Monthly Archives: November 2012

Friday musings

* You know what I haven’tdone in a while? I haven’t read a book in probably two years. That is shameful, so please don’t pile on. But I’m in the mood to read a book and would value your suggestions.

* Not just sports books, either. I like a good sports book as much as the next guy, but I’m also interested in other things. Many other things. Most other things, in fact. I like to think of myself as well rounded, in fact. Almost a renaissance man. But I tend to give myself too much credit.

* I like to karaoke, and recently I did the song “Baker Street” by the late Gerry Rafferty. It was an enjoyable experience (for me at least), and I’m looking forward to singing that song again. Rafferty is underrated. Listen to some of his stuff sometime if you haven’t already.

* I don’t expect Kansas State to have much trouble with Texas on Saturday night in Manhattan. I’m looking for a three-touchdown win. It feels like the Longhorns have checked it in for the season and Kansas State has a lot still to play for.

* My prediction: 38-17, K-State.

* Kansas, meanwhile, finishes its season at West Virginia. My first thought is that going to West Virginia is a long trip to finish up a season. And if KU loses, which it probably will, it will be a long trip home.

* I would give West Virginia a C-minus for its first season of Big 12 football. TCU gets a B-minus. Neither program has changed the landscape of the conference.

* What would Kansas do if presented with the opportunity to leave the Big 12 for the Big Ten, which is rapidly growing out of its 10 into more like a 14 or 16? It’s an interesting topic since KU doesn’t really fit the football-crazed mold that conferences are morphing into. KU, I believe, should be a viable football program, but I still think there is a place for schools that emphasize basketball, whether college presidents and athletic directors agree with me or not.

* It’s not like the Big Ten is some pud football conference, either. A little down on its luck this season, for sure.

* Would KU fit in the Big Ten? It’s a legitimate question. There are reports, rumors, innuendo – call it what you will – that the Big Ten could have its eyes on Kansas. I don’t know if that’s true or not. But it makes some sense. And wouldn’t this basketball season be a whole lot more interesting for Kansas fans if the Jayhawks were in the Big Ten with the likes of Indiana, Michigan and Ohio State?

* I was always dead set against the possibility that Kansas and Kansas State could be split up when all of this conference realignment is behind us, if it ever is behind us. But as time passes, I’m not sure I’m as adamant about this as I used to be. If the Big Ten does have interest in Kansas, I think Kansas should listen to the offer and not concern itself with the fortunes of Kansas State.

*If KU did leave the Big 12 for the Big Ten, I would hope Kansas State would get an invite, too. The best thing for athletics in the state of Kansas is for those two schools to be forever-associated. But I don’t think it’s mandatory. I think each could survive on its own.

* It is a little scary to think about, though, isn’t it?

* Meanwhile, there are some Wichita State fans who feel a little left out in all of the realignment. To which I say: Consider yourselves lucky. I understand those who wish the Shockers had a football program. I feel your pain, even. But the Shockers are in a stable conference in the Missouri Valley, at least as stable as a conference can be in these tumultuous times. Are there things about the Valley I would like to change? Of course. But that can be said about every conference.

* The Valley is a much better than average basketball conference. And for WSU, basketball is what matters most.

* Despite all the football fun provided in Manhattan this season, Kansas is a basketball state. There’s nothing wrong with that. It doesn’t make us second-class citizens. We need to embrace our basketball heritage and run the fast break with it. Basketball is what defines us as Kansans, more than any other sport.

* But it’s nice to have some great football, too. Thanks, K-State.

* Seeing that former Shocker pitcher Mike Pelfrey has been non-tendered by the New York Mets. Pelfrey, who in May had Tommy John surgery on his elbow, is now a free agent. It’ll be interesting to see which team goes after him. I suspect it will be a one-year offer loaded with incentives since Pelfrey won’t be 100 percent by the start of the season. Kansas City, perhaps?

* The Stiefel Theater in Salina has announced some of the acts that will be performing in that wonderful venue during the first 4 1/2 months of 2013. Count me in for the Doobie Brothers and Chicago and I’m a strong maybe for the Beach Boys.

* The Who is playing the BOK Center in Tulsa on Valentine’s Day. Actually, Valentine’s Night. The Who, as far as I know, doesn’t play daytime concerts. Anyway, that’s one I want to go to. Will I? Stay tuned. I don’t always do what I want to do, unfortunately. But if we all did exactly what we wanted to do, how long until anarchy prevails? So restraint can be a good thing.

* I’m rambling.

* Thanks again for reading my blog. As I told one of the Eagle editors today, this blog is one of my favorite things to do. There was about a two-year period of time when I really had no idea what a blog should be. I’m still not sure I know. But it’s fun for me to do and I hope at least somewhat enjoyable for you to read. Have a great weekend.

 

Ranking Kansas’ All-Americans, 1-30

The state of Kansas has produced 30 college All-America basketball players through the years, including 13 who were selected to the first team by the Associated Press.

