Kansas loses to rival Kansas State over Thanksgiving break

Most of the Kansas fans were gone by the time it was all over. The 2013 season came to an end for the Jayhawks with a 31-10 loss to Kansas State as the majority of those left in the Memorial Stadium stands wore purple, surrounded by empty bleachers. 


The Jayhawks gave up three touchdowns in the first half, and though they were down 21-0 in the second quarter, Charlie Weis felt like the game was getting away from his team.


Six turnovers cost Kansas any chance it might of had at making the comeback.


“Turnovers – you get down 21-0 and everyone is waiting for us to throw in the towel and we got it back to 21-10. Then we turn it over a couple times in the third quarter. That kind of put the game away for them,” Weis said.


At the start of the second half, Kansas had the momentum. The second fumble of the day for senior running back James Sims gave it away. The next drive, an interception thrown by junior Jake Heaps. Then two more Heaps interceptions.


It was four straight Jayhawk drives ending in turnovers. 


The Jayhawk defense settled in after allowing an early flurry of points. Weis said after the game that he felt like the defense eventually gave the team a chance to fight back.


“When you turn it over a hundred times, the chance you have to come back in a game like that goes out the window,” Weis said.


But it was more than just turnovers. It was the nature of them.


“Turnovers are part of the game, it was how they all just packaged together,” Weis said. “Turnovers are the thing that change the game more than any other element in football. It either stops drives, or it sets them up. And this game it did both.”


Weis will give his team one day to sulk before moving forward to the 2014 season. 


As the rest of the team prepares for next season, 23 seniors played their last game on Saturday.


“We gave it our all,” senior safety Dexter Linton said, “we worked hard and we did everything we could for the program throughout all the losses. We were resilient and never gave up.”


Weis had a long conversation in the locker room after the game to say goodbye to the seniors, but preferred to keep that conversation private. 


“But I always talk about life. I’m a lot bigger than football. There’s a lot of things that you learn being part of a team,” Weis said.

The seniors that will leave the program after this season will do so without ever having defeated Kansas State, or playing in a bowl game.


They have few wins on their record, but there are lessons they say they will take away from their time at Kansas.


“Persevere through anything; we’ve had ups and downs throughout my career, specifically this year and if you keep persevering and keep working things will work out for you,” senior offensive lineman Gavin Howard said.


Weis will hit the road on Sunday to begin his offseason recruiting, marking the beginning of a new season. 


After two years at Kansas, Weis has won four games. It was too soon for him, after the game to say how the program has progressed in that time. 


Family fights record-breaking crowds at Late Night in the Phog

Fourteen-year-old Troop Holden stood at the northeast doors of Allen Fieldhouse. A hoard of Jayhawk fans crowded the entrance around him, disappointment on their faces.

It was 6:30 p.m., time for the event to begin, and these were the unlucky souls who were left out in the unseasonably warm Lawrence air. Troop’s father, mother and younger brother were left standing outside the doors.

Troop was the only one who had made it in when the doors were opened and the crowd rushed forward. Now he was beginning to get emotional as he realized that the only way for him to watch the event was without his family members.

But the Holden family had caught the attention of one of the workers at the door.

“I think whoever was working here at KU kind of felt sorry for us,” Steven Holden, Troop’s father, said.

Many of the fans outside had waited all day to enter those doors, but by now the hope had faded to defeat. Thousands of people waiting would not get in.

The Holden family had driven from Edmund, Okla., the hometown of Bill Self. It was the fourth time the family had made the trip to see Late Night in the Phog. The first was in 2008, following Mario’s Miracle.

Steven’s father, and Troop’s grandfather, Duke Holden, played football at Kansas from 1958 to 1960. Steven was born at an on-campus infirmary, while his parents lived at Jayhawker Towers. The family has remained loyal to the Jayhawks ever since.

Now it seemed Steven had made the four and a half hour drive up I-35 with his family just to stand outside in the rain.

The family made it to Allen Fieldhouse at noon, looked at the line in front of them and thought they had a good chance to make it inside. Troop was determined to be in the seats to see Andrew Wiggins in his first appearance at Allen Fieldhouse.

