• Mike Matson

Needless to Say

Updated: Mar 20

This column was published March 19, 2022 in the Manhattan Mercury.


 

In the ‘90s, before moving to Manhattan, I was an equal opportunity D-1 Kansas college sports fan. I rooted for K-State in football, Wichita State in baseball and KU in basketball. Born in Manhattan, grew up in Wichita, my only son was bound for KU, I came by it naturally. Needless to say, that all changed in 1998, when I married a former K-State student body president. This is a woman who once gave a speech entitled, “Purple is more than a color.”


Which reminds me, if it’s needless to say, why say it?


Every year, my purple-bleeding bride and I travel to the Big 12 Conference tournament to meet up with friends from Nebraska. She’s a Wildcat, he’s a Husker. We started this tradition 16 years ago when Nebraska was still in the Big 12. Dallas that first year, then Oklahoma City and for the past dozen years, the T-Mobile, née Sprint Center in Kansas City.


Lately, K-State hasn’t exactly been covering itself with glory at this event. We’ve never won it, and only made it to the championship game twice, losing each time to the Jayhawks.


That first year, 2006 in Dallas, we all knew Jim Wooldridge was on the way out and being the astute, plugged-in sports fan that I am, had already scanned the marketplace and determined that Bob Huggins was the cream of the out-of-work coaching crop.


After we lost the tournament opener to Tech, when some loose-lipped muckety-muck in the K-State athletic department sidled up to us and whispered Huggins’ name conspiratorially, I dropped a ‘told ya so.’ It was probably needless to say.


A year later, when West Virginia coach John Beilein bolted to Michigan and all Bob Huggins’ memories gathered ‘round his alma mater, the country roads took him home to the place he belonged. Once-in-a-lifetime opportunities are just that.



The current Brad Underwood narrative seems focused on money, but I argue it’s Huggins 2007 redux. If the McPherson boy really, truly, madly, deeply wants to come home, this will be his only chance. It’s now or never, buddy.


Frank Martin seemed like the kind of guy who needed a chance. On their way out, Jon Wefald and Bob Krause gave it to him, hoping it would be enough to keep Michael Beasley for a year. Martin was a personal fav, for a pretty simple reason. He won games.


Bruce Weber was a name coach, if you define ‘name’ as taking a team to the Final Two. The Gene Keady lineage didn’t hurt with the purple bleeders. Like Wooldridge before him, Weber’s departure this year was inevitable and he got a few values-based laments off his chest before the door hit him in the hindquarters on the way out.


Given the constantly shifting tectonic plates beneath D-1 college sports, I sometimes think we’re fortunate to still be in a Power 5. When you combine the Big 12’s four incoming media markets (Salt Lake, Orlando, Houston and Cincinnati), with the ones we already have, Dallas-Ft. Worth and Kansas City, it makes Manhattan, Ames and Stillwater seem like pesky, tagalong kid brothers. In a couple of years, when it stretches from Provo to Orlando, Lubbock to Morgantown, the Big 12’s footprint will be ginormous. Maybe that’ll make it easier to recruit to Manhattan.


It really doesn’t matter to me who our next coach will be. As a fan, I’ll have the same expectations of him that I had of Weber, Martin, Huggins, Wooldridge and Asbury.


Let’s see some W’s, baby.


Give my friends, my wife and I a reason to stay through the Big 12 Tournament championship game on Saturday night. Now that the tickets are all digital, we can’t scalp them anymore. So we either go to the game and cheer for the team that bears the name of our home state on the front of their crimson and blue jerseys, or we just swallow the cost and rock chalk it up to inevitability.


All of this is probably needless to say. But I said it anyway.

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