Archive for Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Chinstraps and mouthpieces: Gridiron slate needs complete rivalry week

December 29, 2004

All is well in the Sunflower State in the world of men's college basketball.

Wichita State, Kansas State and Kansas all still are undefeated.

Actually, it feels like a flashback. Maybe somewhere around 1987 when all three teams were fielding strong teams. Eddie Fogler was at WSU, Lon Kruger at K-State and Larry Brown at Kansas. That's a pretty good list of coaches.

But in recent years, that success across the board has shifted to the Crimson and Blue. Under former Jayhawk Mark Turgeon, Wichita State has experienced a turnaround in recent seasons.

But a 7-0 start in the state's largest city certainly is a renewed concept.

And in Manhattan, a college town that once was beaming with basketball tradition, fans are a little confused.

The men's basketball team has the best record of any of its teams. And instead of making travel plans to a bowl game, Wildcat fans are looking to catch the men's basketball team during the winter break.

Yes, it definitely feels like the late 1980s.

It was then that both K-State and KU routinely couldn't muster enough wins to be considered for a bowl game. As for Wichita State, the Shockers were dealing with life after football as WSU dropped its gridiron program in 1986 -- when current athletics director Lew Perkins was the AD at Wichita State.

This fall, WSU still only uses Cessna Stadium for track, and KU and K-State had losing records.

But don't worry. It doesn't appear that the dark years of the '80s for the Jayhawks and Wildcats are returning. K-State, after all, now has that strong tradition which won't allow back-to-back losing seasons. And workaholic Bill Snyder won't be taking it easy during the offseason. It is hoped that he's getting at least one hour of sleep a night.

And in Lawrence, spirits are high that next year's team should put together a breakthrough year.

But no matter what the records are, why can't the Big 12 schedule-makers give the two teams a rivalry match-up during the last weekend of the season?

Texas and Texas A&M always play Thanksgiving weekend.

And Kansas and Missouri used to play the oldest rivalry west of the Mississippi River in the season finale for both teams. This year, the two squads played each other in the season finale for the first time in a few years, but that won't happen again until possibly 2008.

The Big 12 released conference schedules for the next three years. Mizzou and KU won't be playing in the last game any of those upcoming seasons.

KU and K-State will meet in the season finale in 2006, which should provide some excitement. But as great as that sounds, wouldn't a Nebraska-Kansas State game be better?

Of course not, Nebraska has to play its "big rival" Colorado during the traditional slot of Thanksgiving weekend. The two schools certainly have built a rivalry in recent years, but the Nebraska-KSU rivalry has festered ever since Bill Snyder turned the Wildcats into a power.

In 2005 and 2007, Kansas will meet Iowa State in the season finale. K-State, meanwhile, will play Missouri during those years. Those aren't bad match-ups, but having better bitter rivals would be a good thing.

Finalizing conference schedules for the next three years likely isn't an easy task.

But seeing Mizzou take on KU or Nebraska play K-State sure would be a good thing.

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