Hearne: The Case for KU-Wichita State Not Being a Rivalry

Brownback goes both ways

Brownback goes both ways

If there’s one thing sportswriters are good at, it’s pocket pool…

In a manner of speaking.

Because day in, day out they have lots of time to feign high drama and provocative insight for the jock sniffers of the world. They’re always on the lookout for angles – a new approach to titillate today’s “bread and circus” sports crowd. And it’s a full time job, no less.

The Kansas City Star‘s Sam Mellinger is particularly adept at this, spinning stories that more often than not are artfully crafted, insightful and well written. Unlike his phat predecessor, Mellinger doesn’t need to pimp people to try and make a name – nor drown them in overwrought prose.

That said, like in baseball, it’s hard to knock the cover off the ball every time.

The other thing about sportswriters is they tend to have a pack mentality.

They all more-or-less subscribe to the same broad, general truisms – however cliched – which too often results in consensus journalism.

Take Mellinger’s column, “Think KU and Wichita State players see this as a rivalry? Think again.”

Despite referring to the Jayhawks / Shockers showdown as “one of the most anticipated college basketball games in the state’s history,” Mellinger dedicated an entire column to fleshing out the supposedly false premise that there wasn’t really a rivalry between the two school’s teams. Then he supported his case with quotes from college kids trained not to piss off the other team before a big game.

No rivalry, who’s Mellinger trying to kid ?

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 12.22.32 AMLast time I checked, the word “rival” was defined as “a person who is competing for the same object or goal as another, or who tries to equal or outdo another; competitor.”


“A person or thing that is in a position to dispute another’s preeminence or superiority.”

That sounds like Wichita State and Kansas to me.

Seriously, on what planet does Wichita State vs. KU not qualify as a rivalry?

Hey, but Mellinger was in search of an angle and that may have struck him as a controversial thing to say – an easy column to write. He tried to back it up by citing that there’s “no history and “nobody on either team was out of diapers the last time these teams faced each other. The players know each other. They’re friendly.”

Bogus logic; some of my greatest rivalries have been with close friends, trying to kick their butts in tennis, handball, backgammon – even pro wrestling!

Sunday’s basketball game represented a huge rivalry and one that will resound throughout the state and across the country for weeks and months to come. Because it made the mighty Jayhawks and their McDonald’s All Americans appear weak and overrated, while certifying the lowly Shockers as the real deal.

Mellinger had to effectively eat his “no rivalry” words after Sunday’s game.

“It’s the worst nightmare for us,” he quoted KU point guard Frank Mason.

“It’s not going to be the most pleasant next few weeks for me, personally,” Mellinger quoted KU coach Bill Self, then adding, “(Self) had been very open about how the attention and storylines of facing an in-state school he hasn’t scheduled made this bigger to him than a typical tournament game.There is no question he wanted this one with a particular passion.”

Funny thing, Wichita State star Fred VanFleet must have missed Mellinger’s column.

“There’s so much to be said about this rivalry with Kansas,” VanVleet told ESPN, “but really, it’s all about the fans. What better story is there for Wichita State?”

“The Shockers have tried for years to schedule a game against Kansas, but the dominant school in the Sunflower State has always refused, arguing it would have nothing to gain from it,” ESPN continued. “After the beating they got Sunday, it’s no wonder the Jayhawks never want anything to do with Wichita State.”

Gregg Marshall

Gregg Marshall

Maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t that sound a little rivalry-ish?

Of course it does. Who cares when the players were born or who they went to school with, rivalries are passed down through generations – and not just in sports.

When you’re only 160 miles away in the same state and Big Dog KU won’t even throw you a small bone and let you play them once in a while, that’s a rivalry. And now the shoe’s on the other foot with KU on the outside looking in…for now.

Self tried to downplay losing to Wichita State afterwards to ESPN, but the look on his face said it all.

And Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall got the last laugh after the game as well.

“When asked whether he kissed away any chance of playing Kansas on a regular basis, Marshall replied: “Who knows? They may want to play now. I have no idea. I’m not worried about that. I’m fine letting the series lay the way it is right now. The series is good with me.”

img22202743Check out the headline – Mellinger’s compatriots at sister newspaper the Wichita Eagle ran.

