Monthly Archives: November 2011

Heights-North isn’t moving

There’s a new man in charge of City League athletics in J. Means and he, and others, have dropped the ball by not moving Friday night’s Heights-North basketball game to a bigger venue.

As it is, that boy-girl double-header will be played at the quaint but very small North gym, which might be able to accommodate around 1,200 people, I’m guessing, if they sit on one another’s lap and promise not to breathe.

That’s not nearly a big enough place for what should be an exciting boys game that will feature two of the top players in City League history – Heights senior’ Perry Ellis and North junior Conner Frankamp. Both are headed to Kansas after their respective high school careers.

Means told me today that it’s too late to try and move the game to Wichita State’s Koch Arena or any other bigger venue, although WSU associate athletic director Brad Pittman, who is in charge of athletic facilities, said there was still time for arrangements to be altered at WSU.

Even so, this game will not be moved, Means said.

“At this point, we’re not going to do anything this late in the game,” he said. “But it makes me think about it, makes me start to think ahead and look at what we might be able to do.”

Means said security and game management issues could not be resolved at this late date.

I’m not placing all of the blame on Means, who is still learning in his new job. I’m surprised he didn’t get some help from his predecessor, Bill Faflick, or from administrators at Heights and North. This game has been looming for months and it’s not as if Ellis and Frankamp just burst on to  scene.

I was telling some of my colleagues in the office today that this game felt like it had the potential to draw 7,000 fans to Koch Arena. They seemed a bit surprised by that number, but I’m sticking with it. We’re talking about Heights, which is chasing its fourth consecutive Class 6A state championship, not to mention its fourth straight City League title. We’re talking about Ellis, who can become the first City League player in history to win four state championships. We’re talking about Frankamp, who last season broke Ricky Ross’ 32-year-old City League record by scoring 52 points in a game against Northwest. And we’re talking about a huge number of KU fans who would have flocked to see this game on a bigger stage.

City League basketball is special and it’s surprising to me that the league’s officials still don’t always seem to get that. In a few years, when the seven public schools are playing games in shiny new gyms, moving games won’t be much of an issue. But for now, it’s important for the decision makers to think of the basketball fans who want to see this product. It’s OK to showcase high school sports and it’s way past time for the powers-that-be in Kansas to understand that.

The City League is missing a great opportunity Friday night and it’s frustrating. If you want to see Heights-North, show up early. Really early. And don’t plan on breathing.

City League must showcase its stars

Count me in as a Perry Ellis fan. Conner Frankamp, too.

I’ve gotten to know both guys a little bit this fall through a couple of stories I’ve written on them and it’s great that both are far more than just basketball players. They’re top-list students, too, and not only that but being strong academically means a lot to both.

North junior guard Conner Frankamp.

We start to think, at times, that basketball players and athletes of this caliber cannot possibly care much about academics. Unfortunately, that is the case with a lot of blue-chip players. But the guys who do pay attention to grades and go to school to learn are out there and we should pay more attention to them.

Ellis, despite being one of the best high school players to ever come out of Kansas, carries a 4.0 grade-point average. He has not made a ‘B’ during his three-plus years at Heights.

Frankamp doesn’t quite have a 4.0, but he’s close.

When these guys head off to Kansas – as Ellis will do after this school year and Frankamp after the 2012-13 school year – they won’t cause a moment of academic concern for KU basketball coach Bill Self. They’re good players, good guys and exceptional students.

Friday night, Ellis and Frankamp will meet for one of at least two times this season in the City League opener for Heights and North. The game will be played in North’s old gym, a wonderful and historical barn but one that isn’t nearly big enough for this game.

City League officials were asleep at the wheel when they didn’t move this game to a bigger venue, preferably Koch Arena. This is a showcase game – how many times in City League history have two players of this ilk met having both either signed with or committed to Kansas?

And it’s more than the individuals. Heights is chasing a fourth consecutive Class 6A state championship. North should be an improved team, although the Redskins probably aren’t a threat to beat Heights. Then again, you never know. Frankamp is capable of amazing scoring feats.

So many basketball fans in Wichita would love to see this game. Instead, the crowd will be limited by a small gym not equipped for a game – or two outstanding players – of this magnitude.

Too bad.

