Archive for Sunday, September 16, 2001

KU coach tailgates at Memorial

September 16, 2001

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It's 11 a.m., a half hour before Saturday's regularly scheduled college football game between Kansas and Wyoming.

One would think there'd be tons of tailgaters on hand.

Not quite.

This week just one group resided outside Memorial Stadium a group that included KU football coach Terry Allen.

Allen on Saturday morning stood outside KU's stadium eating ribs and brats in lieu of coaching because of Tuesday's terrorist attacks that forced postponements of all NCAA Div. I games across the land.

That included KU vs. Wyoming.

"It's kind of an eerie feeling," Allen said Saturday, standing between cars, each adorned with American flags. "It's nice to have an opportunity to get together with good friends."

The group, Allen explained, consisted of friends who get together every Friday morning for breakfast at a restaurant at a bowling alley.

Allen heard they'd be tailgating Saturday, so he drove to the stadium with his wife, Lynn, 5-year-old daughter, Angela, and two sons, Charles Robert, 3, and Alex, 1.

Sure enough, the Allen friends were at the stadium.

"This is total support of the government, total support of the Big 12, total support of KU, total support of this program," explained one of the tailgaters, Warner Lewis. "This is just to show that lifestyles aren't going to change as a result of something cowardly like that. This is symbolism as much as anything."

A bucket containing about $100 raised by the group for the relief effort in New York City rested on the food table.

They were hoping more people would drop by to contribute. Nobody did.

Allen indicated he planned to go bowling after the tailgate party and later take his wife out on a date.

"You don't get very many free days," Allen said.

As the party began to break up, the tailgaters talked about the things they would do now instead of what they usually did on Game Day, enter the stadium and find their seats.

"Strange," says John Bush, owner of Lawrence Realty. "What a great day for football."

Of course, little did he know that a couple hours later, about the time of the third quarter, there'd be steady rain.

Before leaving the premises, Allen decided he wanted to take a photo of the tailgate party.

He borrowed a camera, grabbed the keys to the stadium from his wife, unlocked a gate, climbed the stadium stairs and snapped a few shots of the group from the top of the stands.

He started back down the steps, but then he stopped and listened to the bells of the Campanile tower ringing in the gloomy sky.

The chimes inside the World War II memorial that rests on the hill above the stadium toiled forlornly throughout the morning.

"The bells are really eerie," Allen said

He listened another moment.

"Well, I'm going to go take care of my family," he said and continued down the stairs and out of the stadium.

Earlier, he had been asked if he believed his counterpart at K-State, Bill Snyder, was working right now.

"Probably," Allen said.

Saturday in Manhattan

It turned out KU's coach was right.

At KSU, at 4 p.m., Snyder's car was parked in its familiar spot in the parking lot outside the K-State football complex. The doors to the inner offices were locked.

Inside the stadium, purple chairbacks that dot the stands were the closest things to people.

The stadium gates were locked, the concession stands closed, the scoreboards black.

Only the Cats Closet, a store next to the press box that sells KSU merchandise, was open as it is every Saturday.

The Wildcats were supposed to play Louisiana Tech in the stadium Saturday night.

Normally, the place would be swamped at noon hour.

Amy Rundle, a senior at Manhattan High, however, was the only person in the store, sitting alone behind the counter with a TV hanging in a corner behind her, tuned to a talk-show discussing the terrorist attacks.

"On a game day, it's crazy," she said. "This place is, like, totally full."

Since the attacks, she said, sales of Wildcat merchandise are down, sales of white T-shirts with American flags and the words "Proud to Be An American" are up.

The shirts cost $5, and the money will go for the relief fund in New York.

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