On our radio show this morning, we talked briefly about the top five college players to come out of Kansas and there have been some really good ones who weren’t All-Americans. Former Wichita State forward Warren Armstrong (Jabali) comes to mind.

But for the purposes of this list (and who doesn’t love a list?), I’m going to impose an All-America limit. If a player wasn’t a first-, second- or third-team All-American, he doesn’t get a nod here.

Essentially, this is a list of the greatest college players from either KU, KSU or WSU, and it was tough to put them in order. And there’s a good chance you’ll disagree with some of the rankings. But I can’t let that keep me from having some fun. And remember, this list is for fun, only. Any nasty reaction will be punished accordingly.

Here we go with an interesting Top 30:

 

Former Kansas player Wilt Chamberlain goes up for a dunk as opposing players and teammates think to themselves: “Wow, I wish I could do that.”

1. Wilt Chamberlain – A first-team All-American in both seasons he played at Kansas.

2. Danny Manning – Another two-time first-team All-American who also made the second team once.

3. Clyde Lovellette – Don’t worry, we’ll get to some non-KU players soon. But big Clyde was a two-time first-teamer and a one-time third-teamer.

4. Dave Stallworth – My favorite all-time Wichita State Shocker slips into the top four. Of course.

5. Bob Boozer – The first K-Stater to be mentioned was a first- and second-team All-American.

6. Xavier McDaniel – Scorer, rebounder, tough guy. Are you gonna tell the X-Man he’s not one of the top six players in the state’s history?

7. Raef LaFrentz – This is maybe a guy who doesn’t get his due. He should since he’s one of only four two-time first-team All-Americans to play at a Kansas school.

8. Wayne Simien – Another brutish KU player who made two All-America teams, one as a first-teamer.

9. Paul Pierce – Has had such a great NBA career that we sometimes forget what a tremendous player he was at KU.

10. Drew Gooden – In the mold of LaFrentz, Simien, Manning and some of other strong KU forwards still to come on this list.

11. Jo Jo White – A point guard deluxe who made two All-America teams.

12. Nick Collison – Yes, another powerful KU forward joins the list.

13. Dick Knostman – Was never a first-team All-American for Kansas State, but made the second and third teams.

14. Michael Beasley – Sorry, this is as high as I can go for a one-and-done player, great as Beasley played for Kansas State.

15. Thomas Robinson – Kansas has had a bunch of big guys who would probably do well in a bar fight, huh?

16. Ernie Barrett – Mr. K-State says it all.

17. Dave Robisch – Sorry to be repetitive, but it’s like KU has a mold somewhere in Lawrence and builds these power forwards in a factory somewhere.

18. Sherron Collins – Made two All-America teams.

19. Jacob Pullen – It was difficult to rank Collins above Pullen, just as it would have been difficult to rank Pullen above Collins.

20. Jacque Vaughn – The third straight point guard on the list, Vaughn was a two-time second-team All-American.

21. Rolando Blackman – Great college player who surprisingly made only one All-America team, that as a third-teamer.

22. Darnell Valentine – This seems low for Valentine, until I look at the players above him. A rich list, don’t you think?

23. Kirk Hinrich – Could just as easily be five spots higher.

24. Antoine Carr – The Big Dog was a third-team All-American as a Shocker.

25. Marcus Morris – It took some time, but eventually Morris figured things out well enough to become a second-team All-American.

26. Mike Evans – The former K-Stater might be at the top of a shooter’s list.

27. Bud Stallworth – Big-time scorer and former third-team All-American for Kansas.

28. Tyshawn Taylor – Drove Kansas fans crazy, but also helped drive a team to the national championship game.

29. Walt Wesley – Bruising former center for the Jayhawks and former third-team All-American.

30. Cole Aldrich – His KU career peaked, then diminished.

Thanks for reading. As always, I’m curious to know what you think.

Memories of a sportswriter

The first game I ever coveredfor The Eagle was in the winter of 1974. The guys who assigned coverage in those days, Rod Smith, was in a pinch. I had just been hired to work on the phone crew, an unglamorous job in which my function was to answer phones and type up box scores. And to keep my mouth shut.

No, it wasn’t like that. My recollection of those early days at the newspaper are wonderful. There were a bunch of good guys in the sports department at the time and we all got along well. As a rookie, I was treated mostly with total indifference by the veterans on the staff.

Anyway, the first game I covered was Andale at Cheney. Or Cheney at Andale. I can’t remember the location, but I remember the teams. And for me, it still resonates above most of the other assignments I’ve had at The Eagle over the past 38 years. And that’s because it was the first.

I think The Eagle ran about six or eight inches of my story, which was barely a story. Let’s just say it wasn’t my best work. But it was the first, so it meant a lot to me and to my parents, who were just happy that I was gainfully employed. I’m pretty sure they thought I was the next Jim Murray (look him up) after that Cheney-Andale prose appeared in print. If so, sorry mom and pop – I vastly underachieved.