KSHSAA stuck in its ways

I’ve been meaning to comment on the state high school football championships. Now, three days after the season has ended, I’m finally getting around to it.

I never said I was punctual.

Anyway, five state title games were played Saturday at – take a deep breath – Topeka, Emporia, Salina, Hutchinson and Hays. What, Pretty Prairie didn’t get one?

First of all, there are too many classes in Kansas: two divisions of Eight-Man football decided their state champions the previous Saturday in Newton. But that’s not going to change because the people running the Kansas State High School Activities Association are never going to buy in to the potential of what their athletic programs could do for their coffers and for the state as a whole.

The problem with five state title games in five different places, all beginning at the same time, is that they lose their significance. They’re just games that lack a special feel that a state championship game should have. I was in Hutchinson for the 3A game and watched Conway Springs wallop Silver Lake. It wasn’t much of a football game, but the atmosphere did nothing to enhance the game.

Hutch’s Gowans Stadium is a fine facility, perhaps one worthy of being a host site for more than one championship game. I have talked to people all over the country who see how we do things in Kansas and scoff. They tell me about how their state does football championship games, by holding a bunch of games at a central site, and brag about the crowds that show up and the pomp and circumstance that go with such an arrangement.

I read in my colleague Joanna Chadwick’s column Saturday that KSHSAA executive director Gary Musselman said he has never heard a complaint about the current system in Kansas.

Hogwash. That’s just a blatant lie.

I have complained to Musselman about the current system, which has always been unpopular among those of us in the media who see such great potential for high school sports in Kansas, potential that isn’t being realized. And it’s not just the media that wants bigger and better things for high school sports. Fans I talk to almost unanimously favor a little more pizzazz.

Media outlets are covering high school sports like never before. High school sports are more popular in Kansas than ever before. Yet the KSHSAA remains as a stick in the mud, rarely moving to enhance its ways.

I was told Saturday by Brent Maycock of the “Topeka Capital Journal” that the KSHSAA board of directors is considering splitting the 64 schools in Class 4A into two classes. Unbelievable. That would be a bad thing for high school sports in Kansas, but if the KSHSAA is considering it you can almost bet it’s a done deal.

It’s too bad the KSHSAA and its governing body, which consists of administrators, can’t find some wiggle room. The coaches and athletes who make their product so viable have little say as to how these state championships are conducted. If they did, things might change.

Urban Meyer has to coach

There are coaches like Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden. I keep expecting them to jump back into the coaching frying pan but they don’t. And now I wonder if they ever will.

Nobody was giving Urban Meyer a Gatorade shower in his job as a college football analyst for ESPN.

It’s not like they’re hurting. Cowher is part of CBS’s pre-game show on Sundays; Gruden is a “Monday Night Football” analyst for ESPN, where he also has several other duties. They’re both good at the TV thing. They could probably make more money coaching, but how much more money? And how many more hours?

Both men coached for a long time and are are now in cushy TV jobs. More power to them.

But Urban Meyer wasn’t into cushiness, apparently. It appears, from reports, that he has accepted the coaching job at Ohio State, one of the most intense coaching jobs in the country. He replaces a man by the name of Luke Fickell, who replaced a legend, Jim Tressel, who left Ohio State in dishonor during the summer. Fickell will someday be the answer to a trivia question; right now he must feel like he’s been hit by a Mack truck.

Ohio State wasn’t going to keep Fickell, of course. Ohio State is a football factory and as such must have a big-name coach on its sidelines.

Meyer is that, having had great success at Utah and winning two national championships at Florida before “retiring” from the Gators after the 2010 season, just a year after “retiring” from the Gators in 2009. That “retirement” lasted one day. At least the 2010 “retirement” lasted a year.

But Meyer was pulling our leg when he told us he needed time to get healthier and establish a stronger connection with his family. He was coming off a five-loss season at Florida. The arrow was pointed down. He needed time, all right. Time to go looking for that next great coaching gig.

It’s Meyer’s life and he can do with it anything he wants, of course. I don’t begrudge him taking the Ohio State job. He’s a football coach. Football is in his blood. So many of these guys get consumed by their 14-hour days and are powerless to do anything about it.

