Archive for Thursday, August 17, 2006

Keegan: Fall nears; Kish picks up pace

August 17, 2006


No need to check the calendar to remember September is two weeks away. Just listen to Bernie Kish talk. He's up to a million words a minute from his normal 750,000, which means college football season nearly is upon us.

Nobody has more passion for the sport's rich history than Kish, who these days teaches graduate-level classes in sports management at Kansas University.

For 10 years, Kish ran the college football hall of fame in South Bend, Ind. During vacation, I stopped by and checked it out. Pretty cool place. Kiosks with information on enshrined players from each decade were a highlight. The '60s kiosk featured bios of John Hadl and Gale Sayers. Jim Bausch (1929-30) and Ray Evans (1941-42, 1946-47) also are inductees who played at KU.

The rivalries display prominently features Kansas-Missouri, the oldest west of the Mississippi.

Kish had a hand in Hadl's induction - sidenote: Bernie can you get to work on getting him into Canton, please - long before he had anything to do with the place.

"I ran into John at Lawrence Country Club one day, in '88 or '89," Kish said. "I asked him what halls of fame he was in."

Hadl told him he was in KU's and the state of Kansas' halls. Kish immediately went to work on a mission, made a phone call and was told he could become a member and nominate a candidate. Kish asked where the nearest chapter was and was told there was one in Oklahoma and another in Nebraska, but none in Kansas.

Kish started a Jayhawks chapter and wisely made getting Hadl inducted the rallying cry. He needed a minimum of 50 members to start a chapter and soon found out what KU athletic director Lew Perkins knew when he raised funds for the proposed football facility: The name John Hadl opens doors and wallets.

"We ended up with 150 members," Kish said. "A lot of people wanted to get him in the hall."

Kish was presented with a charter in 1991, the day Tony Sands set an NCAA record by rushing for 396 yards against Missouri. Hadl was inducted in 1994.

Kish has moved onto other causes, including calling attention to the rich history of Haskell Indian Nations University football.

A retired colonel in the United States Army who served our country for 291â2 years, Kish was ticket director in the KU athletic department from 1992-1995.

Kish is looking forward to the Sept. 9 Penn State game at Notre Dame Stadium, where he will present an honorary Notre Dame monogram to Easter Heathman, the man who as a teenager witnessed Knute Rockne's plane-crash site in the Flint Hills on March 31, 1931.

"He lived a mile from the crash site and was shucking corn for his dad, and they heard this tremendous crash," Kish said. "His dad came by with his brother, and the three of them drove up in a pickup, and Easter - he was named Easter because he was born on Easter Sunday (in 1917) - remembers seeing this one body with a wrap around its leg. It was Knute Rockne. Knute had phlebitis and had his leg wrapped."

Kish knows so much college football he could make a nice living charging a small commission to settle trivial bar bets.


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