Look, I’m no tenderfoot, I grew up in good, old KCMO and have lived most of my life in Johnson County (and speaking of college basketball hotbeds, throw in Kentucky and Arizona for good measure).
Yet after living in Lawrence the past two years I gotta tell you, there’s really nothing quite like this place and the devotees of all things Jayhawk.
I sometimes jokingly refer to the way folks here treat KU as a cult, but why joke about it? It’s true. The only thing missing really are outlandish sex and pagan ceremonies.
When KU played in the Big 12 and NCAA tourneys, successful, down-to-earth businessmen thought nothing of fleeing their offices and holing up at dive bars like the Yacht Club or attending faux business gatherings that involved plenty alcohol and the basketball games on TV.
Nobody blinks an eye when the entire town screeches to a halt for basketball.
And logical thinking and rational reasoning are out the window.
Which accounts for why KU foolishly refuses to admit it’s a major mistake not to play Wichita State and Missouri.
“Well, Missouri dumped us and left us for dead to go to the SEC,” they say. “And those hicks in Wichita have everything to gain and nothing to lose by playing KU. We’re already are playing the toughest schedule in college basketball, playing those knuckle draggers would be good for their program and maybe bad for ours.”
Here’s what doesn’t add up:
Those so-called hicks in Wichita are downright Ivy Leaguers compared to the rednecks KU plays in Topeka and Emporia – they just don’t happen to be patsies.
The fact is that KU’s being small minded and petty in not playing Mizzou and they’re scared to death to play Wichita State.
Fearful in a similar way to white baseball and basketball teams not allowing black athletes to play in their sports back in the 1900s.
The only real difference being, not allowing blacks was racist.
Forgive me for referring to Wichita as a “big city,” but with a metro population of over 600,000 compared to less than 100,000 in Lawrence and like 120,000 and change in Topeka there is quite a size difference.
The funny thing is, even the blue collar types in Lawrence and people who’ve moved here from far smaller Kansas towns love nothing more than to characterize people from Wichita as rubes.
So yeah, far be it from KU to lower the same bar that allows the mighty Jayhawks to rationalize playing the hayseeds from other Kansas towns, but no way Wichita State.
Just one problem…
Now that Wichita State basketball coach Gregg Marshall has landed a $3 million a year paycheck – making him one of the top 10 highest paid coaches in college basketball – how can KU say no without looking like frightened little girls?
“A late scramble by Self’s Jayhawks led to an upset of Calipari’s Memphis Tigers in the 2008 national title game. Presto–a 10-year, $30 million extension. Self’s career body of work is comparable to those of West Virginia’s Bob Huggins and Ohio State’s Thad Matta, both of whom make significantly less.”
Maybe that’s why Self’s Jayhawks are afraid to play Wichita State.
But still they should.
Instead of bragging about how tough their schedule already is, KU should add a pair of no-brainer regional rivalries to their schedule and leave the other in state nobodies to play UMKC and Rockburst.
Wichita State and Missouri are willing, it’s time for Kansas to man up.