Bill Snyder stepped away from football at Kansas State for three years. He couldn’t find nearly enough to keep him busy. And that family life he wanted to emphasize, well, it’s not a 14-hour-a-day job. Now he’s like a pig in slop, burning the midnight oil with every attention-t0-detail fanatacism that has made him one of the most successful college coaches in history. Kansas State fans wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s not their 14 hours a day, after all.

Snyder is just one example. This is how football coaches operate, which makes the decisions made by Cowher and Gruden unique. How many coaching opening have their names been tossed into the ring for? Dozens? Hundreds?

Yet they remain on television. They look happy and healthy. They were able to move on from coaching football to talking about football. And I’m guessing they believe their lives are richer for doing so.

Meyer couldn’t cut the ties. That doesn’t make him a bad guy. I don’t even it think it harms his credibility that much. As if we expect these guys to be credible. Hah.

When Meyer said he needed time away from coaching to improve his health and strengthen his family ties, didn’t we all wonder whether he really meant it?

I’m sure he did mean it. I’m just as sure he was powerless to overcome the temptation to get back into the grind. It’s a grind, after all, that will pay him a ton of money. And provide him the opportunity to win national championships for one of the most-storied football powerhouses in the country.

Meyer is back. It’s like he never left.

Kansas-Missouri

The end of one of the big college rivalries might come today at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, where Kansas and Missouri will play a Big 12 football game.

We know for sure these two teams will probably never play another conference game, since Missouri is jumping to the SEC next

Today's Missouri-Kansas game at Arrowhead Stadium might be the last between the two teams.

season. And in take-my-ball-and-go-home fashion, Kansas has expressed no desire to continue to play the Tigers in anything. Any time or anywhere.

Not your best move, KU. But I get it, you’re upset that your biggest rival – at least in the Kansas City metroplex – is moving on to the most powerful football conference in the country and that you’ve been reduced to a wallflower, following the leads of Texas and Oklahoma in your own league.

Listen, I think Missouri is taking a real gamble by joining the SEC. I think the potential exists for the Tigers’ football program to get swallowed up. But I also think there’s a chance Mizzou could thrive in its new conference. And it’s obvious that everyone connected with Missouri is eager for a new challenge.

Meanwhile, Kansas expresses its desire to hold together the Big 12, which has now lost three former members of the old Big Eight with Nebraska and Colorado having departed last year for the Big 10 and Pac 12, respectively. Problem is, as is clearly evident, the Big 12 is not holding together. It’s been broken apart, leaving Kansas and also Kansas State without some of its best and most long-term rivalries.

Kansas officials look petty when they say they’re finished with Missouri. Are they really upset with the Tigers for leaving the Big 12 or is this mostly envy? I have to believe it’s a lot of the latter. It has to rub Kansas that Mizzou’s football program is at a level where the SEC would be interested in bringing the Tigers aboard. Meanwhile, the Jayhawks are huge underdogs today at Arrowhead against MU. There will be sections of empty seats for this game and a lot of the reason for that is that Kansas fans have written off their team.

The conference realignment that has taken place in the past couple of years is a strong reality check for Kansas. It’s 90 percent about big-time college football in college athletics today. Basketball, which is KU’s sport, doesn’t matter much when these conferences shuffle.

So Missouri – which was snubbed by the Big 10 last year when that conference instead added Nebraska – has gotten out with its head held high. The SEC – the big, bad SEC – wanted the Tigers. The Tigers might rue the day they ever set foot in that football hotbed, but for now they have to be proud of themselves.

Kansas, meanwhile, hasn’t been the apple in anyone’s eye. And you know how that rubs the Jayhawks. We can blame it on football, which has collapsed after a few good seasons under Mark Mangino. Now KU has one of the worst programs in the country under Turner Gill, one that has suffered numerous humiliating losses in Gill’s two seasons.

He’s probably fighting for his job today at Arrowhead and, given the current state of college athletics in which football is clearly king, he’s fighting uphill.

If Kansas has learned anything from conference realignment, it’s that it can’t suffer with a struggling football program anymore and expect to have much value. The Jayhawks have to figure out a way to win football games in a conference in which they rank dead last, with West Virginia and TCU on the way.

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel helped make the Tigers a strong football entity. Even though Mizzou never won a conference championship or played in a BCS bowl, the consistent strength of its football program allowed it to have choices.