Murray’s columns were one of the highlights of the old Wichita Beacon back in the day. From when I was hired through about 1980, I believe, I worked for both the Eagle and the Beacon. Talk about fun times.

After writing a story for the morning paper, The Eagle, those of us who covered events would come in early the next morning to write a different story about the same game or event for The Beacon. It was especially challenging in 1977 and 1978, when I covered the Wichita Aeros, our town’s Triple-A baseball affiliate.

To this day, when I think some assignment might be taxing, I remember those days when I had to somehow find two angles for one game.

Working on The Beacon, even with the added duty, was a lot of fun. It was interesting working on a paper with a morning deadline. My recollection is that ours was somewhere around 10 or 10:30 so that the paper could start running on the press around noon. As a kid growing up in Derby, my parents took both papers. The Beacon arrived around 5, if I’m remembering correctly. And there’s no guarantee I’m remembering correctly.

It was big news when The Beacon folded, and those of us who worked for the two papers at the time were concerned. But we were also relieved, in a way, to have the operation streamlined and to focus our attention on just one newspaper.

One of my vivid memories about The Beacon was arriving in the sports department pretty early in the morning, between 8 and 8:30, and seeing a bunch of people already hard at work on a product. Newspaper people are notoriously bad about sleep habits and I don’t too many people in the business who cherish the notion of getting up at the crack of dawn.

But with an afternoon paper to produce, we had no choice.

Every morning that I walked into the sports department, I had to walk past Bill Hodge. At the time, he was the most prominent guy in the department and maybe at the whole paper. Hodge, a grizzled veteran by the time I started, had done it all. He had been the sports editor, the beat writer for Wichita State and the columnist.

The image you have in your head about a grizzled sportswriter fits Hodge, who died several years ago, perfectly. He was a boxer in his youth and he didn’t exactly embrace this new kid on the block with open arms. And since I had grown up reading his work and perhaps even aspiring to be like him someday, I didn’t push the envelope.

During a slow process, though, we started to have conversations. They were brief at first, probably no more than a couple of words. But over time, Hodge started to accept that I was not just some clown off the street (something many of you have still not accepted, by the way), and we began to develop a relationship.

I really came to like the guy and we even played golf together a few times over the years. He was crusty as all get out, but he had a good sense of humor and he got really upset with himself on the golf course when he hit a bad shot. I found that to be an endearing trait.

This was fun. I enjoy doing the Wednesday blog and thinking back to times like these. I appreciate you indulging me.

SEC vs. everyone else

I like a good debate as much asthe next sports junkie. And brother, I’ll debate. I’m no shrinking violet when it comes to voicing an opinion. It’s one of my most endearing qualities.

Anyway, I’ve been hearing a lot of banter about how the SEC is an overrated conference and just because teams from the SEC have won the past six national championships doesn’t mean it’s any better than the Big 12.

Huh?

Like I said, I’m interested in everyone’s viewpoint, up to a point. It’s that when it stops making sense that I have a problem.

But rather than just trusting what I see, I decided to look for quantifying statistical support that agrees with my assessment that the SEC is, and has been for a while now, the top college football conference in the country.

First, I visited the BCS rankings for the past five years. I’m not necessarily a huge fan of the BCS as it applies to picking a national championship game every season, but it’s the system we have so I decided to use it.

This season, of course, six of the top 10 teams in the BCS are from the SEC. It’s not usually this one-sided, but the SEC does have a decided edge over the other BCS conferences – Big 12, Pac 12, ACC, Big Ten, Big East – in the past five years.

Since 2008, 25 SEC teams have finished in the top 25 of the BCS rankings (there is one more ranking to be issued this season). The average spot in the Top 25 of SEC teams has been 9.4.

In that same five-year span, 22 Big 12 teams have finished inside the Top 25 of the BCS rankings, with an average rank of 12.5.

The Pac 10 and Pac 12 has had 15 teams in the BCS’ Top 25, with an average ranking of 10.7. The Big East has had only nine, with an average ranking of 12.6.

Eighteen Big 10 teams have finished in the top 25 of the BCS since 2008, with an average finish of 13.9. And for the ACC, 12 teams have been in the Top 25 with an average finish of 15.1.

Clearly, using those numbers, the SEC is No. 1.

Next, I looked at first-round draft picks in the NFL since 2008. It seems like at least a decent barometer of a conference’s strength, I believe.

It wasn’t a surprise to me that the SEC again showed up well, with 40 players taken in the first round during the past five years. Quick math determines that’s eight per year and the conference has had no fewer than six first-round picks in any of those years.

The Big 12 is second with 30 first-round draftees, followed by the ACC (22), Big 10 (21), Pac 10/12 (19) and Big East (11).

Clearly, the Big 12 is the second best football conference in the country, if you buy the two criteria I have used. If not, come up with your own darn criteria.

Undeniably, though, the SEC is the best football conference in the country.