Looks like they maybe think it’s a rivalry..

Even the mighty New York Times referred to the contest as an “unfulfilled rivalry.”

USA Today described Marshall as  charging toward his family after the game, winking at his wife and saying, this was a victory the Shockers will forever savor. “I’m not sure we’ll even need a plane to fly home,” he added.

Not to be disagreeable, but I’d say KU-Wichita State is one heckuva rivalry.

And KU needs to man up and agree to start scheduling the Shockers – it beats the heck out of what’s left of K-State basketball.

Oh yeah, remember the pack mentality I mentioned earlier? Check out the headline in the Lawrence Journal World the day after Mellinger’s “no rivalry” column ran:

“Rivalry talk dies here”

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51 Responses to Hearne: The Case for KU-Wichita State Not Being a Rivalry

  1. mike t. says:

    Shockers opened up a big ol’ can of WhoopAss on the Jayhawks who, frankly, deserved it. I swear Mt. Oread drooped a little after that game. Not so high and mighty now.

    • admin says:

      I watched the second half of the game at the original Johnny’s Tavern near downtown Lawrence…

      The place was packed, but other than a few attempts at getting a, “let’s go Jayhawks” chant going after a few slam dunks, the crowd was listless.

      The energy level was about a 3 on a scale of 10.

  2. Karl says:

    Hearne, going by your first dictionary definition, then every game in every sport is a “rivalry” because both teams are competing to outdo the other. By your second definition, West Virginia and Kentucky must be intense rivals because West Virginia is certainly in a position to dispute Kentucky’s preeminence or superiority.

    To me, a sports rivalry is the game played every year that fans on both sides circle the date in black. Then they rearrange their schedules to watch, either in person or on TV, regardless of the records of either team. Think of the old Missouri-Kansas rivalry that is now dormant. THAT was a rivalry.

    Yes, Wichita State and KU have the ingredients of a rivalry NOW, but where was all this talk just three years ago before Wichita made its run to the Final Four? Nobody seemed to notice before 2013 that the two schools hadn’t played each other for 20 years. And nobody seemed to mind then that they had played each other only 14 times since 1908 — the year the Chicago Cubs last won the World Series.

    Matter of fact, how come there is no “rivalry” talk about K-State and Wichita State? Two schools from the same state with proud basketball traditions that are just 130 miles apart — even closer than Lawrence and Wichita. They haven’t met since 2003.

    Or how about Missouri and Missouri State? Or Missouri, Missouri State and St. Louis U.? All three are D-1 programs who have pretty good histories, and would certainly meet your rather broad dictionary definition. You hear fans clamoring for those games?

    • admin says:

      Easy Karl…

      There’s no rivalry talk about those other schools because there’s no interest in them playing. Division One school versus NAIA?

      True, there’s more to a rivalry than just geography. UMKC cleaned Mizzou’s clock this past season, but that doesn’t seem like a rivalry in the making – for Missouri’s sake, it had better not be.

      That goes hand in hand with the other portion of the definition, remember?

      “A person or thing that is in a position to dispute another’s preeminence or superiority”

      You wanna argue that one?

      The point being that this game represented a HUGE rivalry and it was silly to quote a couple college kids trying to downplay things so as not to rile up their opponent before they played and claim otherwise.

      • Karl says:

        Sure, I’ll argue that. How long has Wichita State been in that position to challenge KU’s pre-eminence? Gee, that dates all the way back to 2013.

        I agree that there is no talk of rivalry between any of those other schools because there is little to no interest, but that was exactly my point. Thank you for agreeing.

        And before Wichita State made its Final Four run two years ago, there was absolutely no interest on either side about a KU-Wichita State rivalry. Absolutely nobody was demanding an annual game. How come?

        You wanna argue that one?

        I will say that they got the ingredients for a pretty good rivalry now, but the same could have been said after Wichita State beat KU the last time they met in the NCAA. And they scheduled each other after that. How come it never took off?

        Let me tell you. Great sports rivalries are built by two great teams who remain great for a long period of time. It could get to that point between the Shockers and the Jayhawks, but it is far from there now.

