intensely proud that they were the last Jayhawk signal-callers to play in three straight victories over Nebraska, Morris in 1957-58-59 and Hadl in 1959-60-61. Look it up.

Bert Coan had been given a plane ride from Texas to the College All-Star game in Chicago by KU alum Bud Adams after Bert had spent his freshman season at TCU. TCU's Dutch Meyer and Missouri's Don Faurot orchestrated that into a major crime and Kansas paid dearly.

In 1961, when KU salvaged a 6-3-1 season with a Bluebonnet Bowl upset of Rice, attendance was good but the only sellout crowd here was 40,500 for a 10-7 loss to Missouri. KU drew only 34,000 here for a 34-0 flogging of Kansas State.

But ticket sales were booming for the Jayhawks 40 years ago and with Williams and his great basketball program secured, KU can begin hustling for football sales. A 6-5 or better 2000 season would be an ideal start toward gridiron solvency.

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