So, of course, the family would be in Lawrence for Late Night this year. But the time had come when Steven had realized he made the drive just to be turned away at the doors. At least Troop had made it, he thought.

University officials estimated that as many as 3,000 to 5,000 people in line had not made it in.

“We knew that it was going to be a packed house,” said Jim Marchiony, associate athletics director for public affairs. “And we knew there were going to be some people that would not get in. It’s good news, bad news. It’s great to know that Kansas basketball and Kansas athletics are so popular, and it’s great to have a full house. The bad news is some people couldn’t get in.”

The crowd that had waited for most of the day to be in the Phog gave a roar as Bill Self took the court. When Self arrived at Allen Fieldhouse at 9:30 that morning he could already see the line of fans growing.

“How many places in America do 25,000 people wait to get into a building that holds 16,000,” Self said to the fans.

The crowd responded with a wild cheer.

About an hour or so earlier, as the crowd at the doors began to head home, the Holden family had been directed toward an open door, one that few people would even know leads into Allen Fieldhouse.

Troop, wearing a backward Kansas basketball hat and a Late Night T-shirt from a few years ago, hurried eagerly to meet his family. His younger brother, wearing a Paul Pierce retro jersey, peered through the darkened glass of the window, jumping back excitedly as he saw Troop appear alongside a man wearing an all-access pass.

The three of them entered the student athlete center reuniting with Troop as Steven looked around in disbelief. Troop’s mother snapped pictures with the camera that hung around her neck, as they walked down a hallway, past some offices, into a room and down another hallway while Steven pointed out signed posters and replica basketball courts to his boys.

Finally they were walking past the Kansas locker room into the Fieldhouse with huge grins and relief on their faces as they gazed at the scene of Late Night in the Phog.

The Holden family sat in the first row behind the north basket, screaming and clapping as enthusiastically as anyone in the building. A helpful hand had turned their disheartening trip into a night of bliss.

“I was glad they let us come in, because of how long we had been standing here and how upsetting it would have been to drive all this way and get turned away,” Steven Holden said.

Steven hopes that some changes can be made in how fans are let in. Next year, he doesn’t plan on making the drive and waiting in line if he knows it will end up just being a rush for the doors in the end. He knows his family was lucky this time.


Returning home helps Justin McCay find his way back to the football field

As often as he can, Justin McCay climbs into his Ford Escape and makes the 45-minute drive back home, to Kansas City, Mo.

He usually stops along the way and grabs two cups of ice cream before getting back into the car and driving the rest of the way.

Two little girls, six and nine years old, patiently await his arrival.

“Every time I get a day off I’m there. I drive there and come back when I want to see my little sisters,” McCay said.

It’s been much easier in the past year for McCay to visit them while living in Lawrence. There were not many opportunities for family time while he was at Oklahoma. It’s part of the reason he decided to transfer to Kansas.

Friends say that when McCay is in town he often makes the rounds to see everybody with his sisters tagging along in the back seat.

“He loves those little girls,” Jon Holmes, McCay’s coach at Bishop Miege High School said.

Holmes remembers Justin talking with his father Robert McCay after every game during his high school years. It wasn’t easy for Robert to make it to games as he suffered with diabetes.

In May of Justin’s junior year, Robert died from his battle with the disease.

That event shaped Justin’s life more than any other.

His father was the one he asked for permission to play football when he was 8 years old, though it was just flag football at first. Robert, who played basketball at Rust College in Mississippi, allowed it.

“Ever since he said I could play football I’ve loved it,” McCay said.

Robert saw how much his son enjoyed the game and gave him some advice; if he really loved playing football, he should play the game with all of his heart.

“Like my dad always said, ‘if you go in halfhearted to something, you don’t love it,’” McCay said.

It’s difficult to lose a parent at any age, but the year before college is crucial for most young people. It’s a time that determines the direction of a person’s life and the man that McCay most leaned on for advice wasn’t there.

McCay relied on friends to help him through that. One of his best friends is Alabama point guard Trevor Releford, the brother of former Kansas basketball player Travis Releford. Justin and Trevor won both football and basketball state championships together the year after Justin’s father passed away.