        • admin says:

          Never said it was a “great sports rivalry,” wild man…

          But over the years Wichita State has had its moments. They’re not like UMKC or some of the other colleges you mentioned.

          The reason the series “never took off” was that KU nipped it in the bud.

          Are you kidding? Wichita State has long wanted to play KU. It’s just that now that they’re on a roll again it’s getting more ink and talk.

          And yes, I’ll argue…

          Wichita State is not “demanding” a game. Far from it. Did you not read coach Gregg Marshall’s statement. He mentioned it in passing to Bill Self and Self laughed it off.

          KU is more than happy to schedule Emporia State and Washburn. Why? Because they’re the Washington Generals to KU’s Harlem Globetrotters.

          Wichita State however – even in down years – has always presented more of a challenge to KU than those teams.

          There was an old poster on the wall at Johnny’s that promoted a football game between KU and Washburn. It didn’t have a date on it, but judging from the artwork it was a million years ago.

          But we live in the present, and as long as KU is willing to schedule Kentucky and other top teams, it’s chickenshit to duck play Wichita State.

          So they won’t have to risk losing the bragging rights when the governor of the same state hits the other team’s lock room afterwards.

          As for there being little interest in those other games you mentioned, the opposite is true of KU-Wichita and it’s always been a game that would have great interest.

          I’ve got some inlays down in Wichita and those folks down there would like nothing better than to have a shot at knocking off the Jayhawks.

          I seriously doubt that anybody with half a brain harbors those same thoughts in Emporia or Topeka.

          • Karl says:

            “Wichita State has long wanted to play KU.”

            Followed by:

            “Wichita State is not “demanding” a game. Far from it.”

            And Hearne? If you want to talk about KU’s non-conference schedule, then go ahead, but don’t cherry-pick, OK? The games you want to talk about were “exhibitions” — glorified scrimmages that don’t count — against D-2 opponents that gave those kids the thrill of playing in Allen.

            Wanna talk about how they were “afraid” of Kentucky, Michigan State, Georgetown, Utah, Florida and Temple?

          • Karl says:

            ” . . . the opposite is true of KU-Wichita and it’s always been a game that would have great interest.”

            Be careful when you use words like “always” and “never”

            Since the last time they met in 1993, Wichita States seasons have gone:

            9-18, 13-14, 8-21, 14-13, 16-15, 13-17, 12-17, 9-19, 15-15, 18-12, 21-11, 22-10, 26-9, 17-14, 11-20, 17-17, 25-10, 29-8, 27-6, 30-9, 35-1, 30-4.

            Yes, in some of those years, especially recently, those games would have been quite interesting.

            But “always”?

      • admin says:

        I didn’t notice Karl that you used the word “intense” to support your point on West Virginia-Kentucky.

        That word is bogus.

        Being a rival doesn’t mean you’re an “intense” rival.

        At some point West Virginia may attempt to take things to that level, but for now w’re talking about rivals, not intense rivals.

        Although, I will say this; Wichita State vs KU could easily become an intense rivalry if KU ever decides to untuck its tail from between its legs

        • Karl says:

          Right. If you dumb down “rival” enough, you can get it to fit anything you want. Even teams that play one game in 20 years.

  3. Orphan of the Road says:

    Frank Dolson was a sportswriter for the Philadelphia Inquirer. He was an award winning, highly respected writer who crafted some amazing columns.

    But he was a Penn grad and every year he produced a column telling how superior Penn and the Ivy League were to all others. Because there were no scholarships awarded.

    I think Sam’s gonna be the same when it comes to his alma mater, unable to look with an unbiased eye.

    KU will never consider it a rivalry as they look down on the unwashed masses of WSU.

    So much for the Big 12 being the best conference in basketball, eh?

    • admin says:

      I think KU is afraid to allow it to grow into an ongoing rivalry because they obviously view the downside of losing far greater than the upside of winning.

      However it’s obviously time for them to strap on their “big boy” pants and do the right thing.

  4. CFPCowboy says:

    Yes, it is a rivalry. The Jayhawks are trying to do a peace deal with Wichita State. Meanwhile, I thought I heard Wichita State call for Death to all Jayhawks.

