Tom Keegan: Kansas football team tries to get off the road to dubious record
photo by: Nick Krug
College football futility records prove beyond a reasonable doubt that there is no worse place for schools from the state of Kansas than the road.
In fact, three Kansas schools are responsible for four of the seven longest losing streaks in college football history, at least based on one list that can be found at sports-reference.com.
Wichita State lost 37 consecutive road games, a streak that stretched from the middle of the 1964 season to early in the 1971 campaign, the second-longest road skid in college football history.
Kansas State encountered road losing streaks spanning 34 (1944-50) and 30 (1985-91) games.
Kansas’ current slide officially has lasted 35 games, tied with UTEP (1974-80) for fourth-longest in history, because three losses to Missouri at Arrowhead Stadium, a neutral site, don’t count.
Wichita State dumped its football program after the 1986 season and, of course, Bill Snyder in two different stints has built big-time winners.
The Jayhawks, 20-point underdogs, need to find a way to end this endless streak Saturday in Memphis because the all-time college football roadkill record is drawing so close you can almost smell it.
Western State in Gunnison, Colo., which now plays out of the Div. II Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, lost 44 road contests in a row from Oct. 2, 1926 through Nov. 7, 1936.
In order, this season’s Big 12 road foes for Kansas are Texas Tech, Baylor, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Kansas State. Kansas lost at those five schools two years ago by an average score of 54-14, coming closest in Lubbock with a 34-21 setback.
Losing Saturday would move KU into a third-place tie with Sewanee University, a founding member of the mighty SEC. So ashamed of its fruitless football program was the Tennessee school that it left the conference and now competes in Div. III.
A loss in Memphis and then Lubbock would put Kansas in a tie for second with the Shockers. If the streak continues all the way to Waco and the Jayhawks lose to Baylor, they stand alone in second place. I fear that the crowd for the Oklahoma State game in Lawrence might be so small that head coach David Beaty will announce in the post-game media session that he will take over ticket sales.
It’s a heavy burden on Beaty and his young squad, which can’t be blamed for a streak that started when starting right tackle Hakeem Adeniji was in sixth grade and starting right guard Mesa Riobardy was in seventh grade. But upsets do happen and Kansas does have speedy playmakers.
If the Jayhawks don’t deliver a road upset this season, they’ll take a 41-game freefall into Athens, Ohio, to take another shot at Frank Solich’s Bobcats.
After that, assuming the schedule isn’t revised to accommodate for possible Big 12 expansion, five conference road games await. A loss to Ohio would make 42 in a row, at which point Beaty might take the wheel of the equipment truck or team bus to try to change the team’s luck.
Beaty need not look outside the state borders to find two coaches at the top of the coaching profession who were in desperate need of victories early in their careers.
Snyder lost his first 13 road games before unloading on Iowa State in Ames in 1991, 37-7. KU basketball coach Bill Self had a losing streak that reached 18 games and ended in the fourth game of his second season at Oral Roberts. He constantly reminded his players that their streak was only three games and his was 18.
Beaty’s road losing streak at Kansas stands at five. Many of the Jayhawks who take the Liberty Bowl Field on Saturday have a zero-game road losing streak. They can’t be blamed for the historic slide, but can come back to Lawrence to a hero’s welcome should they end it. In a way, that should make them feel as if they’re playing with the house’s money, never a bad feeling, one that can make for a dangerous opponent to a heavily favored home team.