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Archive for Saturday, September 8, 2001

UCLA for Gameday

September 8, 2001

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Still, KU and UCLA have been as intertwined over the years as a finely knit sweater. Their common thread will continue this morning, when the No. 14-ranked Bruins come to town to take on the Jayhawks.

Kickoff is 11:38 a.m. at Memorial Stadium.

Be it basketball or football, past or present, there are ties that bind the two schools.

Roundball relationships

Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden actually played a small role in the building of Memorial Stadium " literally. While passing through town in 1927, Wooden approached KU basketball coach Phog Allen about a job. And Wooden was hired to help pour concrete for the Jayhawks' future home long before he became the Wizard of Westwood.

Then there's current Kansas red-shirt freshman quarterback Mario Kinsey, who will make his KU debut today against UCLA. As a part-time basketball player last year, Kinsey's first game came against -- you guessed it -- UCLA, in the Jayhawks' 99-98 victory at the Coaches Vs. Cancer Tournament last November.

"That plays back in my head every day," Kinsey said.

Current connections

The Jayhawks have three football players from the Golden State -- Ryan Atkinson, of LaVerne, Calif.; Brian Luke of Walnut Creek, Calif.; and Jawad Pearson of Corona, Calif.

Atkinson, a 6-foot-2, 290-pound senior defensive tackle, visited KU while attending Citrus Community College in Glendora, Calif. After meeting Allen, Atkinson canceled the rest of his recruiting trips, including scheduled stops at Iowa State, Louisville, Connecticut.

"I got a lot of flak from my buddies when I told them I was going to Kansas," said Atkinson, who received recruiting letters from the Bruins while at Damien High. "No one from that area had gone to Kansas in awhile, I guess. The only thing my friends knew about Kansas was from Wizard of Oz, so there were a lot of jokes going on."

Atkinson played in a high school all-star game with UCLA senior offensive tackle Ed Anderson and the two have kept in touch over the years. Atkinson also knows the Bruins' Audie Attar, a junior linebacker from prep foe Claremont High, and the two still talk occasionally.

"It took some adjusting," Atkinson said of making the move from sunshine to sunflowers. "The weather's different. Actually everything's different -- the surroundings, the environment, everything. But the people out in Kansas are really nice. It was really easy to adjust. My stay here's been awesome to say the least."

'Great memories'

The KU and UCLA coaching staffs also share common bonds.

KU linebackers coach Johnny Barr worked with UCLA defensive coordinator Phil Snow the previous four seasons at Arizona State. One of the tightest ties between the Jayhawks and Bruins, though, is KU assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Tom Hayes, who was at UCLA from 1980-88, serving the final six seasons as the Bruins' defensive coordinator.

"I've got great memories from the years at UCLA," Hayes said, "with Terry Donahue and our staff, all the great people at UCLA. It was a great run in the 80s and those were great memories for me and my family."

Hayes also helped Toledo get to where he is today. After being hired by new Texas A&M coach R.C. Slocum as the assistant head coach/secondary coach in 1989, Hayes recommended Slocum hire Toledo away from Oregon to be the Aggies' offensive coordinator.

Hayes and Toledo had crossed paths many times during their days together in the Pac-10.

"I know Tom real well," Toledo said. "We're great friends and our wives are great friends. I think the world of the guy. I mean we're really good friends. We'll both try and beat each other's brains out Saturday. He's a very fundamental guy. He's very sound. He's an excellent teacher and an excellent coach. They did a great job last week and they'll only build on that.

"We expect them to come out and play extremely well. We're going to get their best shot."

Great games

There's a history of classic confrontations between the Bruins and Jayhawks, who trail the all-time series 4-2, but have won the past two meetings.

The last time the two teams met was the 1995 Aloha Bowl, also KU's last bowl appearance. The Jayhawks, who were 10-2 and finished No. 9 in the final AP poll, capped one of their most successful seasons ever with a 51-30 thumping of the Bruins.

Even though KU senior wide receiver Harrison Hill's brother, Hamilton, was on that team, the elder Hill didn't get to make the trip to Honolulu because he was a transfer.

"He was the only guy that didn't travel. Everybody did except for him and Mike Lies because they both transferred that year," the younger Hill recalled. "I watched it on TV. It was a sweet game. I just remember we kicked their butt, man. That's all I remember."

Perhaps the most memorable KU victory over UCLA, though, came in 1978.

The Jayhawks, who would finish with just one win that season, already had lost to Texas A&M, 37-10, and to Washington, 31-2, when the No. 8 Bruins came marching into town.

David Lawrence, a sophomore tackle at the time, said the Jayhawks had so few players that both he and quarterback Steve Smith traveled with the team that season even though both players red-shirted.

The Bruins fumbled the opening kickoff to set up KU's first touchdown, and later the Jayhawks would find the end zone three times in a three-minute span. KU claimed a 28-7 lead by the half and held on for a stunning 28-24 victory.

"We got way up," said Lawrence, now a member of the Jayhawks' Radio Network. "They dropped the ball a bunch and they just couldn't come back. Maybe we caught them at just the right week. We were not as good a team as the Jayhawks have this year so it really makes you feel maybe we can do it this week because it happened back then."

-- Sports writer Robert Sinclair can be reached at 832-7185.

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