    • admin says:

      Peace deal? Seriously?

      Dunno anything about that.

      Fact is, KU and its fans are afraid to play Wichita State because they don’t want to risk elevating the Wichita program at the expense of their own

  5. Jim a.k.a. BWH says:

    2 points to make here:

    Whether KU’s season ended at the hands of WSU or vice versa, neither makes the Final 4. Both team’s seasons were going to end in a disappointing defeat. Period.

    After the current roster of WSU’s players move on after next year and Marshal moves on to greener pastures, everybody will go back to NOT giving a damn if WSU & KU played during the regular season. KU leads the current head to head series 12-3. All this hand wringing about them not playing will stop just as soon as they suck again. That’s right around the corner.

    • Karl says:

      You know, Gregg Marshall is a great coach, and a great recruiter. No question. I think Wichita State will be a national power as long as he is there, much like Mark Few over at Gonzaga.

      And I also hope that like Few, Marshall is happy where he is and doesn’t want to put up with the BS of a higher profile program where the expectations are virtually impossible to meet. (See Shawnster’s post below about how KU is now in decline under Bill Self and 11 straight conference titles don’t mean much.)

      But if Marshall does get lured away by the bigger name and bigger dollars of one big name programs, then yeah, Wichita State returns to its “coach’s stepping stone” status with the up and down years that entails. And as soon as the program is “up” again, look for them to look for another new coach.

    • Karl says:

      Sure, I’ll argue that. How long has Wichita State been in that position to challenge KU’s pre-eminence? Gee, that dates all the way back to 2013.

      I agree that there is no talk of rivalry between any of those other schools because there is little to no interest, but that was exactly my point. Thank you for agreeing.

      And before Wichita State made its Final Four run two years ago, there was absolutely no interest on either side about a KU-Wichita State rivalry. Absolutely nobody was demanding an annual game. How come?

      You wanna argue that one?

      I will say that they got the ingredients for a pretty good rivalry now, but the same could have been said after Wichita State beat KU the last time they met in the NCAA. And they scheduled each other after that. How come it never took off?

      Let me tell you. Great sports rivalries are built by two great teams who remain great for a long period of time. It could get to that point between the Shockers and the Jayhawks, but it is far from there now.

    • admin says:

      Maybe, maybe not, Jim.

      Wichita coach Gregg Marshall is building a pretty good rep, so it’s a little early to sell him short.

      It’s also a little early to rule out Wichita State for the Final Four. Playing Kentucky, the odds are steep but you never really know.

      • Jim a.k.a. BWH says:

        Ummmmmmmmm, ND might have a little something to say about whether WSU even gets a shot at Kentucky.

  6. Shawnster says:

    We are now in the decline phase of KU basketball. The returns are diminishing for the basketball program. It’s getting harder & harder to justify the multi-million dollar apartments and private jets if all your going to do is flame-out the first weekend of the tournament every year. Let’s not pretend the 11 straight conference titles matter in the least-especially after the conference’s pathetic showing this year. KU will begin to re-think its opposition to playing teams like WSU & Mizzou. It has to start putting some skins on the wall so the rube boosters will continue fund the coffers and keep Hill Billy in the manner & style he is accustomed. Getting a regular season win against WSU & Mizzou seems like all the fan base can look forward to for the foreseeable future and even that is a given. Best lower your expectations from now on. There is a new sheriff in town, and as long as Calaipari is at Kentucky, KU is going to be crumb-catchers from now on.

    • admin says:

      I dunno, Shawn…

      It sure does look like Caliperi owns the one and done market.

      But KU doesn’t have its luxury apartments yet and Kentucky does.

      • Karl says:

        Didn’t we hear the same rumors of KU’s imminent decline when they got bounced by Bucknell and Bradley in subsequent years?

        • admin says:

          Yeah, we did hear those rumors, Karl…

          But those were in the early days of Bill Self before he went all the way

          • Karl says:

            Exactly. And instead of the decline of KU basketball after two early exits from the NCAA tournament, Self and KU went “all the way.”

  7. Jack Springer says:

    KU will NEVER play WSU because WSU can beat them.

