Category Archives: Sports

Obama gives up on picking KU

President Obama heeded the plea of University of Kansas coach Bill Self and didn’t pick KU to win it all, instead predicting an NCAA men’s championship game in which North Carolina defeats Kentucky. Obama accurately picked North Carolina in 2009, but wrongly called it for the Jayhawks in 2010 and 2011. “They broke my heart each year,” he told ESPN. The Hill newspaper noted that the president’s “selections heavily favor states that are likely to be in play during his re-election bid.” Plus, the Democratic National Convention will be held in Charlotte. The president had Wichita State and Kansas State losing in the first and second rounds, respectively, and the Tar Heels ousting Kansas in the Elite Eight.

Hope for a WSU-KSU matchup at downtown arena?

Former Wichita state Rep. Todd Novascone used to introduce a bill each legislative session that would require the University of Kansas and Kansas State University to play Wichita State University. Last week state Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, raised the issue with K-State president Kirk Schulz when he appeared before her Senate Ways and Means Committee. “I was just curious when you will be scheduling Wichita State to play Kansas State,” McGinn said. Schulz said that such as game would “be a terrific thing” but that his athletic director and basketball coach “would rather play Alcorn State than Wichita State.” McGinn said that the game would be good for the state and noted that Intrust Bank Arena would be an ideal venue. Schulz responded that the arena was a great environment when K-State played West Virginia there in December. “We want to make sure that we’re back in Wichita,” he said.

Was Chrysler ad political?

Who would have thought that a positive television advertisement about pulling together to overcome adversity would be so controversial? But some GOP operatives are complaining that the ad by Chrysler during the Super Bowl was political payback to President Obama for bailing out auto companies. “It is a sign of what happens when you have Chicago-style politics, and the president of the United States and his political minions are, in essence, using our tax dollars to buy corporate advertising,” former Bush administration political adviser Karl Rove said on Fox News. But actor Clint Eastwood, who narrated and appeared in the commercial, said that the ad wasn’t about Obama. “It was meant to be a message about job growth and the spirit of America,” Eastwood said. “ I think all politicians will agree with it.” Or they should.

Does God care who wins a football game?

The fact that God didn’t help Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow (in photo) defeat the New England Patriots in Saturday’s NFL playoff game was no surprise to former NFL quarterback Fran Tarkenton. “I never understood why God would care who won a game between my team and another,” he wrote in the Wall Street Journal, adding that there are far more important things going on in the world. That said, Tarkenton found it refreshing that the chatter around the NFL has been about a great athlete with great character and “not about more arrests and bad behavior from our presumptive ‘heroes.’”

Golf course proposal is reasonable

Good for the Wichita Park Board for listening to the public and proposing a way to keep all of the city’s golf courses open. City Manager Robert Layton had recommended that the city close one of the courses because of declining usage and trouble servicing the debt on the Auburn Hills Golf Course. But the park board recommended last week that the city raise greens fees slightly, delay some capital improvement projects at the courses, and do a better job marketing the courses. The plan is a reasonable alternative that is supported by golfers. Well played.

Universities must reclaim athletic departments

The Penn State scandal and the realignment of athletic conferences are more evidence of “the athletic departments being the tail that wags the university dog,” former Kansas congressman Bill Roy wrote. He noted how the University of Kansas and Kansas State University have had their own recent scandals. “When a disgraced athletic director (at KU) can walk away with a $4 million ‘retention bonus’ before his term of service expired and following a tenure of negligent administration, something is badly wrong,” Roy wrote. “When an interim athletic director (at K-State) can, in near-secrecy, write a revised coaching contract with an increased severance clause – which paid off in millions when said coach was fired two months later – there is something wrong.” Dr. Roy’s prescription: “Universities and their boards of regents must reclaim their athletic departments. And national accrediting bodies and state legislatures must make darn sure they do.”