Kansas doesn’t have choices. Kansas is stuck with a sub-par football program and a coach who is probably going to become a casuality of the times.

Thoughts on Shocker football

I tend to look at Wichita State football the way Steven Spielberg might look at WSU football.

By that, I mean I’m guilty of romanticizing Shocker football. I dismiss some of the reality and play up some of the fantasy. I don’t dwell on the sparse crowds at Cessna Stadium during most of the Shockers’ inept run there; I think about wins over KU, K-State and Oklahoma State and players like Prince McJunkins and Jumpy Geathers.

Willie Jeffries, football coach at Wichita State from 1979-83, leads the Shockers to the dressing room after a loss.

Shocker football is a tough subject. I know a lot of people miss it and I know a lot of people don’t. I do not think there is a Wichita consensus concerning Shocker football. And while there have been numerous movements over the years to revive the program, nothing has created a groundswell of financial support.

In other words, where are the millions and millions of dollars that it would take to resurrect football?

That said, I wish football had never been dropped as it was following a 3-8 season in 1986. I wish Ron Chismar, completing his third season at the helm, had gotten more time. There is a case to be made that some of the younger players in the Wichita State program at the time could have been difference makers.

But let’s also remember where WSU football was at the time. The Shockers were an independent, forced to play a hodge-podge schedule. The college football landscape looked completely different in 1986; there was no BCS. Wichita State’s football cred took a hit when the Shockers remained in the Missouri Valley Conference while schools like Louisville, Cincinnati and Memphis were leaving during the 1970s.

Wichita State’s football schedule in 1986 included games against San Francisco State, Morehead State and Central Florida, three schools that at the time were awful. It also included Florida State and Arizona State, teams the Shockers had no chance to beat. The rest of the schedule included: Toledo, Iowa State, Tulane, Cincinnati, Tulsa and Illinois State.

It’s difficult to say what would have happened to Wichita State football had it survived the axe, but a likely scenario is that the Shockers would have ended up in the then-Gateway Conference playing the likes of Missouri State, Northern Iowa, Illinois State, Indiana State and other schools that at the time were or were soon to be Missouri Valley Conference members.

Would that level of football fly in Wichita?

I don’t think so. Knowing what I know about Wichita sports fans – and having lived here all my life, I think I’m qualified to at least offer an informed opinion – I can’t imagine that Division 1-AA football, as it was known at the time, would have been something in which Wichitans had in interest.

Not with Kansas and Kansas State playing just up the road in the Big Eight, later the Big 12. Not with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Nebraska and Missouri playing big-time football in bordering states. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I don’t think the appeal of lower-level football would have been strong here.

I’m also not sure how realistic it would have been for the Shockers to ever reach the highest level. Remember, this was a football program with relatively no tradition, no history to fall back on. There were few years in which the Shockers were above .500.

In the 16 seasons of football played following the tragic Wichita State football plane crash in 1970, the Shockers were 55-115-2.

The strongest case to be made for why football should be played at WSU, in my opinion, is to honor those players, coaches, administrators and boosters who were killed when a plane carrying some of the team and team’s party crashed into a Colorado mountain side on Oct. 2, 1970.

Whenever I talk to one of the survivors of that plane crash, or one of the members of the 1970 team who wasn’t on the ill-fated plane, they invariably mention how those who died in the crash would have been particularly devastated when the Shockers’ football program was dropped.

It’s disappointing that WSU had only two winning seasons after the crash: 6-5 in 1972 and 8-3 under Willie Jeffries in 1982. Shocker football was an afterthought, unfortunately, except for the players and coaches directly involved.

Because of Title IX implications and a difficult economy, it’s hard to imagine Shocker football being brought back any time soon. It’s hard, really, to imagine it ever being brought back, sad as that is.

It’s too bad things aren’t different. It’s too bad the people who beat the drum loudest for Shocker football don’t have more to sell. I don’t sense their numbers – in people or dollars – are near what they need to be for such a resurrection to be viable. Maybe someday. But not now.