    Sad thing is that the fake birds think they are still the best team.

    delusions of grandeur continue ………

    • the dude says:

      Wu Shock?

    • admin says:

      They know Wichita State can beat them…

      And they make up all kinds of excuses – trust me I live here now – to rationalize why they shouldn’t play them and how people who live in Wichita are rubes

      • Karl says:

        Right. Let’s confuse what you hear in the bars you hang out in with the way the KU basketball program and athletic department think.

  8. balbonis moleskine says:

    Is this like a Paul Wilson article where he threatens a certain unhinged motorcycle commenter with violence/litigation when he craps up the comment threads? Because there is nothing better than an article about a cup of coffee where people are threatened.

    You have got to put a stop to those two they are ruining your site.

    Ever heard the idea of the “chilling effect”?

    You are already getting beaten by a much hobbled TKC 3 to 1 in traffic- those two doofuses are making it worse. Not that it matters this is a vanity blog anyway designed to take pot shots at the dead and the KC Star.

    • paulwilsonkck says:

      Oh man, that’s just hurtful, Balbo! And I like you. I wrote two stories last week, first in four months, and I’m to blame for Hearne’s numbers? I think you’re off on those, by the way.
      Didn’t mean to mess up your coffee story with Harley manure. My apologies.

      • balbonis moleskine says:

        there is a longtime rule on the internet regarding guys like Harley:

        “Don’t touch the poop.”

        nothing good comes when people touch the poop.

        • chuck says:

          Bellum ipsum alet.

          Too late. Not blown by every wind, nor wet by every wind, Paul’s chase, so hotly followed will no more stop than a T1000.

          Run this fool to ground.

          • paulwilsonkck says:

            I will now reply to each Harley post, “I’m sorry, Balbo said I can’t touch the poop.”

          • chuck says:

            The “poop” for no other reason than the incessant repetition, is already legitimized by that same repetition. Day after day, week after week, month after month, at some point we must, if not rid ourselves of this troublesome priest of “poop”, at least identify him. Relegate him and his false gods to ignominy by name and deeds.

            Onward Christian Soldier! The baying of the hounds is music to our ears.


    • admin says:

      Speaking of vanity, here’s what I don’t get…

      Your comment is dripping with vanity – assumptions about traffic – assumptions about me and that it’s a “vanity blog.” So obviously it’s a vanity thing for you but the payoff must be frustrating having to hide behind a fake name.

      Trust me, you’d get off far better if you went public.

      And tell Dwight Sutherland, Mark Valentine, Paul Wilson and Jack Poessiger it’s just a vanity blog.

      That said, thanks for sharing…

  9. Karl says:

    “. . . everybody will go back to NOT giving a damn if WSU & KU played during the regular season.”

    Which is what happened the last time Wichita State beat KU in the NCAA in 1981 and people clamored for an annual matchup.

    Here’s the results of that series:

    Feb. 4, 1984 — KU 79, WSU 69.

    Jan. 5, 1985 — KU 90, WSU 83.

    Dec. 28, 1985 — KU 81, WSU 56.

    Jan. 6, 1987 — WSU 54, KU 49

    Jan. 25, 1989 — KU 86, WSU 66.

    Jan. 9, 1990 — KU 93, WSU 66

    Jan. 23, 1991 — KU 84, WSU 50.

    Jan. 8, 1992 — KU 81, WSU 51.

    Jan. 6, 1993 — KU 103, WSU 54.

    Wonder why this “rivalry” went dormant for 20 years and nobody cared?

    • admin says:

      That’s not why it went “dormant” Kartl and who said nobody cares?

      Oh yeah, you.

      Using your homespun logic, why does KU still play Emporia State and Washburn?

      Scores, anyone?

      • Karl says:

        KU doesn’t play Emporia State and Washburn every year. They do schedule those games — as does every big name college program — against Division II opponents as early season exhibitions.

        They give the kids at Pittsburg State and Fort Hays, etc., a thrill to play in Allen Fieldhouse without requiring a road trip for KU the next year, they give the athletic departments of those schools a real nice payday, and they provide a very early scrimmage for their own players.