Some unanimity amid rivalry

Turns out there is something that most Kansans agree on, whether they bleed purple or blue: 75 percent of those polled last week by SurveyUSA for KWCH, Channel 12, said it was important that Kansas State University and the University of Kansas remain in the same conference. The percentages were even higher for those who’d attended either KU (84 percent), K-State (79 percent) or both schools (96 percent). Despite the inanity of the ongoing conference realignment, 96 percent said that athletics are a plus for universities.

Sebelius clings to her net mementos

The Huffington Post asked 12 “highly successful” women what “five things they keep nearby to help them get the job done.” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ items included family photos, a framed pen used by President Obama to sign the health care act, a sign from a great-aunt reading “It Can Be Done,” and something of particular interest to people in Kansas, where Sebelius was governor from 2003 to 2009: “Pieces of the Big 12 net, the regional championship net and the national championship net, sent to me by coach Bill Self after the Kansas Jayhawks won the NCAA Men’s Championship in 2008.”

Wambach for president

“Republicans are said to be unhappy with their slate of presidential candidates, so here’s a suggestion: Why not draft Abby Wambach?” a Wall Street Journal editorial asked. The striker for the U.S. women’s soccer team headed the tying goal Sunday in the final moments of the World Cup quarterfinal match against Brazil, which the U.S. went on to win on penalty kicks. “The strict constructionists will say you have to be 35 to be president,” the editorial noted (Wambach is 31), “but in this case we’re willing to support a constitutional amendment.”

Intrust Bank Arena realizing hoop dreams

Fresh off its impressive performance hosting the NCAA women’s tournament, Intrust Bank Arena has booked a Dec. 8 game between the men of Kansas State University and West Virginia University, pitting current KSU coach Frank Martin against predecessor Bob Huggins. What’s more, the University of Kansas and University of Southern California men are working on plans to play a December game at Wichita’s year-old downtown arena. These are just the kind of contests, with big-name teams and significant regional drawing power, that arena proponents dreamed of all along.

So they said

“Tiahrt is, in simple terms, nuts.” — Joe Vince, a retired ATF agent and critic of the Tiahrt amendment restricting release of gun-trace data, on Minnesota Public Radio

“It is amazing what people will say when they want to make money off the violation of Americans’ privacy.” — former 4th District congressman Todd Tiahrt, in an online commentary in response

“Can’t say it enough, so why not on Senate floor? Congrats @WichitaState Shockers on NIT Victory!” — Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., on Twitter

Shocker fever

It’s the end of March, and a Kansas school is playing for a national basketball title. And it’s Wichita State University, not the University of Kansas. Be honest — how many people predicted that? Still, the Shockers’ success in reaching tonight’s championship game of the National Invitation Tournament isn’t too surprising. After all, they’ve won 28 games this year, and two of their defeats were close losses to the University of Connecticut and Virginia Commonwealth University, two teams in this year’s NCAA Final Four.

A national gem of a ballpark

Lawrence-Dumont Stadium in Wichita was named the fourth-best minor league baseball stadium by The website praised the stadium, built in 1934, for its “interesting blend of old and new,” citing its manual scoreboard that features a goose laying an egg whenever the opposing team does not score. The website noted that the ballpark was one of the few that featured a natural grass outfield with an artificial turf infield — though that is changing as part of a $2 million renovation project that is placing artificial turf over the entire field. The top-rated stadium was Whataburger Field in Corpus Christi, Texas.

