Something Strangely Familiar In Kansas

The Wheat State is getting ready for a different championship team

College Football Preview: Week 12

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> B.J.: Jayhawks Beware  |  Amsinger: Weekly Picks  |  Sorenson: 10 Qs  |   Braff: SEC-Big 12 Debate
> Trev: Dixon Can Only Be Contained  |  Coach of the Year   |  Hart: Guarantees and Gestures
> Blackburn: Something Strangely Familiar In Kansas  |  Roland: Get Set For Stabilizing Saturday
> Caparell: Georgia In The Know  |  Palm: BCS Stretch Run  |  Crystal Ball: Weekend Predictions

Nov. 15, 2007

By Carter Blackburn

Special to



Carter Blackburn covers various sports for CSTV and writes frequently for
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There is a certain familiarity to November in Kansas - the harvesting of the fields in the Wheat State, leaves turning on the Kaw River and talk of the Jayhawks' chances of a national championship. 


All is right in the land of Sunflower again this year, except that that fast-breaking championship contender is on the 100-yard field instead of the 96-foot court. If you've pointed your browser to lately, this probably doesn't come as a surprise to you.


It is, however, coming as a surprise to residents of Kansas. A phone call by this reporter to the legendary Brookville Hotel in Abilene, Kansas resulted in the following exchange with the front desk clerk, who was understandably unwilling to provide her name after this response:




Me: "Can you name the football coach at KU?"


Clerk: "Of the Jayhawks? Oh, I don't know. I'm a girl. Can I ask somebody else here? Another girl? 


Me: "Sure."


Clerk: "(Aside to another girl, presumably) Who's the Jayhawk coach? Bill Self? (To me) Bill Self."


Me: "You got it right."


Another person who answered the phone at a Kansas eatery who asked not to be identified answered the question, "Can you name the football coach at KU?" with "Mangino, the picture of health." Considering this refectory is known for its loose meat sandwiches that picture of health may be a bit blurred.


Frank Schloegel, owner of Woodyard Bar-B-Que on the Kansas side of Kansas City, answered, "Big guy, can't think of his name. We were just telling jokes about him the other day. He's big, but he might be the biggest and the best."


The correct answer to the question is, of course, Mark Mangino


In a state reared on Fogg Allen and Wilt Chamberlain, the concept of a national championship in football is slowly dawning. Then again, the last time KU football was 10-0 Abdul Hamid II was Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. Really. The year was 1899 and U.S. President William McKinley was two years from being assassinated.


Kansas is third in the latest BCS standings with two games remaining in the regular season and a possible third game in the Big 12 Championship. If the Jayhawks remain undefeated through that test, they could either play for their first national title, or remain third in the standings and settle for the consolation prize of their first major bowl since 1969.


Other coaches in similar situations have attempted to talk their teams in to a higher ranking in the polls (see Mack Brown, 2004). For reasons apparently not related to the McKinley incident, Mangino is uneager to challenge Clinton, Obama, Guliani or any other candidate this November or next. 


"The reason why we're 10-0 right now is because our players and coaches have focused on the task at hand," Mangino said. "If I spend my time politicking, that's going to take me away from the preparation for our players for each game."


This week, that means Iowa State. A win over the Cyclones and Kansas still faces a row of top-ranked BCS foes in their potential schedule: 5th-ranked ranked Missouri, No. 4 Oklahoma and whoever is ranked 1 or 2 for the BCS title game in New Orleans.


A pre-season unranked Kansas team that won all of three conference games a year ago capturing the national championship? That's something Aaron Webber from Wayne & Larry's Sports Bar & Grill in Lawrence never expected. 


"Oh, no way. At this point you're (usually) basically focused on the basketball season and trying to forget about KU football," Webber explained.


But it's now roundball that is put on hold in this, the most unlikely year of Rock Chalk BCS Talk. And if Mark Mangino can lead the newly-founded KU football nation to the seemingly impossible promised land of the BCS National Title game in New Orleans, Webber will be among those Kansans along for the ride.


"Are you kidding me?" Webber queried. "I'd probably be having so much fun, I'd forget how much fun I was having prior to halftime."


And if it doesn't work out, word has it Bill Self's team should be pretty good this year.