Former Kansas football coach Don Fambrough’s hatred of Missouri and especially the Missouri Tigers is legend, but the people of Lawrence will have many other lasting memories of Fambrough, who died Saturday.
First of all, Kansas University had no greater fan. He played and coached football at KU, but he also loved the KU Marching Jayhawks and supported efforts to make the band better and bigger. Did you remember that he wrote a children’s book? It was called “Three Little Jayhawks,” and it was about — you guessed it — some smart little Jayhawks who outwit the big bad Missouri tiger.
It was a natural task for Fambrough. He was an incredible story-teller who didn’t hesitate to embellish the details a little to enhance the effect of his tale. His language could be a little, shall we say, salty, but it always seemed to be connected to his passion about his subject rather than any intent to be mean-spirited.
Fambrough supported many community efforts in the city he called home for more than 60 years. He was the focus of the 2003 “Evening with Coach Fam and Friends” to raise funds for the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center. Moved by the care that his wife, Del, received before her death in 2001, he also became a big fan and supporter of Douglas County Visiting Nurses and Hospice.
He was a native of Texas, but his love of KU was unmatched. In October 2007, KU dedicated a bench overlooking Memorial Stadium to Fambrough, and photos from the event show him greeting former players and sitting on his bench with his arm around a 10-year-old fan. In November 2009, Fambrough organized a rally for KU players before they headed to their showdown with Missouri in Arrowhead Stadium. He was a frequent visitor to KU practices, and his speeches to stir up players’ fury before the annual Missouri game are legend.
Quite simply, he was always there for the KU football program, as well as many other community efforts.
The coach may have hated Missouri but, in Lawrence, he was everyone’s friend. His easy smile, great stories and infectious passion for the Jayhawks will be a fond and lasting memory for all the players and friends whose lives he touched.