Friday musings

* The Kansas basketball team has come a long way in a short amount of time. The Jayhawks played very well in Maui, even in their championship-game loss to Duke. But what was with point guard Tyshawn Taylor in that game? Eleven turnovers? Strange as it

Tyshawn Taylor

sounds to say, I think Bill Self is going to have to live with Taylor and his mercurial inconsistency. There’s nobody waiting in the wings who can offer KU what Taylor offers. He’s been this way for his entire Kansas career. As far as Taylor is concerned, this is part of the package.

* What is up with Ndomukong Suh, the Detroit Lions’ talented but maniacal second-year defensive lineman. Suh went bonkers during the Lions’ game against Green Bay on Thanksgiving Day, resulting in a harmful penalty and his being thrown out of the game. Then, after the game was over, Suh contradicted video evidence by saying that he was trying to gain his balance when he kicked Green Bay’s Evan Dietrick-Smith after shoving Dietrick-Smith’s head into the turf three times while both were on the ground following a play. Suh thinks he’s a target, but he has brought this on himself with questionable tactics all season. There should be a hefty fine and a suspension coming for Suh, who is not helping his team with his immaturity. Ultimately, it’s his teammates who have to get him in line.

* How big – or small – of a crowd will be at tonight’s Wichita State-UAB game at the Intrust Bank Arena. Tickets for this game have gone slowly, resulting in cut prices and many giveaways. Whatever it takes to fill the building, I suppose. But I never thought I would see the day when a Shocker game in Wichita, involving a good WSU team, would have trouble finding a crowd. And I don’t buy the notion that the game coming when it is – a day after Thanksgiving – is to blame for the ticket struggle. If this game were being played at Koch Arena and was a part of the Shockers’ season-ticket package, there would be a sellout crowd tonight.

* UAB isn’t enough of a name opponent? OK, I understand the Blazers aren’t exactly North Carolina. But UAB has a good program and has been in more NCAA Tournaments of late than Wichita State.

* Jeff Withey, KU’s junior 7-footer, played his best game as a Jayhawk against Duke with 14 points and 10 rebounds. He was active and tough and his performance, more than any other, has to give KU fans hope.

* We spent a quiet Thanksgiving, thanks for asking. My wife and her sister had dinner at Stroud’s, which was outstanding. Debbie and I watched a lot of football. A LOT OF FOOTBALL.

* Texas A&M and Texas surely will continue to play, won’t they? Hard to imagine that game going by the wayside, even with A&M headed off to the SEC after this season. What an atmosphere Thursday night in College Station.

* I like John Harbaugh more than I like Jim Harbaugh. Not saying I don’t like Jim, but John seems more genuine to me. Maybe I’m wrong.

* Really glad that the holiday movie season is here. My plan is to see at least 10 movies before the end of the year. So many good ones – at least I hope they’re good ones – coming out.

* Kansas State’s media relations department has started a campaign that deems quarterback Collin Klein the MVP of college football. Of course, there’s no such award and Klein probably will not be among the top vote-getters for the Heisman Trophy. But if there were an MVP award, I would have trouble thinking of someone more valuable to his team than Klein. Then again, all of the quarterbacks who are in the Heisman discussion have tremendous value to their teams.

* There is an interesting stretch of basketball coming up for the three in-state teams. What will their records look like at the end of the day on Dec. 10, just a little more than two weeks away? Wichita State has tonight’s game against UAB followed by a Dec. 1 game against Cal State Fullerton, a Dec. 4 game against UNLV, a Dec. 7 game at Tulsa and a Dec. 10 game against Utah State. Kansas takes on Florida Atlantic on Wednesday, then goes against No. 3 Ohio State on Dec. 3, Long Beach State on Dec. 6 and Ohio State on Dec. 10. Kansas State, meanwhile, has a home game against George Washington on Dec. 1, is at Virginia Tech on Dec. 4 and plays West Virginia at Intrust Bank Arena on Dec. 8.

* Thanks for reading. I’ll be on Twitter tonight during the Wichita State-UAB game. You can find me there @boblutz if you’re so inclined. If not, I understand. Really, I do. Have a great weekend and just a glorious Black Friday. And remember, you have to leave the stores at some point.

The Shockers and Intrust Bank Arena

From what I’m hearing, the crowd at Intrust Bank Arena for Friday night’s Wichita State-UAB basketball game is going to be sparse.