When Justin came to Kansas it was Travis that told him to keep working hard and that he would reach the light at the end of the tunnel.

Justin arrived in Kansas after two years at Oklahoma that didn’t go as planned. He was expected to become a star, rated as the top player in the state of Kansas out of high school by Rivals, but instead never caught a pass as a Sooner and struggled with being away from home.

He thought about quitting the game altogether, but friends and family changed his mind Tim Grunhard, former high school coach of McCay at Bishop Miege, had just received a job as the offensive line coach at Kansas. McCay had lived with Grunhard for a while after his father died. He also had other friends in Lawrence, including Releford.

So the decision was made to transfer to Kansas and request a hardship waiver from the NCAA.

McCay said he talked with family and friends like Trevor and Travis every day while going through the process of transferring.

“It was nerve-racking for them, but more for me,” McCay said. “On the outside I was fine, but on the inside I was real worried about it.”

The hardship waiver request was denied. It was another low point after a long and tiring journey to play for Kansas.

“Like on a dirt road, you know what I mean? I don’t know if we were on concrete or anything. There’s definitely been ups and downs,” McCay said, pausing for a moment before adding, “more downs than ups.”

Though, now he was close enough to Kansas City to make visits to see his family, especially his sisters who were too young to understand the reasons behind his relocation.

“They don’t know what all went on,” McCay said, “but they were really excited to get to see me everyday.”

This season, McCay ran on the field with his new team for the first time. He caught the only touchdown pass by a wide receiver so far this season, and the reception broke a streak of more than a year without a touchdown by a Kansas wide receiver.

But this season hasn’t been all high points for McCay.

Since catching that pass from Jake Heaps in the back of the end zone and celebrating with his team, McCay has been moved to second string and gone two games without a reception.

He’s become almost a forgotten receiver in a group that has been mostly recognized only for the amount of passes they’ve dropped.

But this year McCay has something he’s lacked the last three years: the opportunity to prove himself on Saturday.

And after each home game he’s met by the smiles of his little sisters outside the locker room. He gives a slight laugh each time he talks about those huge No.19 jerseys they wear that look more like dresses on them.

He has matured over the last four years, he says he needed that. His experiences have taught him valuable lessons.

“Just, never give up,” McCay said, during fall camp as he sat in a large room at the Kansas football complex overlooking Kivisto field. “These are my dreams. I feel like I was born to do this. That’s just how I feel about football. Without football, I don’t know what I would be doing. It’s hard to think about.”

It’s like Robert McCay always told Justin while he was growing up, if you love something never do it halfhearted.


Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby says that NCAA needs major changes in legislation

Last year, Bob Bowlsby began his job as Big 12 commissioner at a tumultuous time in the conference’s history. Conference realignment was changing the face of the Big 12, in particular the dynamic of rivalries that had lasted for a century.

This year, Bowlsby’s second state of the conference address at Big 12 media days on Monday was highlighted by the tumultuous situation that the NCAA finds itself in as Bowlsby joined the line of major conference commissioners to fire shots at the organization and its governance over college athletics.

All five commissioners of BCS conferences stated their frustrations with the NCAA legislative process, believing their schools need more representation.

“We are very much at a point now where we can’t get anything that’s transformative through the system,” Bowlsby said from a stage in front of hundreds of reporters at the Omni Hotel in Dallas. “I think that’s particularly felt by seven or eight conferences and the five major conferences in particular. It is just very difficult to do anything that would benefit our student-athletes or our institutions that doesn’t get voted down by the larger majority.”

 Bowlsby even suggested that a fourth division, consisting of the top five conferences is possible, saying that it has become too easy to enter and stay in Division I.

“I think we all have a sense that transformative change is going to have to happen,” Bowlsby said. “This is not a time when trimming around the edges is going to work.”

Bowlsby believes the focus needs to be narrower for the NCAA.

“I think it may even be time to look a federation by sport,” Bowlsby said. “It’s probably unrealistic to think that we can manage football and field hockey by the same set of rules.”

Pac 12 commissioner Larry Scott said that he prefers an evolution into something better rather than radical overhaul, but agreed in saying that, “one size does not fit all.”

