Tuesday, May 6, 2008

9. Kansas State Wildcats




After a long layoff because of a book review and a final project, I will finally return to resume my series, and from Ames, we stay in the North Division to visit the plains of Manhattan, Kansas, and the Kansas State Wildcats.

Competitiveness: The Wildcats matter in a good amount of sports. Their women's basketball team won the Big 12. The men finished third in the conference. Volleyball is usually a threat in some way. But K-State's football program has descended into mediocrity, and its baseball program has fought an uphill battle trying to gain ground in the Big 12. K-State is one of just three schools who has yet to win a Big 12 baseball tournament, and shares the distinction with Missouri as being the only schools who still play baseball who have yet to win either the regular season or tournament crowns. The Wildcats don't compete in enough other sports to eliminate the negatives.

Championships: K-State has a pair of women's basketball crowns to its credit, a football title and is the only school besides Nebraska and Texas to win a volleyball title. Outside of that, pickings are slim. K-State's seven is only better than Missouri's total of two. But the Wildcats do have diversity in their favor, and the ability to spring an occasional surprise has to count for something.

Facilities: For a school in the middle of nowhere, K-State's facilities are actually pretty nice. Bill Snyder Family Stadium doesn't look like much from the outside, but it's a good atmosphere once you get inside it. Bramlage Coliseum and Ahearn Field House are serviceable facilities, even if Bramlage has not served K-State's men's team well in the Sunflower Showdown (1 win ever, and the place is as old as I am.) How K-State attracts people to nowhere is still a good question, but the facilities certainly help.

Fan base: Wildcat fans are the opposite of their rivals in Lawrence, passionate about football always, passionate about basketball when the team gives them a reason to be. They do give good support to the lesser sports, though, mainly because there just isn't much else to do in Manhattan. Still, it is a credit to the fan base that they don't just support one of their school's teams.

Coaches: Here is where K-State struggles. I like Ron Prince, very much so. He's a respectful guy, and I want to see him do well. But he's having a hard time getting things back to where K-State now thinks it should be. Frank Martin will go through the same as the men's basketball coach once he loses Bill Walker and Michael Beasley, which is this coming season. By contrast, the coaches on the women's side are generally good. Deb Patterson and Suzie Fritz have done a fine job keeping their programs competitive.

Important sports: It's not a rosy picture anymore. Football is floundering, basketball is in postion to backslide in a hurry. Overnight, K-State could go from basketball relevance into the abyss that it used to call home. Women's basketball has no such problems, but baseball is not going to find itself on the map anytime soon. That leaves K-State squarely on the back end of the third tier in the Big 12.

My time is up. You've all been great. Enjoy Trustcompany.