Now, you could point out that the SEC has 14 teams, more than any of the other conferences – at least for the time being. But it’s really only the best schools in these power conferences that matter when it comes to BCS standing and first-round draft picks. Occasionally, a player from one of the bottom-feeding teams might get chosen in the first round of the NFL draft, I suppose, but it doesn’t happen often.

Some point out that the bottom of the SEC is weak, and they’re right. Teams like Kentucky, Auburn, Arkansas and Tennessee haven’t done much this season. And if the Big 12 has anything on which to hang its hat this season, it’s a balanced conference in which almost any team is capable of beating anyone else.

But top to bottom, over andĀ  under, the SEC is the best football conference in the country. The Big 12 is No. 2, which in this case isn’t a bad thing. There is room in America for two especially strong college football leagues. In the SEC and Big 12, we have them.

 

College football hits and misses

As another college football seasonwinds down, and as we approach the many bowl games that mean so much to all of us, it’s fun to go back and look at how everybody thought the 2012 season would go.

And how wrong they were. Because let’s face it, nothing convinces us how smart we are more than convincing ourselves how dumb they were.

And in many cases, those who voted in the Associated Press preseason college football pool were pretty dumb. So lets look at some of the disappointments and surprises of the football season. There are plenty of both.

Disappointments

1. Southern California. The Trojans were the easy choice as preseason No. 1 and have lost five games. Their struggles aren’t because of a

Southern California has loads of talent, but only a 7-5 record. Golden boy coach Lane Kiffin doesn’t seem to be working out in Los Angeles.

lack of talent. They’re because of a young coach who is more sizzle that grizzle. (Side note: I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the sizzle/grizzle comparison. I’m not even sure it’s applicable. But because this is a blog, I’m going with it because I like it, whether it works or not). Lane Kiffin is overrated, just like his team. The No. 1 spot on this list was easy.

2. Michigan. The Wolverines aren’t terrible. In fact, they’re pretty good. But they were picked No. 8 in the preseason and they’re currently No. 21 with four losses in a sub-par Big Ten.

3. West Virginia. Will I ever learn that one-dimensional teams like West Virginia never stand the test of time. Especially not in a power conference like the Big 12. I was a sucker, though, and bought in. Only to learn – for the one millionth time – that a team that only passes never passes the test.

4. Oklahoma. I know, the Sooners still have a shot at winning the Big 12 championship. I know, the Sooners came back for a dramatic win over Oklahoma State last week. I know, I know, I know. Still, for a team picked No. 4 in the preseason, hasn’t this season been a disappointment? The answer to that question is a resounding “Yes!”

5. Michigan State. Sparty can’t win at home. Sparty has not done one interesting thing all season. Sparty needs to just go away now.

6. Arkansas. It started with Bobby Petrino. It continued with an injury to quarterback Tyler Wilson. The Hogs never got going.

7. Texas. Where was that stifling, best-in-the-nation defense again?

8. Auburn. Believe it or not, the Tigers were 28th in the preseason rankings. That didn’t happen. Instead, Gene Chizik got fired.

9. TCU. I think I expected more. Didn’t you?

10. Missouri. The Tigers were shown what SEC football is all about.

Surprises

1. Notre Dame. After so many seasons of struggle and pretense, you knew the Irish would have to break through the door to get attention. And that’s what happened this season, after Notre Dame was ranked No. 26 in the AP’s preseason poll. The most surprising team in the country will play for a national championship on Jan. 7 in Miami.

2. Kansas State. So, my media brethren around the Big 12 picked K-State to finish sixth in the conference? You guys really aren’t very smart. I’ve been telling you that for years. (By the way, I don’t have a vote so it’s not my fault).

3. Ohio State. The undefeated Buckeyes might not be eligible for postseason play, but Urban Meyer is still eligible for icon status. And he added more to his resume with his first-year performance in Columbus.

4. Texas A&M. As much as Missouri’s first season in the SEC resembled a lump of coal, the Aggies’ debut season was jolly and joyful. Kevin Sumlin made a huge difference, as did some freshman quarterback they call “Johnny Football.” A&M’s future as the only Texas school in the SEC looks rosy.

5. Penn State. After the chaotic offseason and 0-2 start to the season, nobody expected 8-2 the rest of the way. Bill O’Brien should get some coach of the year votes.

6. UCLA. I know the Bruins were knocked off by Stanford the other day, but there’s a rematch coming in the Pac 12 championship game. And don’t you think USC would kill to have Jim Mora as its coach instead of that Kiffin guy?

7. Florida. Don’t you also think Texas fans wish the Longhorns would have offered their coaching job to Will Muschamp before he left to take over the Gators a couple of years ago? If there’s a team that gets the BCS’s short shrift, it’s Florida, which has one loss while playing the nation’s toughest schedule.

8. Oregon State. The Beavs didn’t get any preseason run to speak of, yet was 6-0 before dropping three of its past five games. And they were blown out Saturday night against Oregon. Still, a surprise.