Sparse, at least, by Wichita State’s standards. The Shockers sell out Koch Arena routinely, packing just more than 10,500 into that building. Shocker basketball is the biggest seller in town, athletically speaking, and has been that way for decades.

But Shocker fans, it appears, don’t want to head downtown for this game. The turn out for Friday night’s game could be embarrassing.

And why?

Great question.

Last year, Wichita State and Tulsa played in front of a packed house at the IBA. It was a great atmosphere for what turned out to be one of the most exciting games of the season.

But in the wake of the game, Shocker fans howled with complaints. Season ticket holders were offended that walk-up buyers were, in some cases, given better tickets. A large group of fans did not enjoy the Intrust Bank experience one bit, even though Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall and his players raved about getting to play there.

This year, the UAB game was not a part of the Shockers’ season-ticket package, although season-ticket holders were given first rights to tickets. But the idea was to offer the game to an independent promoter who would be in charge of selling tickets. With just a couple of days to go before the game, the plan doesn’t appear to be working.

I’ve heard estimates that Intrust Bank Arena could be half empty – or full, depending on your perspective – for Friday night’s game. And that would be a bad thing for WSU basketball and its future at Intrust Bank Arena.

I’m sure there are many Shocker fans who hope that’s the case. Koch Arena, in their minds, is a perfect venue for WSU games and there is no need to play anywhere else.

I understand that point. But I also believe it’s important for Wichita State to venture downtown once a year so as to give people who don’t regularly get to see the team play that chance. I also think it’s the university’s civic responsibility, to some degree. Intrust Bank Arena is a first-rate facility and I think fans should relish the opportunity to go to a game there.

In a couple of weeks, Kansas State will meet West Virginia at Intrust Bank Arena. It’s my understanding that K-State officials – who also did not offer this game as a part of a season-ticket package – are expecting a big crowd, most likely a sellout as Wildcats fans from all over the state take advantage of an opportunity.

What will it say if Kansas State sells out an arena that is 130 miles or so from its campus in Manhattan while Wichita State is unable to come close to a sellout?

I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this one because I’m struggling to make sense of it.

Tebow is no Elway, just ask Elway

I, like most football fans, am fascinated by Tim Tebow.

He’s not like anyone else who has ever played the game, for a variety of reasons. Some of it is the uncommon way in which he plays quarterback. Some of it is his unbridled faith. Some of it is his refusal to snap back at his legion of detractors, which include his own chief of football operations with the Denver Broncos, John Elway.

John Elway hoists a Super Bowl trophy in 1997, something he apparently doesn't believe current Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow will ever do.

Asked on his weekly radio show in Denver on Monday whether he thought the Broncos were “any closer to feeling if you have your quarterback on this team?”, Elway responded with a one-word answer.

“No.”

He then expanded, saying he was concerned with Tebow’s inaccuracy as a passer and the Broncos’ struggles to make third-down conversions. But it was that one word – “no” – that stood out.

What is Elway thinking? Tebow is 4-1 as Denver’s starting QB. Sure, he’s not a conventional NFL quarterback and I’ll listen to the discussion of whether he is the long-term answer for Denver.

But it’s probably better than that discussion be put off until after we see what Tebow does the rest of the season. The Broncos have several winnable games remaining and are not out of the AFC West title picture.

I would expect more support from Elway, who didn’t win a Super Bowl in Denver until the late stages of his career. He, more than anyone, should understand the developmental process for a quarterback. Tebow probably will never be the prototypical NFL quarterback because of his run-first mentality. But he’s in the midst of a nice run and I think it was irresponsible for Elway to slam him.

Nor did Elway need to heap praise on Tebow. He could have easily side-stepped the question and remarked about what outstanding leadership skills Tebow is showing. Or about how the Broncos have righted the ship after a terrible start with Kyle Orton as quarterback.

When I watch the Broncos – and I watch them a lot more with Tebow at quarterback – I see teammates responding to Tebow. It looks to me like he has won the loyalty of the guys playing with him. No, the Broncos aren’t pretty. But Tebow has so many intangibles and it would have been nice if Elway had pointed them out.

Instead, the guy who needs to be squarely in Tebow’s corner -at least for now – had no problem telling an interviewer that the quest for a starting quarterback in Denver is not complete.

