Archive for Thursday, February 19, 2004

Panel cool on forcing KU-WSU matchup

February 19, 2004


— Let the trash talking begin.

Legislation that would require Kansas University's men's basketball team to play Wichita State University was whistled for a foul Wednesday by KU, which said the measure would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost ticket and television revenue.

But Rep. Todd Novascone, a Wichita Republican defending his idea before the House Higher Education Committee, had this to say: "There's no way."

Calling KU's estimate of lost revenue "a joke," Novascone said the games would produce increased revenue because two schools with devoted fan bases within the state would be playing.

The committee, chaired by a Lawrence representative and laced with KU season-ticket holders, didn't give him the call.

Novascone's bill was pretty much declared dead, and as the committee filed out, several members were heard to say they had to hurry to get to the KU-Baylor game at Allen Fieldhouse.

For Novascone and Wichita businessman Shane Prill, it was a bitter defeat.

"We haven't heard a good reason for why they shouldn't play," Prill said.

But according to an official state fiscal note, KU said the bill would potentially result in the loss of ticket sales for one home game and television revenue for the two games. "The university states that the total loss of revenue could be several hundred thousand dollars," the fiscal note said.

Novascone said he would appeal the fiscal note to the state's budget director.

Prill added, "As taxpayers, we support these institutions and we deserve to see them play." Several state legislatures have passed similar laws.

Frenzied vs. run of the mill

Novascone's measure, which would require the two teams to play once in 2005-06 and again in 2006-07, began as a tourism bill.

"I know that many people think that this bill and even this hearing today is a waste of taxpayers' money, but I don't agree," Novascone said. "Everyone will remember these two games. The sports bars will be packed, the media will be at a frenzied level, and fans for both sides will be enthusiastic for the games."

That could be true in Wichita, predicted Charlie King, a patron of Kirby's Beer Store sports bar in Wichita. But he said he thought the Legislature had better things to do than set basketball schedules.

"I'd like to see more in-state games but I don't think it really ought to be mandated by the state Legislature," said King, 50.

The games wouldn't be a big deal in Lawrence, said Jennifer Schmidt, a KU junior and bartender at Tanner's Bar and Grill, 1540 Wakarusa Drive.

"We'll kick the (chaff) out of them no matter how often we play," she said.

Micromanaging concerns

Several committee members said they didn't like the bill for other reasons.

Rep. Cindy Neighbor, R-Shawnee, said she didn't want to open the door to more proposals forcing schools to play each other.

And Rep. Eber Phelps, D-Hays, said he didn't think the Legislature should "micromanage" basketball schedules.

In an interview later, KU associate athletic director Jim Marchiony said KU had a lot to lose under Novascone's bill.

"We don't consider losing $300,000 to $400,000 as a joke," Marchiony said.

But Prill said KU was just making excuses not to play the Shockers because the Jayhawks feared getting beat by a smaller, in-state school.

Kansas has scheduled a game against an in-state non-conference university every year since 1994, rotating among Pittsburg State, Emporia State and Fort Hays State. The Jayhawks and Wheat Shockers have not played since the 1992-93 season. They have met 14 times, with Kansas winning 12.

Committee Chairman Tom Sloan, a Lawrence Republican, said he didn't believe the bill was going to be advanced, unless one of the committee members sought a vote.

"I don't anticipate there will be any action," he said.

The basketball scheduling bill is HB 2755.

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