9. Kent State. The Golden Flashes meet Northern Illinois, my 10th surprise team in college football, on Friday night in the MAC championship game. And if Kent State wins, there’s a good chance it will crash the Orange Bowl. Can you imagine? Kent State has forever been one of the worst programs in college football and now is ranked No. 17 in the BCS standings and 18th in the AP poll, one slot ahead of Northern Illinois. Both teams are 11-1, but were nowhere to be seen in the preseason. They are good teams and good stories that often get buried by BCS hoopla.

 

 

Friday musings

* The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported today that Cardinals third baseman David Freese swerved his car into a tree on Thanksgiving day in an attempt to avoid hitting a deer. Freese was uninjured, according to police reports, and was not under the influence of alcohol. My question then: Is it a story? I’m not sure it should be. But the real debate here centers on the newspaper’s inclusion of Freese’s past alcohol-related driving incidents, which I believe should not have been mentioned. This is one of those age-old journalism debates that could go on for hours without a resolution. But it’s one I feel strongly about, even though I suspect I might be in the minority among journalists. Post-Dispatch assistant sports editor Mike Smith defended the newspaper’s reporting on the newspaper’s website, writing that Freese’s past issues with driving under the influence should have been a part of the story. But since police said Freese hadn’t been drinking before the Thanksgiving incident, and that there will be no further investigation, why bring up the old news?

* I’m not even sure the Freese accident rose to the level of real news. But it did create a big stir on message boards and Twitter, which I’m sure made the Post-Dispatch rush to get to the bottom of the story. Of course, the first thing people wondered was whether Freese had been drinking, given his past. It turned out there was no real story, though, unless you believe the driving exploits of public figures deserve such close scrutiny. I am not among those who believe that is the case. So had it been left up to me, I would have tried to push the notion that there wasn’t even a story regarding Freese.

* That’s not to say it didn’t need to be checked out. Had Freese been involved in another alcohol-related incident that resulted in the crash it would have been huge news. And who knows what the Cardinals would have done with Freese. But since Freese hadn’t been drinking, and wasn’t injured, the only news is that he, like hundreds of others every year, nearly hit a deer in the road and wrecked his car in the process.

* I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Like I stated at the outset, this is one of those great journalistic debates that come along now and then. I consider myself to be a stringent journalism, but the reporting on this particular story crosses a line for me. And I think it’s this kind of reporting that damages journalistic credibility.

* On to other things:

* Did you see the flare-up near the Morehead State bench by basketball coach Sean Woods? What a disgrace. Woods, who played at Kentucky and is in his first season as Morehead State’s coach, received a one-game suspension from the school Friday. Unless he calms down and controls his emotions, Woods won’t last long. Get a grip, coach.

* Meanwhile, it sure looked to me, watching the video replay, like Detroit defensive lineman Ndomukong Suh swung his foot purposely to make contact with Houston quarterback Matt Schaub, in the groin area, during a play in the Thanksgiving day game between the Lions and Texans. Suh, of course, has a history being a knucklehead. And history is often repeated. The NFL is going to look into the matter. I don’t think it looks good for Suh and if the NFL agrees with me, it’ll be interesting to see what kind of punishment the league hands down to a repeat offender.

* Yes, Detroit coach Jim Schwartz made a mistake in tossing his red flag after the officials failed to see that Houston running back Justin Forsett’s elbow and knee touched the ground before he got back on his feet and ran for what was initially ruled a touchdown. All TDs are automatically reviewed by a replay official upstairs on the press-box level. But if a coach throws a challenge flag, the review is canceled and his team is penalized 15 yards. Schwartz, obviously, got caught up in the moment. OK, so give him a 15-yard penalty. But what sense does it make to allow the wrong call to stand just because the coach forgot a rule? Apparently, the rule was implemented because coaches were throwing the challenge flag so they could use the stoppage in play to converse with officials, sometimes even berating them. But this rule goes way to far, since the stated reason for replay review is to make sure calls on the field are correct. In this case, the call on the field was wrong, yet it was ruled correct because Schwartz committed a wrong that he didn’t know was a wrong. Crazy.

* It’ll be a nice story if Bishop Carroll football coach Alan Schuckman wins his first state championship Saturday afternoon when the Eagles take on Bishop Miege in Emporia for the Class 5A title. Schuckman has been at this a while now and it’s a little surprising that with all of his success a state championship has eluded him. I expect that to change Saturday.

* Black Friday is, in a word, bizarre.

* Non-stop Christmas music makes me crazy. I enjoy a song here and there, but a solid six weeks of the stuff?

* Suddenly, Ebenezer Scrooge has taken over the blog. I apologize. I’m going to put my normal positive spin back on things.

* The NFL obviously works on any day. But it especially works on Thanksgiving day.

* Texas’ loss to TCU in Austin on Thursday night didn’t surprise me. I just haven’t bought Texas all season, not even during its recent five-game winning streak. And I expect Kansas State to beat UT soundly next week in Manhattan and win a Big 12 championship.