So they said

“I picked Kansas last year to win it, and I got hurt.” — President Obama, who nevertheless again predicted this year that the KU Jayhawks would win it all (“I’m giving them a chance at redemption”)

“He picked the Kansas Jayhawks to win, while I’m holding out for the Kansas State Wildcats to clench the title. And I sure hope he would find time to present a serious budget proposal long before the championship game.” — Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, on Obama’s bracket

“Carbon dioxide is a basic building block of our existence. Regulating that is the height of arrogance.” — Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, as 30 Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted against amendments acknowledging the scientific consensus around climate change

“Met with Bono today. What do an Irish Rock Star and a Kansas country fan have in common: how to feed our troubled and hungry world.” — Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., on Twitter on Tuesday

Royals pitcher does ‘right thing,’ gives up $12 million

Former Kansas City Royals pitcher Gil Meche is a rarity in professional sports. His contract guaranteed him a $12 million salary this year, even though he was too injured to be a starting pitcher. But Meche didn’t feel right about being paid when he couldn’t play, so he retired, freeing the Royals from the contract. “When I signed my contract, my main goal was to earn it,” he told the New York Times. “Once I started to realize I wasn’t earning my money, I felt bad. I was making a crazy amount of money for not even pitching. Honestly, I didn’t feel like I deserved it. I didn’t want to have those feelings again.” No doubt the decision to retire was made easier by the $40 million the Royals have paid Meche over the past four years. But it would have been even easier to take the additional $12 million he was due. He didn’t, saying, “it just wasn’t the right thing to do.”

KU ticket scandal got worse

jayhawkIt was difficult to imagine that the University of Kansas athletic ticket scandal could get worse for the university — but then it did. The person KU put in charge of restoring integrity to the sports ticket office was accused last week of being part of the scheme to steal and resell tickets to football and basketball games. A federal grand jury indicted Kassie Liebsch, KU’s director of ticket operations. Also indicted were the former director of ticket operations; that person’s husband, who was a former department consultant; the former Williams Educational Fund director; and the former head of fundraising. Two other former employees have pleaded guilty and are cooperating with authorities. To its credit, KU is trying to clean up the mess — including by pushing out former athletic director Lew Perkins. But Liebsch’s indictment was another black eye.

Perkins needed to go

perkinsLewIt’s hard to stomach that University of Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins still will be paid about $2 million, even though he retired this week, a year earlier than planned. But it likely is best that KU did what it had to do to move out Perkins. Though he had some impressive accomplishments, particularly in upgrading athletic facilities, Perkins lost credibility in the past year with a ticket-selling scandal and a report of extravagant travel expenses. As Eagle sports columnist Bob Lutz wrote, “Perkins sat on top of a kingdom for a while at KU, but as king he became sloppy and arrogant.” He needed to go.

Support NBC World Series

nbctourneyHeat is part of the proud tradition of the National Baseball Congress World Series and baseball itself, so the recent record highs need not be a deterrent to attending the 2010 tournament at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium through Aug. 13, including the fabled Baseball ’Round the Clock action today through Sunday. But sometimes it seems as if the NBC World Series is better appreciated outside its host city. “For two weeks every August, some of the nation’s best college and amateur players come to compete in front of equally dedicated, knowledgeable and rabid spectators,” wrote ESPN’s Daniel Dodd in an ode to the “quirky” tournament’s 17 games in 56 hours. The games put Wichita in sports headlines from North Carolina to Alaska. As they do, it would be nice to see more locals in the stadium seats.

KU’s slipshod ticketing

jayhawkAs two former University of Kansas athletic officials pleaded guilty this week in federal court in Wichita in the million-dollar ticket skimming scandal, one detail confirmed how lax things were at the ticket operation. Then-assistant director of ticket operations Jason Jeffries reportedly was able to set aside as many as 56 tickets a year for his own benefit and conceal the thefts by erasing information from a dry-erase board. It’s shocking that such a top-ranked, well-funded program could get away with a slipshod system in which perhaps 19,000 tickets could be misused.

Wrestlers are returning

wrestlingintrustIt’s great that the Hartman Arena will host next year’s state high school Class 6A and 5A wrestling tournaments. Though it would have been nice if Intrust Bank Arena had continued to host the tournaments, the Hartman Arena was a better fit, both in size and cost. And the priority was keeping the tournament in the area, not the specific venue. Congratulations to all involved in securing the tournaments.

