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Adjustment to Lawrence should be cake for new KU AD Sheahon Zenger


After spending three days in Normal, Illinois, I’ve come to the conclusion that Sheahon Zenger is not going to need much time at all to adjust to his new surroundings in Lawrence.

For one, Zenger’s a Kansan by birth and figures to feel right at home at KU. In addition, Zenger’s coming from a place that reminds me an awful lot of Lawrence, right down to some of the some of the craziest and quirkiest coincidences.

Look no farther than an Uptown Normal apparel store known as “Campustown Supply” for proof. Shortly after meeting with Illinois State University men’s basketball coach Tim Jankovich (a former Jayhawk) and ISU’s interim AD, Larry Lyons, I strolled the streets around ISU’s campus to soak up the feel of where Zenger is coming from.

Called into Campustown Supply by the hypnotic effect of the vibrant red clothing lining the store’s window, I walked in and was astonished by what I saw. There, in the front of the store, on the very first rack I saw was a red shirt that red, “Buck Fradley.” Apparently that whole “Muck Fizzou” thing isn’t the only clever creation of its kind.

Bradley, as far as I can tell, is ISU’s chief rival and the one game a year that the fans here get geared up for in every sport, every season. But my random encounter with an awesome T-Shirt was not the only thing that reminded me of Lawrence, and KU, while I was in Normal.

Like Kansas, Illinois State also has a historic-looking fieldhouse on campus. This one, named Horton Field House, was home to the ISU basketball programs for years and reminds me a lot of K-State’s Ahearn Field House or the old Hoch Auditorium. It’s similar to Allen Fieldhouse, too, although far smaller and no longer functioning as a basketball facility.

Too bad, too. Horton was home to some of ISU’s most memorable games, including several played by ISU alum Doug Collins, a former NBA player and coach who is honored here with his jersey hanging in the rafters and a statue outside of the north entrance to Redbird Arena.

The people here go crazy for Collins, and one ISU athletic department staffer told me that dozens of ISU alums claim to have been (1) best friends and/or (2) roommates with Collins during their college days.

I met the real thing in the form of ISU alum, Don Franke, a local developer who is one of the school’s biggest backers and biggest fans. Great guy. Great family.

I had no idea what to expect when I came up here Monday. Everyone I told about my trip said I should expect next to nothing. Maybe they were here too long ago to remember or maybe they’re guilty of what so many others around here are — taking this town for granted. The Normal I encountered was a charming

Because I have next to no shot of getting all of my great experiences into my Sunday story (look for that one on the front page of Sunday’s Journal-World), I’ll wrap up this blog with a few quick-hitters that stood out during my stay in a town that I’ll always remember fondly.

Enjoy! And in case you missed my blog entries from Day 1 or Day 2, feel free to check those out, too. Thanks to all the fine folks at ISU, and in Normal, who made my stay so enjoyable.

Best story I heard: This one was easy and it came from Franke, who was answering my question about whether Sheahon Zenger was “tough enough” to tackle the job at Kansas.

“At a basketball game two years ago, I looked a couple aisles over and saw Sheahon squatted down talking to the president of ISU, Al Bowman,” Franke said. “Sheahon’s easy to pick out in a crowd, he’s got that blue suit on, that red tie, white shirt, dark hair. I noticed the usher had come down and said something to him and then walked back up to the top. About two minutes later the usher came down and said something to him again. I didn’t know what was going on.

Halftime came a couple minutes later and I walked over to Sheahon and said, ‘You better get a stronger drink than that Sierra Mist you have,’ and he looked at me and said, ‘I’m so frickin’ mad right now I can’t see straight.’ I said, ‘What’s the matter?’ That usher came down there and told him he had to find a seat. So Sheahon said OK. When the usher came down again, he said, ‘Sir, I’m sorry but you’re gonna have to find a seat.’ At that point, Sheahon showed him his badge. A couple minutes later he came down and said, ‘I’m gonna remove you from here,’ or whatever words were said, and then halftime came.

Well, that guy was gone at halftime and they brought a new usher in for the second half. I’d never seen that side of Sheahon. He used to be a football coach, you know. So he can be tough.”

