Not that anyone is wringing their hands in trepidation or issuing nervous rationalizations, but the Big 12 Conference is the official black hole of NCAA menÃ¢ÂÂs varsity soccer.
Not a single Big 12 school sponsors menÃ¢ÂÂs varsity soccer. All of the other major conferences - Big 10, Southeastern, Pac-10, Big East, ACC - have at least a few athletic departments funding menÃ¢ÂÂs soccer.
In fact, the NCAA lists 202 Division One schools with menÃ¢ÂÂs varsity soccer programs - a number that surprised me because itÃ¢ÂÂs about two-thirds of the schools in the NCAAÃ¢ÂÂs top division.
Kansas University has never funded a menÃ¢ÂÂs soccer program and in the era of Title IX itÃ¢ÂÂs safe to say KU never will. Kansas officials will convert Allen Fieldhouse into a sow barn before they will add another varsity sport for males.
Members of Kansas UniversityÃ¢ÂÂs non-varsity menÃ¢ÂÂs soccer team concede the inevitable. They arenÃ¢ÂÂt complaining.
Ã¢ÂÂWe donÃ¢ÂÂt care about sanctioning,Ã¢ÂÂ said Cedric Sunray, one of the tri-captains of the KU menÃ¢ÂÂs soccer team.
In the world of menÃ¢ÂÂs college soccer, there are sanctioned (varsity) teams and there are club teams. KU fits into the latter category along with a whole bunch of others Ã¢ÂÂ:quot; so many, in fact, that the Ã¢ÂÂclubbiesÃ¢ÂÂ have their own national tournament.
This isnÃ¢ÂÂt news to many - perhaps most - Lawrence merchants who have been blitzed over the last couple of weeks by KU menÃ¢ÂÂs soccer club members who have solicited funds to help pay their way to the soccer fields of Cal State-Bakersfield, site of this weekendÃ¢ÂÂs 16-team NIRSA Collegiate Soccer Sports Club Championships.
Ã¢ÂÂThe community was beyond great for us,Ã¢ÂÂ Sunray said. Ã¢ÂÂWe were asking for $1 or $5 and places like Midwest Graphics and Dale Willey and others wrote us $100 checks. We raised $1,500 on the streets in two days.Ã¢ÂÂ
By pounding the storefronts, KU menÃ¢ÂÂs soccer players were able to secure a charter motor coach to whisk them halfway across the country in a mere 25 hours or so. TheyÃ¢ÂÂre scheduled to depart this morning, arrive in Bakersfield on Wednesday afternoon, hit the fields for practice on Wednesday evening, then begin pool play on Thursday.
They wonÃ¢ÂÂt have to sleep in tents or on the streets of Bakersfield, either. They raised enough dollars to stay in a motel.
So how good is the KU menÃ¢ÂÂs club soccer team? Well, they had to qualify for the national tournament. ItÃ¢ÂÂs not one of those invitational deals where if you can afford to show up theyÃ¢ÂÂll let you play.
Kansas compiled a 14-2-3 record while outscoring its opponents, 59-15. (Looks like the score of an average KU football defeat, doesnÃ¢ÂÂt it?). So, yeah, these footballers are pretty good.
Where do KUÃ¢ÂÂs players come from? All over and right here. Sunray, a defender, is from Louisiana and played at Haskell. Nick Ens is Free State HighÃ¢ÂÂs career scoring leader. Aaron Law, another captain, came to KU originally for track.
However, the acknowledged standout of the KU team is also the player with the longest name - El Hadji Oumar Seck, a native of Senegal who has accumulated 13 goals and 13 assists in KUÃ¢ÂÂs 19 games, numbers which Sunray says are Ã¢ÂÂalmost irrational.Ã¢ÂÂ
One of SeckÃ¢ÂÂs closest friends on campus, incidentally, is another native of Senegal - basketball player Moulaye Niang, a 6-foot-10 freshman. Seck isnÃ¢ÂÂt that tall, but he stands about 6-6, a height that isnÃ¢ÂÂt all that unusual on the KU soccer team.
Ã¢ÂÂWe are a tall team,Ã¢ÂÂ said Sunray, who is 6-5. Ã¢ÂÂWhen we were in Texas, I had two people come up to me and say, Ã¢ÂÂ'Is Kirk Hinrich with you?Ã¢ÂÂÃ¢ÂÂ
Heck, Hinrich stands a mere 6-3.
Hard telling, but Kansas may be the only team headed for the menÃ¢ÂÂs soccer club nationals that doesnÃ¢ÂÂt have a home field. With KUÃ¢ÂÂs Shenk recreation fields closed for renovation this fall, the menÃ¢ÂÂs soccer team has played most home games at the Youth Sports Inc. fields. It played one game at Broken Arrow Park, spray-painting lines on the grass.
Ã¢ÂÂShenkÃ¢ÂÂs fields will be really nice next year,Ã¢ÂÂ Sunray said, Ã¢ÂÂand itÃ¢ÂÂll be great if we can put up signs there saying weÃ¢ÂÂre the regional and national champions.Ã¢ÂÂ
Great because, as Sunray said: Ã¢ÂÂWe donÃ¢ÂÂt do this for fun. We do it to win the national championship.Ã¢ÂÂ