Atlanta — Dru Shiner is an accidental Kansas fan at the Final Four.
If we could all have his luck.
"I was already down here on business," the Overland Park software system salesman said Friday during KU's public practice in the Georgia Dome. "Don't tell the company I'm here."
Shiner's good fortune extended to snagging a free ticket to the ESPN college basketball awards show Thursday night.
"They didn't have to ask me twice," he said.
It gets better.
"When I got there, they asked people to fill seats up front. I took a vacant seat. About an hour later, the KU team came in and sat all around me. There was (Aaron) Miles, (Jeff) Boschee, (Keith) Langford, (Nick) Collison and the others. They passed my hat around and signed it."
Curt Annis and Craig Nash, who grew up in Perry, illustrate the lengths some will go to see KU in the Final Four.
"We've been offered a ticket for all three final games for $1,500," said Annis, who still lives in Perry. "They're in the lower level someplace. I want to do it."
Nash, now living in Cumming, Ga., said that deal was better than another they ran across. A three-game package for seats in a luxury suite is available for $20,000, he said.
"Now that's too much," he said. "I might do $1,500."
Jennifer Johnson of Lawrence wouldn't be denied a chance to follow the Jayhawks to the Final Four.
"I decided if KU goes, I go," said Johnson, part of the "JC and Jennifer In the Morning" radio show on V-100 radio in Topeka. "I depleted my savings account and took off."
Johnson not only paid her own way to Atlanta. She's broadcasting live from the KU team hotel without pay.
KU freshman Brad Thies of Overland Park helped restore that youthful college spirit to his 49-year-old mother.
Thies was talking to his mom, Kathi, about the possibility of going to Atlanta for the Final Four. They had no airline flight, no hotel room and no game tickets.
"I said I wasn't sure we should," Kathi said.
"Who cares!" Brad replied. "Let's go for it."
Indeed, they hopped on a late-night flight to Atlanta and began hunting tickets.
"That kind of spontaneity brings you back to your youth," Kathi said.
KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway is licking his chops at the prospect of a championship game between Big 12 Conference powerhouses.
If Kansas survives Maryland, and Oklahoma tops Indiana, a repeat of the 1988 final would occur.
"An all-Big 12 final would be great for the conference," said Hemenway, a onetime OU faculty member. "And it would be a great game."
Jack and Betty Dicus of Topeka are lavishly supporting the T-shirt industry in Atlanta.
In preparation for today's KU game, the couple selected 13 Final Four shirts Kansas flavored, of course for delivery to family and friends. Each shirt cost about $20.
"Must fill those orders from grandchildren," chuckled Jack Dicus, who graduated from KU in 1956.
Leave it to three KU business students to put the Final Four in perspective.
Jessica Spohn of Fredonia on the $280 nosebleed tickets she bought on eBay: "Best money I've ever spent."
Darcy Weeks of Satanta on the best-looking Jayhawk: "Jeff Boschee. No question."
And her sister, Andrea Weeks, on Coach Williams' ties: "We liked the red-and-blue-striped tie. It's better than his pink one."
More than basketballs were bouncing at Hoop City, the NCAA's massive playland for children at the Final Four.
Nat Harwell, whose daughter, Francie, graduated from KU in May, was exploring the hoops extravaganza when he stumbled across a battle of the Final Four bands.
Harwell, of Covington, Ga., said the Jayhawks musical corps was so juiced that folks were dancing in the crowd.
"Kansas is the best," he said. "Indiana next."
Perhaps he's not the most objective analyst. After all, KU pep band director Tom Stidham was his tuba instructor from 1969 to 1973 at Georgia Southern.