Remember that it took Elway a little bit to get going as an NFL quarterback. During his first season as a starter, in 1983, he was 4-6, passed for seven touchdowns, was intercepted 14 times and completed only 47.5 percent of his passes.

In fact, through his first 10 seasons, Elway threw for 158 touchdowns and had 157 interceptions. But in his final six seasons, Elway threw for 142 touchdowns and was intercepted only 69 times. He won his two Super Bowls at the ages of 37 and 38. One of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game took a little while to blossom.

Tebow might never blossom into a quarterback capable of winning a Super Bowl or leading a team into the playoffs consistently. In fact, that’s the probable scenario. But do we need his own director of football operations to tell us that?

Tebow responded Tuesday in his usual classy way.

Tebow told “ESPN First Take” that he doesn’t pay attention to the lukewarm support from Elway and focuses his efforts on improving as a quarterback.

“I don’t try to focus on anything that doesn’t affect me personally and how I go out there every single day,” Tebow said. “I’m just going to continue to work hard and focus on what I can control.”

He went on to call Elway “one of the best to ever play the game.’

“I’m honored to play for him and try to win games for him and Coach (John) Fox and (Broncos owner) Mr. (Pat) Bowlen and everybody involved in this great organization,” Tebow said. “(Elway’s) done so much to build it.”

Support, apparently, isn’t a two-way street in Denver.

Big 12 quarterbacks

What does it mean to be a strong-armed quarterback in the Big 12?

Well, it depends. There are currently four Big 12 alums starting at quarterback in the National Football League: Sam Bradford, St. Louis; Colt McCoy, Cleveland; Blaine Gabbert,

Sam Bradford hasn't yet found consistency as an NFL quarterback for the St. Louis Rams.

Jacksonville; Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay. Their teams have a combined record of 13-27. Another former Big 12 quarterback, Chase Daniel, is Drew Brees’ backup in New Orleans.

From the numbers some of these guys – and others – put up during their days in the Big 12, it’s fair to expect they would be doing more in the NFL. But for all of the success of Big 12 quarterbacks during the past five seasons, the results at the next level have been midling.

It was in 2007 that the Big 12 transformed into a passing conference, one that has produced some big-time passers who accumulated daunting statistics. That 2007 group included Bradford (Oklahoma), McCoy (Texas), Daniel (Missouri), Freeman (Kansas State), Graham Harrell (Texas Tech), Todd Reesing (Kansas), Sam Keller (Nebraska) and Blake Szymanski (Baylor). All eight ranked among the top 45 nationally in passing yards per game as Big 12 offenses produced an average of 3,573 passing yards for the season, up 671 yards from 2006.

And we were just getting started.

In 2008, Big 12 offenses produced an average of 3,617.6 passing yards. There has been a decline in yards through the air since, from 3,213.9 in 2009 to 3,157.3 in 2010 to 2,927.1 this season. But footballs still fly in the Big 12, which has produced 192,463 passing yards (just a tad below 110 miles worth) since the 2007 season. It’s gotten to the point where the numbers are difficult to process because they’re so outlandish.

The spread offense, of course, gets credit – or blame – for the boom in passing yardage. But how difficult must it be for NFL scouts to judge these quarterbacks? The Big 12 has three quarterbacks this season who seem to project well for the next level: Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma’s Landry Jones and Baylor’s Robert Griffin III. All three should be prominent in Heisman Trophy voting. But as good as they are in the Big 12, are any of them “can’t miss” pro prospects.

I don’t think so. I don’t think there is such an animal these days because of the crazy numbers that are so commonplace.

Jones and Weeden are strapping quarterbacks who look like they belong in the NFL already. And Griffin III has the arm and legs to be a great NFL quarterback, you would think. Again, though, there are just no guarantees and the gaudy numbers put up by these quarterbacks just don’t tell the whole story.

Look at Bradford, the overall No. 1 pick in the 2010 NFL draft by the St. Louis Rams. He had a nice rookie season but has been a bust so far in 2011. It’s hard to say how he’ll progress from here and he was as close to a lock as there is for becoming a standout NFL quarterback.

The best of the Big 12 bunch of the past five seasons so far has been Freeman, although he has taken a step back this season in Tampa Bay. Still, he’s considered by most among the top 12 to 15 quarterbacks in the NFL.

