One of the major upsets on the Kansas University football scene could be a crowd of 35,000 or better for Saturday's Colorado visit. KU is floundering, CU is not having a barn-burning year. More important, Colorado seldom has been a spectator magnet here.
This was the season Kansas was due to tack another good record onto the 7-5 of 2005 and make local crowds grow. With four straight losses and a penchant for folding, the Jayhawks could start hurting in the cash drawer.
Colorado made the Big Six Conference the Big Seven for the '48 season. Though CU has brought some exceptional teams and players, seldom have the crowds been whoppers. The biggest turnout here for KU-CU in was 48,500 in '96 as Glen Mason's final season produced 7-4 overall and 2-6 Big 12 records. When the Buffs were on a roll, they lured 50,000-and-up at Boulder. But with Kansas on the ropes and CU improving, fan turnout won't be stunning.
Basketball coach Roy Williams got his nose out of joint about a perceived "wine and cheese" crowd attitude after one Colorado court visit. KU played lousy ball, though it won, and CU is hardly ever a draw. Roy apologized after former coach Jerry Waugh explained to him that CU is not a local stimulator. (Neither is Oklahoma State, which made it the Big Eight as of 1957).
What happens with KU crowds if the Jayhawks continue to nose-dive through the three final home games? The only salvation could be limping Kansas State, which could get folks fired up for Nov. 18.
Things once looked good for the new KU season-attendance average to surpass the '05 record of 43,675. Now the outlook isn't too brilliant unless there is a tremendous upsurge from the current doldrums.
¢ When Kansas track and field immortals are discussed, Lawrence's Bill Nieder with Olympic gold and silver too often is overlooked. Fortunately, he'll get a little extra attention Wednesday at the Bert Nash Mental Health Center's salute to KU legends.
A Lawrence High football-track-basketball star, he was en route to becoming one of the greatest Jayhawk linebackers of all-time when he had a knee ripped apart in his '53 sophomore debut at TCU. Surgeons considered amputation before his dad practically waved a gun under their noses and said, "You'd better save it!" After horrendous rehab efforts, shot putter Bill earned glory at Melbourne and Rome along with KU discus great Al Oerter. Al has taken up painting and sometimes uses a splattered discus in his work, which makes him the Picasso of the Platters. Al won't be here, but a personal video will be.
Nieder is retired after doing well selling synthetic athletic surfacing and "rubber rooms" for people in institutions. He's come a long, long way from the rowdiness he generated as a youth. He gained stardom with a competitive spirit that would never accept "no" as an answer to whether he could or couldn't. You'd have a tough time not liking this guy, unruly rascal though he may have been in earlier days.
¢ Oerter as a Jayhawk was considered a tremendous decathlon prospect. He declined; he wanted nothing to do with "all that running." Fraternity-wise, he pledged Delta Tau Delta. The Delt house was atop that hill just west of Memorial Stadium. "I hated to run or even walk very far. That was the closest spot to practice," he'll tell you. He also conquered massive odds.