Kansas City, Mo. This was a year like no other for followers of the Kansas University Jayhawks.
At various times throughout 2003, they experienced euphoria and despair, anger and pride. They were made to feel shocked, embarrassed and reassured.
That Mark Mangino coached the football team to its first bowl game since 1995 seemed to many like a mere footnote to a roller-coaster year.
But one thing during this unpredictable year was predictable -- Roy Williams' deciding to leave after 15 years to become coach at his alma mater in North Carolina was voted sports story No. 1 in Kansas.
Just three years after turning down the Tar Heels and promising to be a Jayhawk forever, Williams changed his mind. The most popular man in the state instantly became one of the most resented. Printing shops worked around the clock churning out T-shirts such as the one that Roy particularly disliked.
"Benedict Williams," it said.
In voting by AP member newspapers and broadcast stations, Jayhawk events were chosen as five of the top six stories altogether. Shouldering its way into the pack at No. 2 was the remarkable season Bill Snyder's Kansas State football team is having.
After a three-game losing streak at midseason ended their dreams of a national championship, the Wildcats wound up winning the Big 12 North Division title and then shocked unbeaten and No. 1 Oklahoma in the Big 12 Conference championship game.
It was Kansas State's first conference football championship since it played in the Big Six in 1934. KSU's bid to the Fiesta Bowl was its first invitation to a BCS bowl.
|Here is the list of the top 10 sports stories of 2003 in Kansas as selected by Associated Press members:1. Roy Williams bolts Kansas University and returns to alma mater North Carolina to serve as men's basketball coach.2. Bill Snyder's Kansas State football team soars to the Big 12 Conference title.3. Kansas goes to the NCAA championship game against Syracuse.4. Bill Self is hired as Williams' successor.5. Embattled Al Bohl is fired as Kansas athletic director.6. Mark Mangino leads the Kansas football team to a bowl game.7. Kansas State women's basketball team continues to prosper.8. Lew Perkins is hired as Kansas athletic director.9. Kansas State wins in Lincoln, Neb., for the first time since 1968.10. Olathe North and Pittsburg St. Mary's-Colgan dominate prep football.|
No. 3 in the voting was Kansas' charge to the NCAA championship game against Syracuse. It was the second straight Final Four appearance by Williams' team and made Williams' departure a few days later even harder for fans to swallow.
But Chancellor Robert Hemenway did not have to look long and hard for his replacement. The hiring of 40-year-old Bill Self on Easter Sunday was voted story No. 4.
The fifth-ranked story was perhaps the most embarrassing episode for Kansas fans. Al Bohl, who had incurred the wrath of Williams and Mangino, was fired as athletic director the day after the Jayhawks returned from the Final Four.
Making the day even more memorable was an astonishing news conference Bohl held in his driveway when he blamed his firing on Williams and said the coach had "crushed me in his hand like a dove."
The increasing success of the football team was No. 6. In just his second year, Mangino guided the Jayhawks to a 6-6 record, making them eligible for their first bowl since 1995.
The Jayhawks subsequently were invited to the Tangerine Bowl to play North Carolina State.
At No. 7 was the Kansas State women's basketball team, headed by All-America center Nicole Ohlde.
Lew Perkins' being lured from Connecticut to replace Bohl as Kansas athletic director, and subsequently making sweeping changes in the front office, was voted No. 8.
Kansas State's beating Nebraska at Lincoln for the first time since 1968 was voted No. 9, followed by a pair of powerhouses continuing their winning ways in the state's prep football championships -- Olathe North and Pittsburg St. Mary's-Colgan.