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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.

Title IX graphic

Title IX visual explainer

Click on he link above to see a timeline of the progression of title IX history in the NCAA. Collegiate sports have come a long way in terms of gender equality and the timeline shows that the title IX legislation has had a major impact on the biggest moments in college women’s sports. The sources used to make this timeline were The New York Times, ESPNW.com and Sports Illustrated.

Olympic Salute. From left to right; Jessica Lind, Caroline Long and Diamond Dixon.

Diamond Dixon Speaks at the Olympic Salute for the 2012 NACWAA Convention

The NACWAA (National Association of Collegiate Woman Athletics Administrators) convention began today in downtown Kansas City, Mo. as Diamond Dixon was honored as a guest for the opening session in a salute to the “Title IX Olympics” of 2012.

Dixon was joined on stage by Olympic gold medalist Caroline Lind (rowing) and Paralympic gold medalist Jessica Long (swimming). The three discussed their own athletic experiences and issues such as Title IX and the lack of female athletic directors in the NCAA.

After the discussion Dixon, Lind and Long posed for pictures with NACWAA members.

Dixon said that it was an honor to have been asked to be a guest at the convention and that this was a great experience for her to be able to speak her opinion about issues in women’s sports. She looks forward to bringing the message of the convention to her teammates at Kansas and possibly getting more involved with organizations like NACWAA in the future.

More to come from the 2012 NACWAA convention tomorrow.