According to a July 26 article in the Indianapolis Star, NCAA President Mark Emmert was not surprised to hear what the conference commissioners said at their football media days, and did not take any offense.

Emmert is fully accepting of the discussion and changes that are likely to come and shows that he understands the scope of these changes.

“There’s no one talking about this being some incremental change,” Emmert said in an exclusive interview with the Indianapolis Star. “I think there’s an interest in some pretty fundamental change in the way decisions are made, both to accommodate those differences but also to deal with concerns people have about representation…in policy debates.”

One of the changes that the major conference commissioners believe in and agree upon is the need to provide student athletes with more financial support than they currently receive. Bowlsby said that in particular he supports a system that would provide support for those that need it most.

“I do think that in the Big 12 and other conferences like us would advocate for some form of additional support to student-athletes,” Bolwsby said, “and it wouldn’t be just support for football student-athletes or basketball.”

The issue for Bowlsby and other commissioners of major conferences with making that happen in the current NCAA system is that the vote of a smaller school like the University of Northern Iowa, as Bowlsby pointed out, counts just the same as a larger school like the University of Texas.

The smaller of the Division I programs were able to use their majority to vote down an intiative earlier this year that would alter athletic scholarships to include, “the full cost of attendance,” as the current scholarships include just tuition, books, room and board.

“I think we need to think a little bit about reevaluating our core purpose,” Bowlsby said. “NCAA has gotten to be an organization that has very broad-ranging responsibilities and oversight.”

Bowlsby was sure to point out that his problems were not with the president of the NCAA but with the system as a whole.

 “I don’t say this to be critical of President Emmert or leadership,” Bowlsby said. “But I really do think we’ve need to reconfigure the leadership of the organization.”

The current format of the NCAA is troubling for Emmert as well. After all, he is the one dealing with these current issues, and he is the man in charge of the organization that appears to be under attack.

“There’s a need to recognize there are Division I schools with $5 million budget and $155 million athletic budgets,” Emmert said, “and trying to find a model that fits all of them is the enormous challenge right now.”

It’s yet to be seen if this challenge is insurmountable, but commissioners have indicated that they want to see a solution within the NCAA. The threat of secession from the NCAA is unlikely, Bowlsby said.

Emmert told the Indianapolis Star that what he has been told also indicates that the intentions of everyone, including the commissioners, is to “find a way to meet the needs of all the members inside the association.”

NCAA leadership will meet in Indianapolis on Aug. 8 to begin discussing models for a new way to govern the Division I level.

According to the Indianapolis Star, Emmert has sent a letter to all D-I presidents, athletic directors, commissioners and others, letting them know that on Jan. 16 and 17 there will be a meeting in San Diego.

Emmert called it a “critical meeting” that will cover “virtually every aspect of how Division I operates.”

There will be many issues to sort out in that meeting, and the first and most important will be the representation that the big 5 conferences have in legislation.

Tolefree defines Kansas volleyball

By Max Goodwin

Senior middle blocker Tayler Tolefree grew up in Lawrence. She graduated from Lawrence High School. Tolefree was an all-state selection in 2007 and led the Lions to the state tournament as team captain.

The 6-foot-2 middle blocker knows the people of Lawrence well, and they have watched her whole career, so it meant a lot to her to see 4,478 fans attend her final game as a Jayhawk and cheer every rally. The night would unfortunately end in sadness for Tolefree and those that came to support her.

As the Jayhawks’ historic season skidded to a halt against Wichita State in Allen Fieldhouse, all of the Kansas players appeared to be teary eyed, but for Tolefree the result brought a sense of finality to her time as a Jayhawk.

Tears flooded Tolefree’s eyes.

“I hope that everyone who was here can appreciate the work that we put in.”

It was apparent what this game meant to her by the way her voice shook with emotion as those final words left her mouth. She hardly spoke during the post-game press conference, sitting between teammates Catherine Carmichael and Caroline Jarmoc. Her concentration may have been more focused on fighting back the tears that were building.

One moment Tolefree is on the court leading the Jayhawks – the program she grew up watching – to the Sweet 16 for the first time ever. The next, her volleyball career is suddenly over.