Look at where Big 12 quarterbacks have ranked nationally in the key categories since the 2007 season. It’s been an amazing run of statistically-gifted quarterbacks, some of whom are now in the NFL, some of whom are resting on their immense college laurels and some of whom are still putting up big numbers and lofty credentials.

2011

Passing efficiency

2. Robert Griffin III, Baylor

8.  Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State

17. Landry Jones, Oklahoma

36. James Franklin, Missouri

44. Ryan Tannahill, Texas A&M

Passing yards per game

2. Landry Jones, Oklahoma

3. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State

5. Robert Griffin III, Baylor

7. Seth Doege, Texas Tech

13. Ryan Tannahill, Texas A&M

38. James Franklin, Missouri

Total passing yards

2. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State

4. Landry Jones, Oklahoma

5. Seth Doege, Texas Tech

6. Robert Griffin III, Baylor

13. Ryan Tannahill, Texas A&M

37. James Franklin, Missouri

2010

Passing efficiency

16. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State

24. Landry Jones, Oklahoma

29. Robert Griffin III, Baylor

30. Carson Coffman, Kansas State

37. Taylor Martinez, Nebraska

41. Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M

Passing yards per game

2. Landry Jones, Oklahoma

3. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State

9. Taylor Potts, Texas Tech

17. Robert Griffin III, Baylor

26. Blaine Gabbert, Missouri

37. Garrett Gilbert, Texas

Total passing yards

2. Landry Jones, Oklahoma

3. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State

9. Taylor Potts, Texas Tech

13. Robert Griffin III, Baylor

21. Blaine Gabbert, Missouri

45. Garrett Gilbert, Texas

2009

Passing efficiency

16. Colt McCoy, Texas

29. Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville

37. Taylor Potts, Baylor

39. Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M

44. Todd Reesing, Kansas

Passing yards per game

3. Taylor Potts, Texas Tech

6. Todd Reesing, Kansas

9. Blaine Gabbert, Missouri

11. Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M

14. Landry Jones, Oklahoma

25. Colt McCoy, Texas

Total passing yards

6. Todd Reesing, Kansas

7. Blaine Gabbert, Missouri

8. Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M

11. Colt McCoy, Texas

12. Taylor Potts, Texas Tech

20. Landry Jones, Oklahoma

2008

Passing efficiency

1. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma

3. Colt McCoy, Texas

8. Graham Harrell, Texas Tech

10. Chase Daniel, Missouri

14. Joe Ganz, Nebraska

17. Todd Reesing, Kansas

27. Robert Griffin III, Baylor

33. Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M

34. Josh Freeman, Kansas State

Passing yards per game

1. Graham Harrell, Texas Tech

3. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma

5. Chase Daniel, Missouri

7. Todd Reesing, Kansas

8. Colt McCoy, Texas

12. Joe Ganz, Nebraska

22. Josh Freeman, Kansas State

31. Zac Robinson, Oklahoma State

33. Austen Aurnaud, Iowa State

Total passing yards

1. Graham Harrell, Texas Tech

3. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma

4. Chase Daniel, Missouri

8. Todd Reesing, Kansas

9. Colt McCoy, Texas

12. Joe Ganz, Nebraska

25. Zac Robinson, Oklahoma State

27. Josh Freeman, Kansas

2007

Passing efficiency

1. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma

6. Graham Harrell, Texas Tech

12. Zac Robinson, Oklahoma State

14. Todd Reesing, Kansas

15. Chase Daniel, Missouri

24. Colt McCoy, Texas

Passing yards per game

1. Graham Harrell, Texas Tech

8. Chase Daniel, Missouri

18. Josh Freeman, Kansas State

19. Sam Keller, Nebraska

20. Todd Reesing, Kansas

24. Blake Szymanski, Baylor

25. Colt McCoy, Texas

42. Cody Hawkins, Colorado

45. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma

49. Zac Robinson, Oklahoma State

Total passing yards

1. Graham Harrell, Texas Tech

5. Chase Daniel, Missouri

18. Todd Reesing, Kansas

20. Josh Freeman, Kansas State

22. Colt McCoy, Texas

29. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma

36. Cody Hawkins, Colorado

43. Blake Szymanski, Baylor

44. Zac Robinson, Oklahoma State