Archive for Sunday, September 10, 2000

Kansas has struggled with SMU before

Last weekend’s 31-17 loss wasn’t first time Mustangs have tamed Jayhawks

September 10, 2000


That Sept. 2 Disaster in Dallas is just one of four distasteful football experiences Kansas has had with Southern Methodist. KU's high points in the series were a glitzy 26-0 romp over the Mustangs in 1952 and a 27-9 triumph here a year ago.

Other Jayhawk entanglements with the Ponies had bitter overtones. Three of the bummers involved a former Lawrence High coaching legend the late Chalmer Woodard. Woody was head man at SMU from 1953-56; SMU defeated Kansas in 1953, '54 and '55.

Woodard preceded Allan Woolard as head man for the legendary Lawrence High Title Train. Woody left for McPherson College after the '49 season. Among his strongest supporters was the late Frank McDonald, the effervescent one time Haskell Institute athletics director and area Democratic leader. Mac led the charge to get Woodard to SMU.

McDonald and Matty Bell of SMU fame had been at Haskell in the days when the Indians played the likes of Notre Dame and defeated Kansas. Mac was a promoter par excellence and the No. 1 force behind getting Haskell Stadium "paid for entirely by Native Americans and fully paid for the day it opened," he proudly trumpeted.

After Bell retired as SMU coach in '49 with a 70-40-8 record and became athletics director, Rusty Russell got a three-year trial as coach. His 13-15-2 record below Doak Walker- and Kyle Rote-type standards. McDonald started hustling Woodard for the Dallas job and it worked though the people in Texas had no idea why he beat out some other hopefuls. Whatever, Woodard took over in '53.

Want to hear a classic penthouse-to-outhouse story? It involves J.V. Sikes, the Kansas coach from 1948-53.

In '52, Sikes took a great Kansas team with stars like Charlie Hoag and Galen Fiss to Dallas and manhandled Russell's Mustangs, 26-0. Those were the days when TCU and SMU were the glamor boys of the storied Southwest Conference. Kansas had opened with a 13-0 win over TCU and when it shut out SMU, the national media took big notice. KU had passed the bejabbers out of the football against two Texas teams famed for aerial warfare.

Hoag was voted the Associated Press' national back of the week and with a 5-1 record (a loss to Oklahoma), Kansas was ranked in the top 10. Tragedy struck the next week, though. KU whipped Kansas State, 26-6, at Manhattan, but Hoag suffered a career-ending knee injury; that also cost the national runnerup '53 KU basketball team his services. After starring in the 1952 Olympics, Quicksilver Charlie would have helped KU win a second straight national cage title negating that one-point loss to Indiana.

Kansas finished '52 at 7-3 in football and today would have gone to a bowl game, but only one team from the league went then OU, of course.

The anti-Sikes wolves began howling after KU finished 1952 with a 20-19 defeat at Missouri (Nebraska won 14-13 for the third loss).

On the '53 KU schedule was SMU, with the popular Woodard returning where he was a high school fan deity. Emotions here were high, in favor of Woodard and unfairly against Sikes. When SMU posted a 14-6 victory, Kansas was pushed further down a skid to a 2-8 season that led to Sikes' ouster.

Enter Chuck Mather, the Miracle Man from Massillon, Ohio, who had never been a major college coach but had fabulous credentials. The '54 Kansas-SMU game was in a driving rain at Dallas. SMU has waterproof rain pants, KU had soggy, absorbent knickers; SMU cruised to a 36-18 victory. That was a high point of the 0-10 debut of Mather; 18 points was the closest KU came to anyone that season.

In '54, Woodard brought SMU to Lawrence and left with a 33-14 triumph. SMU canned him after 1956 with a 19-20-1 record (he later coached at Wichita U.). Mather wasn't quite up to the challenge at Kansas and Woody couldn't cut it in Dallas. Still, Woody posted a 3-0 dominance over Kansas. Last week's 31-17 flogging at SMU created still another bitter Pony Pill to choke down.

While at SMU, Woodard had a number of top-flight players. Forrest Gregg who eventually won hall of fame status with the Green Bay Packers gained all-Southwest Conference honors in 1954 and '55. Gregg became SMU football coach for '89 and '90 and athletics director from 1990 to 1994.

Ever hear of Raymond Berry? He was all-SWC and an academic All-American under Woodard in '54. As Johnny Unitas' pet target at Baltimore, he made the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, 1973.

Misjudged? The slow, weak-eyed Berry caught just 11 passes for 144 yards as a junior and never started one game in college. Still, his teammates elected him captain in 1954 when he helped wallop Kansas in that downpour in Dallas. Great as he became as a pro, Berry was only a 20th-round draft choice (honest) for the Colts in 1955.

So whither goest Kansas' struggling Jayhawks from here? Before that SMU dinger, I asked a knowledgeable KU follower what three Big 12 teams KU might beat to reach the mandatory six-victory bowl level. He replied: "What makes you think KU will go 3-0 against non-leaguers?"

Playing catch-up, big time, now.

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