* That’s not a bad consolation prize for the Wildcats, by the way. Still, the sting of the Baylor loss has lingered.

* I’m planning a story or column in the near future on the two most damaging Kansas State losses in history, both of which most likely cost the Wildcats a chance to play in national championship games. Which do you think was worst?

* We’re getting a real Christmas tree this year. I thought that to be newsworthy. I’m not sure why. But it’s kind of exciting.

* I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Thanks for checking in on the blog.

 

Memories of a sportswriter

What would I have done with my life had I notdone what I did?

Pardon the carelessness and shoddiness of that sentence, but it’s a question I’ve asked myself many times through the years.

I was almost predestined to do what I do, I believe. My love for sports was so enormous when I was a kid. It was imperative for me to find a line of work that would at least keep my toe in the water of sports. Being a sportswriter has accomplished that goal.

But if this hadn’t worked out, then what?

I have no business sense, at least none of which I’m aware. I keep a mean checkbook and have managed to get close to the grand old age of 60 (can it be?) without sinking into an abyss of debt. So maybe business would have worked out. Perhaps I would be a CEO of a Wall Street company today under different circumstances.

It’s nice to dream.

Law enforcement?

I took a couple of criminal justice classes at Wichita State because this is an interesting field. But at some point I made the decision not to pursue being a cop, even though I have always been fascinated by what they do. I used to go on patrol with police officers occasionally and I always asked to ride with the guys working the third shift in the toughest parts of town. I wanted action. I don’t know how I would have done working security at the mall or writing traffic tickets on East Kellogg.

Chef?

Only one problem. I never learned to cook. But I do watch a food show on television now and again and am amazed by the ability some of these guys have. Cooking for a living might be fun, yes? No?

Something in baseball?

It’s the sport I love the most, you know. And I have always thought I would have made a good manager, coach, general manager, scout, etc. I have always paid attention to the technicalities of baseball. I think I could have made something of myself in the game. But we’ll never know, will we?

Musician?

Pie in the sky, you say? I can carry a tune, I’ve been told. And I do love all kinds of music. But what does it say about me that I never had the gumption to learn to play an instrument? I think it says a lot about me, and none of it is good. You would think that a “music guy” like myself would not have shied away from the work and time it would take to learn to play a guitar, for instance. My life would have been immeasurably enhanced by the ability to play the guitar, yet here I sit without that ability. I’m disgusted with myself.

Architect?

Too much math and science. It’s that fear of those subjects that immediately eliminated me from many well-paying jobs and left me with minimal options. I became intimidated by math at the Algebra level. In science, it was chemistry that did me in. And it wasn’t like I aced biology, either. Building and designing things is a talent I greatly admire, but I’m not even in that discussion.

Attorney?

Somewhere in my youth, ethics and principles became important to me. Which meant I could no longer be a lawyer. Ha ha, that’s a joke for all my attorney friends.

Road construction worker

When I was a small child, I was enamored by road-making equipment such as bulldozers, dump trucks, graders, cranes. Anything that was yellow and used to make or improve roads. I can’t explain my fascination, but my parents used to tell me that I talked all the time about how much I wanted to operate one of those machines and work on roads. So why didn’t I go for it? Because I found out how hard those people work, that’s why? I’m perfectly fine with a “desk job.”

My career, truthfully, landed in my lap. I don’t recall there being a specific day when I said: “I’m going to be a sportswriter.” It just happened because of my love of sports and a realization that I had an aptitude for writing.

Initially, I was determined to become either: A) The radio voice of the St. Louis Cardinals; or, B) The radio voice of the Wichita State Shockers. I took a portable tape recorder to Derby high school basketball and football games and worked on becoming a broadcaster. I wasn’t bad, either. But doors to broadcasting didn’t open. Instead, I landed in newspapers.

I can’t complain, but sometimes I still do. Sorry, I borrowed a Joe Walsh lyric there.

 

Good work if you can get it

If aliens landed on Earth and opened today’s edition of “USA Today” to Page 8C, I think they’d hop right back in their cute little spaceships and fly away, screaming.

And I’m not so sure I wouldn’t want to jump on board with them.

The newspaper came out with its annual list of salaries for major-college football coaches. And if this doesn’t show how out of balance we are as a society, I don’t know what does.

This isn’t a knock on coaches. They have a difficult job and one, usually, that doesn’t last for long. They are required to work long hours, although I’m not sure that’s simply a fall-out from a “Keeping Up With the Jonses” attitude that permeates all across the football

Mack Brown of Texas is the nation’s second-highest paid major college football coach. But he hasn’t raised crystal in a while now.

coaching landscape.

Show me a coach who doesn’t claim to work 14-hour days and I’ll show you the first coach I’ve heard of who doesn’t make that claim.

College coaches help universities make money. Universities need all the money they can get. A successful football program is not only good for the bank account, but for the prestige of a college.

I get all of that. I really do. And I respect coaches.

But Alabama’s Nick Saban makes nearly $5.5 million per year, with an opportunity to haul in another $700,000 in bonuses.