“As we know around here,” Coach Ray Bechard said, “the NCAA tournament comes to an abrupt end when you don’t play as well as you would have liked.”

Bechard would have liked to see the middle blockers, Tolefree and Jarmoc, more involved in the offensive game for Kansas. The strength of the Jayhawks is the team’s middle blockers he said, and they were not able to set them up with controlled passes to make kills. Tolefree and Jarmoc had just 17 combined kills, compared to the 31 of Wichita State’s middle blockers.

“Their setter was able to make choices,” Bechard said, “so, they passed the ball to target better than we did.”

Kansas won a closely contested first set, but was dominated by the Shockers for most of the second set. Wichita St. continued that momentum and won the third and fourth set as well.

“The anxiety tends to build for each point that you don’t get,” junior Caroline Jarmoc said. “The gap gets bigger and bigger and to make up one point seems like 10 points.”

It is even more difficult to make up a point when a team is predictable in how they attack, as Bechard said.

Even with the loss this Kansas team still helped Bechard reach his first NCAA tournament since 2005.

“It’s disappointing that you don’t play at your best when you need to, but your opponent has a lot to do with that,” Bechard said. “We’re still extremely proud of the season that we had and these young ladies we have up here.”

For Carmichael and Jarmoc, who sat alongside Bechard at the press conference, there will be another opportunity next season. For Tolefree this is the end. A career ended on the most successful note in school history.

This year’s squad finished the season as the winningest team in program history with a winning percentage of .788. The third-place conference finish, No. 6 RPI and 17-2 home record were also the best in program history, and after winning the first set against Wichita State, the Jayhawks were just two sets away from being the first Kansas volleyball team to reach the Sweet 16.

“They were a fun group to coach, “ Bechard said. “They did a lot of things for the first time.”

The Jayhawks will return with most of their team intact next year, but the graduation of seniors Morgan Boub and Tayler Tolefree, a four-time Academic All-Big 12 first team member, will leave a major hole in the team identity that has been built.

Tolefree is the first Jayhawk to ever record a hitting percentage of 1.000 for a match (West Virginia, 10/29). She is the 2012 Big 12 Volleyball Scholar-Athlete of the Year. She has started every one of the 91 matches that the Jayhawks have played over the last three years, and has 103 starts in four years.Tolefree

In the four years before Tolefree became a Jayhawk, Kansas did not have a single winning season and compiled a 51-67 record.

Tolefree helped lead the Jayhawks to four consecutive winning seasons. Her career record at Kansas is 74-49.

The improvement that Kansas made from 2005-2008 to 2009-2012 is an average of 5.75 wins per season

Statistics and awards alone can’t describe how important Tolefree’s role has been for Kansas volleyball.

All three Jayhawks at the press-conference were still emotional as they stood up to leave the media room. Tolefree trailed behind her teammates.

“There’s a lot leaving right there in that Tayler Tolefree,” Ray Bechard said as the senior from Lawrence stepped out of the media room doorway and let the door fall shut behind her.

“Nobody defines our program like that kid does.”

Allen Fieldhouse’s dual personality


By Max Goodwin

The historic basketball cathedral known as Allen Fieldhouse rumbles with the noise of pregame rituals for Kansas basketball.

Shredded newspaper rains down over a sea of students wearing red and blue. Some are dressed in costumes, others wave signs. People pack into the upper corners of the Fieldhouse, anywhere they can find a spot. Students let out yells of pure excitement.

All of this is for an exhibition game against Division II Emporia State.

It’s not just Kansas fans that think “The Phog” is the best game day environment. Opponents have said for years that the Fieldhouse is one of the toughest places to play. Big 12 coaches know this especially well.

“I don’t know who has a bigger home court advantage than what KU has,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said at Big 12 media day.

Oklahoma State Coach Travis Ford agreed.

“It is one of the great basketball atmospheres in America,” Ford said. “There are a lot of great places in our league that have great home courts, but it’s definitely at the top.”

The scene when the women’s team is on the court is a bit more tranquil.

As Carolyn Davis wins the tip-off for the Jayhawks, the student section is as full as it’s been all season. The dance team sits in the first row with nobody else behind them. Today they are joined by young girls who will perform with them at halftime. There are scattered screams of young kids in support of their favorite players.