  10. The Truth says:

    Wichita State was the better team and they won. It’s pretty simple, they wanted it more. You could see it with the 50/50 balls. It was eerily similar to when KU played North Carolina in the Final Four. To the Kansas team, beating Roy meant more then to the NC team beating KU. You could see it in the effort level, just like yesterday.

    As far as a rivalry, a win like that for Wichita State starts a rivalry. Just like K-State football and KU football aren’t real rivals. You have to beat them every once in awhile to be a rival (Like UMKC v MU in basketball.. this year will help make a rivalry). Additionally, there is a reason they want to play KU and not K-State. WSU knows that playing and beating KU means more, so you have to pay a bit more to get the nicer game.

    Now, how to get it approved. As many have mentioned, Wichita is on the up swing so they need to step up to the table to get the deal done. Saying you’ll play on a neutral court is not enough, it’s their responsibility to make an offer KU can’t refuse (privately or publicly). You can that by offering KU two home for one road. WSU gets a home game, but gives KU two of them.

    It’s not unlike when you are going for a new job (when you’re young). You may be the best person for the job, have the best referrals and resume, but the employer decides what they’ll pay you. If they offer you 40K and you want $45K and they say no, it’s your call to take the job at the lower number, if you feel it’s right for you long term.

    Right now, WSU is acting like they have scheduling leverage. They don’t, so they need to come up with an incentive for KU, not just name calling and baiting. Make it worth it and this could turn into a great rivalry to replace MU. Over time (with wins) they’ll get leverage and it will become a home and home.

    Note: It would be great if WSU could get a football team and become part of Big 12.
    Note #2: Odds are Marshall will leave WSU. Why would he not go to Texas?

    • Karl says:

      “Why would he not go to Texas?”

      For the same reason Mark Few couldn’t be pried out of Gonzaga with a crowbar. Few is making plenty of money and he’s happy where he is. And he’s built a program into a national power.

      Not saying that’s how Marshall feels, but it would be certainly understandable if he did.

      Like I said, I hope for Wichita State’s sake that he does stay. It’s not in that program’s best interest to be considered a “stepping stone” to better jobs.

      • The Truth says:

        Mark Few is from the Pacific Northwest, Oregon I believe, so I’m sure that has an effect on him staying. I also think he was an assistant there at Gonzaga for quite a bit of time before he became head coach.

        Last thing, it is Wichita. Not a bad city, but we can all be honest, there are lots of better places to live.

        Few is the exception, not the rule.

        • Karl says:

          Few is from Creswell, Ore. Saying he likes Spokane, Wash., for that reason is like saying, “No wonder he likes Kansas City. He’s from Little Rock, Ark.”

          And actually, what our opinion of Wichita is irrelevant. It’s how much Marshall likes it, and the job situation he’s in.

          Maybe the lure of “greener pastures” will prove strong. Or maybe he likes the shade of green exactly where he is. Who can say? Certainly not me. Or you.

          But like I said, any chance for a really good KU-Wichita State rivalry really depends on Wichita St. being able to retain a strong coach like Marshall. Otherwise, expect the up and down roller coaster to continue there.

        • Karl says:

          By the way, the hot rumor isn’t Texas. It’s Alabama. They are reportedly offering $3 million per year (Marshall now makes $1.75 million) plus carte blanche — whatever he needs or wants — to turn the Alabama program into a national power.

          Maybe that’s enough to lure Marshall away from Wichita State. Maybe not. Who knows?

          • CG says:

            Karl makes a good point when the Shockers coach goes and he will, they will no longer be a hot team..KU has had several coaches and was elite with all of them..that’s the dif…

    • admin says:

      Great comment, Truth…

      He might not want to go to Texas because he prefers winning with his current formula of zero “one and dones”

      • Karl says:

        Do you guys know Gregg Marshall well enough to have any idea what he will do? I sure don’t, so I won’t pretend otherwise.

        I won’t think it odd if some school like Alabama or Texas opens the bank vault and makes an offer he can’t refuse.

        Nor would I be surprised if he thinks making around the $2 million he makes at Wichita State is enough and he doesn’t want to go through uprooting his family and rebuilding another program.

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