Mack Brown of Texas makes $5.3 million, with another $800,000 on the table. Do they make a table, by the way, that can hold 800 grand?

Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops, Oregon’s Chip Kelly, Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy, South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier, Iowa’s Kirk Farentz, Michigan’s Brady Hoke, LSU’s Les Miles, TCU’s Gary Patterson, Auburn’s Gene Chizik (for a while longer, at least) and Arizona State’s Todd Graham all make $3 million or more.

The average salary for a major college football coach, according to “USA Today,” is $1.64 million.

Considering football coaches apparently don’t have much free time to spend any of that money, it seems exorbitant, doesn’t it?

Am I jealous?

You’re darn right I’m jealous. When I was a kid, nobody told me that someday coaches would be making CEO money. Come to think of it, I doubt that I would have even known as a kid what a CEO was.

Coaching was never on my potential career list. But it should have been.

The lowest paid FBS coach in the country, by the way, is Todd Berry from Louisiana-Monroe. That’s the team, you’ll remember, that opened the 2012 season with a shocking upset over then-No. 8 Arkansas, 34-31 in overtime. Since that win, Monroe is just 6-4. Berry, by the way, is making only $250,000 per year.

Only.

Saban pays that to have his shoes shined.

Kansas State’s Bill Snyder, by the way, is making $2.2 million, an out-and-out bargain when compared to the salaries of the highest-paid coaches. And Kansas’ Charlie Weis is making $2.5 million. I’ll let you discuss how Weis, 1-10 at Kansas, can be making more than Snyder. It’s pretty obvious how that discussion will go.

In its story on football coaching salaries, “USA Today” points out that just six years ago, 42 coaches were making at least $1 million a year. Now, 42 are making at least $2 million. Salaries are up 12 percent since last season and more than 70 percent since 2006, which is when the newspaper began tracking coaches’ compensation.

Isn’t this crazy? Or am I crazy for thinking this is crazy? Either way, something is crazy here.

“Coaches’ pay has even outpaced the pay of corporate executives, who have drawn the ire of Congress and the public because of their staggering compensation packages,” the newspaper reports. “Between 2007 and 2011, CEO pay – including salary, stock, options, bonuses and other pay – rose 23 percent, according to Equilar, an executive compensation data firm. In that same period, coaches’ pay increased 44 percent.”

Kind of makes that 1.5 percent raise you got at the factor this year seem inconsequential, huh?

Shrinking state education budgets have caused many public schools to tighten their belts when it comes to spending. For everything, apparently, other than the football coaches.

The paper points out that former Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables, a Salina native who moved from Oklahoma to Clemson after the 2011 season, doubled his salary in the process, to $800,000.

“It’s embarrassing to a certain degree,” Venables said.

More power to these guys, I suppose. In a struggling economy, with bleak employment news everywhere you turn, coaches have managed to perpetually strike gold. At the blackjack table of life, they keep drawing 21.

But we accept it as the American way. Who am I to rain on the torrential downpour of money that is given to college football coaches? More power to them. You guys are the best. A little help here?

 

 

Why did K-State lose?

I’m not sure the shock ofKansas State’s 52-24 loss to Baylor on Saturday night in Waco, Texas, has worn off for K-Staters yet. I’m not sure it will.

Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder could only stand and watch, disgustingly, as Baylor had its way with the Wildcats, 52-24, in Waco, Texas, on Saturday night.

I watched every snap of the game and couldn’t believe what was happening. My thought was that Baylor would score points against the K-State defense. I predicted 35. But the way the Bears did it – utilizing an improving and dangerous running game – surprised me. And I thought the Kansas State offense would win by outscoring Baylor. That didn’t happen, did it? In fact, the Wildcats’ offense was stuck for much of the game.

So how did this strange turn of events come about?

I’m going to give most of the credit to Baylor’s running game and to the growing diversity of the Bears’ offense.

Through Baylor’s first seven games, the passing yardage more than doubled the rushing yardage – 2,780 to 1,216. The Bears were having some success on the ground, but it was clear that their coach, Art Briles, wanted to sling the ball through the air.

In the past three games, though, Baylor has rushed for 893 yards while passing for just 777. There have been 11 rushing touchdowns compared to eight through the air. Baylor quarterback Nick Florence is still a dangerous weapon. But the Bears are a different offense since the emergence of Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin, who combined to gain 298 yards on 38 carries against Kansas State.

K-State hadn’t allowed two 100-plus-yard rushers in the same game since 2010, when Taylor Martinez (241) and Roy Helu Jr. (110) both went into triple digits for Nebraska in a Huskers blowout win. K-State had allowed only one 100-yard rusher – Kansas’ James Sims – this season before the Baylor double-whammy.

A Kansas State defense that had held up so well against the run all season collapsed against the pressure of Baylor’s hurry-up offense. Clearly, the Bears wore down K-State by plugging away with one quick hit after another.

But Baylor’s success running the football was just a part of the 28-point blowout.