But could U.S. top the vuvuzela?

APTOPIX South Africa Soccer WCup US AlgeriaKansas Sens. Pat Roberts and Sam Brownback were among the 26 signers of a bipartisan letter trying to persuade FIFA president Sepp Blatter to let America to host the World Cup in 2018 or 2022, touting the nation’s “diverse population” of soccer-crazy immigrants. The United States last hosted the World Cup in 1994. One reader’s response on a blog posting on the Hill newspaper: “I hope they don’t hold it in Arizona.”

Pro-con: Will soccer ever attract crowds in U.S.?

APTOPIX South Africa Soccer WCup US AlgeriaEvery four years, as the global ritual of the World Cup begins, we go through our own national ritual: debating the place of soccer in our culture. More than any other sport, soccer polarizes this country. Many love it, and hope the World Cup will finally persuade others to as well. Others criticize it for being boring, too theatrical, unfair, even un-American. This year’s games have already garnered larger audiences than previous men’s World Cups, with audiences treated to all that makes soccer both exhilarating and frustrating. Though it garners less attention and money than other sports, millions in the United States are already passionate about, and conversant in, the language of soccer. In fact, it may well be the most widely played sport in the country. And the United States is the center of global women’s soccer, with the best women’s players in the world coming here to play. The culture of soccer is here, and it’s only going to grow. — Laurent Dubois, Duke University

Can soccer make it in America? Three reasons suggest not. Soccer in America is an educational tool that most students outgrow once they leave school behind. In Europe, soccer unleashes exuberant passions, but in America, soccer teaches you how to run around without running into anyone or leaving anybody behind. Soccer is egalitarian extremism: Everyone gets a trophy, and nobody scores enough to justify gloating over anyone else. Most Americans do not see the benefits of going into a battle with your hands tied behind your back. Every sport has rules, but denying your own best attributes before you even begin playing is going a bit too far. Most fundamentally, there is the problem with scoring. Most Americans find it hard to enjoy the expenditure of so much energy without much to show for it. — Stephen H. Webb, Wabash College

Pols powerless to keep Big 12 whole

big12As they used their bully pulpits to try to stand against the Big 12’s crack-up, Sens. Pat Roberts and Sam Brownback and Gov. Mark Parkinson were among the pols “looking like a pretty helpless lot,” wrote Kansas City Star columnist Steve Kraske. At least the senators stopped short of calling for congressional probes and action. “Congress has never had much success when it comes to sports. Lawmakers tried to regulate boxing and ban steroids in baseball and solve the conundrum of the college football national championship. All those efforts fell flat. The same thing probably would have happened with the Big 12 fiasco,” Kraske wrote.

Big 12 on the brink

big12The uproar over whether the Big 12 is about to disintegrate has been a bit much, such as when Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., suggested that “beyond football, beyond academics, it’s about family.” The reality is that “conference realignment,” like everything else related to college athletics, is about money and prestige. With the pressure to win and cash in so great, tradition is for losers. The awkward thing for the University of Kansas and Kansas State University is that they seem to be uninvited onlookers powerless to stop or get in on the high-stakes speed-dating. If their conference breaks up around them, KU and KSU will survive and find new digs. But they deserve better.

KU’s reputation needs rehab

jayhawkFirst came the revelations about University of Kansas athletics insiders’ ticket-skimming scam. Then the news of a blackmail attempt against athletic director Lew Perkins related to exercise equipment on “loan” to him. Whatever Perkins’ future, KU will have some work to do to rebuild trust in the state. As outgoing Kansas Board of Regents chairwoman Jill Docking of Wichita told the Lawrence Journal-World, “It’s going to take a full frontal assault on the part of Lew and the chancellor to address these issues, because of the anger that’s out there. It’s going to take more than a press conference, I do know that. It’s going to take a grassroots campaign in every community of the state, so that people can vent their frustration and anger, and so they can have their concerns addressed.”