Women’s games tend to have more of a family atmosphere. Often the loudest voice is that of Shade Little, husband of Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little.

“Take it, take it, take it,” Little yells as Kansas plays on-ball defense. His voice can be heard throughout the mostly empty Fieldhouse.

That was for a regular season matchup against Big Ten opponent Minnesota.

“Big crowd, small crowd, it really doesn’t matter,” Angel Goodrich said at Kansas media day earlier this year.

Goodrich has said that she prefers to see fans at the game, but she is a competitive person, and as long as the winner of the game is reported and remembered she is going to give everything she has. For the Kansas women’s team, however, it has mostly been small crowds since Goodrich arrived on campus four years ago.

Allen Fieldhouse averaged 2,552 people per game last season for women’s basketball. That was ninth in the Big 12, the only conference team lower on that list is Missouri (no longer in the Big 12). Three of the eight teams that averaged larger crowds than Kansas did not make the NCAA tournament last season as the Jayhawks did.

The Jayhawks made a run to the Sweet 16 in neutral site arenas of the tournament, but that was after finishing the regular season with a 3-6 record at home against Big 12 opponents.

“Your home court is supposed to be your home court,” Goodrich said, “nobody is supposed to come in and beat you on your home court. It was reverse for us. I don’t know why, or what the deal was.”

Angel Goodrich is not one to make excuses, but the dullness of the crowd may have been part of the deal. Kansas finished the season sixth in the overall Big 12 standings, but its home record was ninth in the conference – the same as its home attendance.

In men’s basketball Kansas has ranked first in the conference in attendance for over a quarter century – winning 17 conference championships in that time. Last season Bill Self’s team averaged 16,445 fans per game. That is the tenth most in the nation.

That makes almost six-and-a-half men’s basketball fans for every one person at a women’s game last season.clientdiagram

The atmosphere for men’s games is electric at Kansas, but if Allen Fieldhouse really is one of the best basketball environments in the country shouldn’t the women’s games be supported as well? It would only make sense that the team should at least rank higher than 54th in the nation and ninth in the Big 12, behind Texas Tech and even TCU in home attendance.

There are also not many teams that have success at home without the support from the home fans. Missouri finished last in both the standings and attendance in the conference last season. The two teams with the best home record in the Big 12 were the same two teams with the most fan support as well. The same is true for the men’s teams.

The Kansas women’s basketball program managed to have success last season without a relatively large number of fans consistently showing up to home games. The success just wasn’t at Allen Fieldhouse.

Last season the Jayhawks were the only team in the Big 12 to have more wins on the road than at home.

Now Kansas will attempt to build from the success of last season. The team has earned and deserves the fan support.

The Jayhawks are currently ranked No.22 by the Associated Press. They have an 8-1 record with wins over Creighton, Wake Forest and Minnesota.

“If we continue to do well,” Natalie Knight said, “I think it will get more people to come to our games.”

* Statistics for this story are from NCAA.org and swishappeal.com with the help of James Bowman.

Kansas Volleyball slected as 11 seed in the NCAA tournament

  • Head Coach Ray Bechard and Kansas Volleyball have been selected to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2005. The team wasn’t dreaming this big before the season Rustin Dodd writes in the Kansas City Star.  It is the first time in school history that Kansas has hosted the NCAA tournament. Kansas plays Cleveland State on Friday at 6:30 p.m. in the first round.
  • Junior libero Brianne Riley broke the all-time school record for digs at Kansas with her 1,458th as a Jayhawk. The play on the record setting dig epitomized the match against Texas Tech, Geoffry Calvert writes in the UDK. Kansas ended it’s regular season on senior night with a victory over Texas Tech at Allen Fieldhouse. Riley ended the night with 11 digs. Her school record now stands at 1,458 digs.
  • The Jayhawks will host first and second round games at Allen Fieldhouse as an 11 seed. If Kansas wins on Friday they will play the winner of Arkansas vs. Wichita State. The Texas Longhorns are the highest ranked see in the Jayhawks’ region of the bracket. Five teams from the Big 12 made the NCAA tournament this year.