Kansas State has stopped running the ball, at least effectively.

In the past two games, against TCU and Baylor, the Wildcats have averaged only 95.5 rushing yards per game. Through the first nine games, K-State averaged nearly 225 yards rushing.

And then there’s the play of senior quarterback Collin Klein, who is still in the discussion – as he should be – for the Heisman Trophy.

But Klein clearly has not been the same quarterback in games against TCU and Baylor, in which he has been intercepted four times and sacked five times. In the previous nine games, Klein threw only two interceptions and was sacked just seven times.

Klein has suffered his two lowest efficiency-rating performances the past two weeks. Protected so well by his offensive line for much of the season, Klein has beenĀ  under siege by TCU and Baylor. K-State’s line play has deteriorated sharply and Klein has not thrown the ball with as much zip since leaving the Oklahoma State game with an undisclosed injury in the third quarter.

Outside of a nifty 34-yard touchdown run in the third quarter of the TCU game, Klein hasn’t been as effective running the football, either.

And, of course, Kansas State has been bitten by the injury bug after remaining relatively healthy through the first eight or nine games of the season. We’re not sure how much injuries are a factor in Klein’s so-so performances the past couple of weeks. One of his favorite receiving targets, Tyler Lockett, was nowhere near full speed for the Baylor game. And something might be wrong with running back John Hubert, who has given way to Angelo Pease often in the past three weeks.

Defensively, injuries to Tre Walker and Ty Zimmerman have been difficult while a few other K-State players try to play through the pain as the Wildcats’ lack of depth is exposed.

But injuries don’t sufficiently explain the way Baylor manhandled Kansas State. That was a thorough beating of what looked like a team that had hit a wall. Perhaps playing with the pressure of an unbeaten season and a potential place in college football’s national championship game got to Kansas State.

What we know got to Kansas State, though, was an impressive Baylor team that played with a chip on its shoulder and without fear. The Bears were loosey-goosey and reveled in the opportunity.

Thanks for reading. I hope your Thanksgiving week is a great one.

 

Kansas State collapses

Kansas State had nothing Saturday night. Not a defense, not an offense, not a coaching staff that was capable of stemming a tide of Baylor offense that completely overwhelmed the Wildcats in a 52-24 Bears win.

Bill Snyder, the coach with all the answers, drew a series of blanks.

Collin Klein, the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, had his worst game as K-State’s quarterback.

Not one Kansas State defensive player stepped up.

Baylor took it to the Wildcats from the opening kickoff. Had it not been for a couple of terrible interceptions thrown by Baylor quarterback Nick Florence, the score would have been more one-sided.

It was the Bears’ unsung rushing game and previously non-existent pass rush that made the difference.

Sophomore Lache Seastrunk and junior Glasco Martin combined for 298 yards on the ground and four touchdowns. Florence added 47 yards and a rushing TD of his own. Whenever the Bears needed yards, it was the running game that usually provided them.

Kansas State looked gassed, perhaps from the mental drain of a perfect season or from immediately getting banged over the head by a Baylor team that looked confident and equipped to pull off a shocking upset from the get-go.

Kansas State had avoided a letdown in previous games, but it’s so hard to play A or even B games every week. But nobody saw an F game coming, and that’s what the Wildcats had against Baylor, statistically the worst defensive team in the country.

Give former Kansas State defensive coordinator Phil Bennett a lot of credit for taking his former team out of the national-championship picture. Bennett, now Baylor’s D-coordinator, through everything at Klein and a lot of it worked. The Bears’ pass rush was intense and successful and it helped force Klein into three interceptions.

I would have loved to see Snyder get to a national championship game. He came close in 1998, only to watch his K-State team fumble away an opportunity to beat Texas A&M in the Big 12 championship game in St. Louis.

Snyder is one of the greatest college football coaches in history. Saturday’s loss doesn’t change that.

But the loss did dramatically change the dynamics of a season that looked like it would finally give Snyder the grand stage he so deserves.

The shock of Saturday night’s loss will stay fresh for a long time.

Some national “experts” will claim that Kansas State was finally exposed. Others will point out that the Sports Illustrated Curse got to the Wildcats. That’s complete hogwash, of course. At least I think it is. Right? It is?

Whatever the reason, Kansas State looked like a different team against Baylor. Klein looked like a different quarterback. Arthur Brown looked like a different linebacker.

And Snyder looked like a different coach.

That’s what a 52-24 beat-down does to a team on the wrong end of the score. It’s the way Kansas State has left many of its opponents this season.

But every week of the college football season is full of mystery and intrigue. Good teams lose and struggling teams win.

It points out once again just how difficult it is to go 12-0. Only Notre Dame and Ohio State are still perfect. And the Buckeyes aren’t eligible for postseason play.

If Kansas State beats Texas on Dec. 1 in Manhattan, the Wildcats will probably still play in a BCS bowl. But it’ll going to feel like a consolation prize because of one inexplicable night in Waco.