Best place I ate: With all due respect to the legendary, Pub II, a college bar and grill just off the ISU campus, the nod here goes to Destihl, a local brew house with excellent food, outstanding beer and exceptional service. Read more about it in my Day 2 blog.

Best surprise: It has to be the fact that I couldn’t find a single person — and I talked to dozens — who would say so much as a luke-warm thing about Zenger. The people here love him and they always will. I’m sure it was tough for him to leave this place, but I think someday very soon Kansas fans will be glad that he did.

If it’s not that, it’s Redbird Arena. What a cool place. Don’t get me wrong, it can’t hold a candle to Allen Fieldhouse, but for what it is and for the size of school it serves, it’s a pretty neat venue.

Best thing I did: My visit with Jankovich was pretty cool. We talked a lot about KU hoops and mutual friends and I thought it was really cool to see how much he still cares about Kansas. To be fair, though, I enjoyed every single person I interviewed and/or interacted with. Everybody was beyond friendly.

Worst thing I did: Monday night, after pulling into town after a foggy and wet drive, I cruised around a little to get my bearings for the next day. As I was driving around, I found myself facing the wrong way on College Avenue.

It didn’t take me long to figure it out — thanks to the guy who flashed his brights to alert me — and, luckily, it was late enough that there wasn’t much traffic. Seriously, though, why are there so many one-way roads in Normal?


bradh 7 years, 1 month ago

I bet if you talked to the usher that got canned for doing his job that you would have found someone who had something negative to say about Sheahon.

KEITHMILES05 7 years, 1 month ago

I agree. What right does he think he had blocking the view of fans just because he is the AD? That is arrogant on his part and the usher did his job. I'm not impressed with that story the KUSports should have no written that. That is abuse of power on his part and reeks of the previous KU administration arrogance. I can guarantee you if that occurs at AFH he'll get booed to his damn seat. I am puzzled why KUSports think this is a "good " trait of his and indicates he's a football man. To me it reeks of arrogance and it won't fly at KU. Furthermore to dismiss the usher was a very stupid and childist move.

ohjayhawk 7 years, 1 month ago

If he was "squatted down", as it states, I doubt he was blocking anyone's view. And, I'm sure that, if someone came up or down the aisle, he moved for them and didn't just sit there and make them go around.

nobody1793 7 years, 1 month ago

It has to do with fire codes and keeping the isles clear.

Zenger is a loose cannon, a law breaker, and a fire hazard. The usher shouldn't have been "removed".

Matt Tait 7 years, 1 month ago

To be fair, Franke never told me that the usher was fired, and, Zenger was squatting down talking to the university president. I realize the usher was "doing his job" but I'm sure Zenger explained that he'd only be a minute and then he'd find his seat.

It might not have been the right way to handle the situation but arrogance had nothing to do with it. That word isn't in this guy's vocabulary.

Dan Thalmann 7 years, 1 month ago

Wow. What's the deal with people being so quick to judge in the comment section? If he were squatting, I'm sure everything was fine. Kind of nice to know school AD and president are talking (working overtime) at the game instead of just hanging out and watching the game. I think Zenger will be great at KU for a long time.

LeBo 7 years, 1 month ago

Two cheers for the usher. One jeer (or zing) for Zenger. Another successful hire form Illinois. Now we need to go to Illinois and get some football players! Illinois once fueled Notre Dame and Michigan.

ranger73 7 years, 1 month ago

"...reeks of arrogance and won't fly at KU..." You do know that Roy "worship me" Williams was coach at KU for a little while don't you? And don't forget "Sweet Diamond" Lou...Not exactly two of the most down to earth humble guys on the face of the earth, doncha think? I would think an usher would recognize the school prez, or at least the AD and back off after the first time. I mean seriously, the first time hey need to get out of the aisle-oh it's the AD and the school prez., but to go back? Wow.

KEITHMILES05 7 years, 1 month ago

Zenger could have waited until half time to do his chit chat instead of during the game. It really doesn't take many brains to know that if you ever have been to a game.

ranger73 7 years, 1 month ago

It also doesn't take too many brains to know if your school prez (BOSS) wants to speak to you you don't say just wait to halftime cuz Fred the Usher said I have to sit down. If you ever have had a job.

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