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Archive for Friday, September 14, 2001

Friday Woodling column

September 14, 2001

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I say this because it has been only three years since the worst KU football anti-climax of the 20th Century.

Do you remember the Kansas-North Texas game on Nov. 7, 1998?

Due to a schedule fluke, the Jayhawks' last home game of the '98 season was a non-conference clash with North Texas. Normally, of course, KU plays all three of its non-league games in September and concludes in November with conference foes.

But on this early November night -- yes, it was a night game -- nobody cared. And for three reasons -- 1) it was raining, 2) the Jayhawks had been flogged by Kansas State the week before and 3) North Texas???

KU officials estimated the attendance as 20,000. There may be at least that many leagues under the sea, but nowhere near that many people sat on Memorial Stadium's aluminum planks that miserable night.

If Kansas plays Wyoming on Nov. 24 -- the week after the end of the regular season is the only date available -- the risk of another virtually empty stadium is real.

As noted, the anti-climax factor will be at work as will the fact it is Thanksgiving weekend and the students will be long gone for the most part. Also, the weather could be a factor. Sure, it could be a clear and crisp day, but it could also be yak weather.

In addition, the football team's record would have an impact and the Jayhawks' November schedule is murderous. KU's last three games are against Nebraska, Texas and Iowa State, all bowl teams last season.

KU officials weren't expecting a large crowd for Wyoming on Saturday anyway. That's why it was designated as Band Day. If the game is postponed to Nov. 24, it's unlikely the bands would come that late. The only bands still marching then are the ones associated with schools in the state high school football championships that day.

Another potential crowd-cutter on Nov. 24 is the lack of a KU men's basketball game that night. In most years, the Jayhawks play a cupcake on late November in Allen Fieldhouse. Not this year. KU's men will be in Maui the previous Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and the travel factor precluded scheduling a game the following Saturday.

Often in the past, Kansas fans have had the opportunity to watch a football game in the afternoon and a men's basketball game at night.

Thursday's postponement wasn't unique to Kansas football. President John Kennedy was shot on Nov. 22, 1963. The next day the Jayhawks were scheduled to play host to Missouri -- remember when KU always played Mizzou in its regular season finale? -- but the game was postponed until the following Saturday because the nation was in mourning.

It was a conference game, it was against an arch-rival and it drew a then-capacity crowd of 45,000 into Memorial Stadium. Wyoming isn't Missouri.

Still, Kansas football coach Terry Allen and his players have to want to play Wyoming -- at midnight in Timbuktu, if necessary -- because it's a game they have a chance to win on a schedule rated the fifth-most difficult in NCAA Div. I-A.

Allen is, as everyone knows, at a stage of his tenure at Kansas when he needs to win every game he possibly can. Then again, by the time Nov. 24 rolls around, the question of who wins or loses the Kansas-Wyoming game may be moot.

Kansas has a two-game home-and-home contract with Wyoming. The Jayhawks are scheduled to go to Laramie in 2003.

Why not have Wyoming fulfill its part of the pact by coming to Lawrence in another year? Why not play just 10 games this season? Granted, KU would be obliged to refund money to season ticket holders, but the Jayhawks would still have six home games this season and I suspect only a small percentage of season ticket holders would ask for a refund.

-- Sports editor Chuck Woodling can be reached at 832-7147.

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