TOPEKA — Could the Shockers beat the Jayhawks on the hardwood?
BY BRENT D. WISTROM
Eagle Topeka bureau
Fans would find out each year under a bill Wichita Republican Sen. Michael O’Donnell plans to introduce this week.
The proposal requires the University of Kansas Jayhawks to play the Wichita State University Shockers in men’s and women’s basketball each year or lose millions in state funding.
O’Donnell said he hasn’t worked out all the details yet, but he said the proposal would likely call for alternating games between Wichita and Lawrence every other year.
“I think it would really benefit Wichita,” he said. “It would benefit our economy. I could see thousands of people coming out. I think this is a win-win. We should be proud in Kansas of our basketball teams.”
KU Coach Bill Self indicated the idea is a long-shot during a chat on ESPN last week.
“…you schedule to benefit your own school, not to benefit others,” he told ESPN. “You have to benefit your own school. I want to play games that benefit us, and, from a financial standpoint, it’s hard to play games away from Allen Fieldhouse since that’s our main source of budget every year.”
Wichita Democratic Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau said a match up with KU would pack the house. She said she supports O’Donnell’s idea.
“It’s going to generate so much excitement,” she said.
House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, said it would be great for both schools to have a KU-WSU match up every year.
“But this is clearly an area where legislators shouldn’t be meddling,” he said. “We need to let the universities decide these issues on their own, without any kind of legislative intrusion.”
Larry Rankin, WSU’s assistant athletics director for media relations, said that WSU Athletics Director Eric Sexton wouldn’t have any comment until he reads the bill. Jim Marchiony, associate athletics director at KU, said the same.
The Jayhawks men’s team plays other Kansas teams besides Kansas State University, which is in the Big 12 Conference as well, in exhibition games early in the season. KU beat Emporia State 88-54 in October and it beat Washburn 62-50 in November this year.
Historically, the Jayhawks men’s team has had the upper hand over the Shockers, with a 12-2 winning record, including a 103-54 stomping in Lawrence in 1993 when the two teams last met. The teams last met in Wichita in 1992 – KU won that 81-51.
WSU and KU women’s teams last played in 2011 during the National Invitation Tournament when the Jawkawks won 79-58. WSU beat Kansas 84-58 in their most recent regular season game in 2002.
Jason Watkins, a former legislator who is now a lobbyist for the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce, said he introduced a bill several years ago that would have required WSU to play KU in all major sports.
He said he filed the bill at the request of a parent of a WSU volleyball player who said WSU’s team couldn’t qualify for a NCAA tournament because its strength of schedule wasn’t strong enough.
Watkins said his bill never got a hearing, and he said that prior attempts hadn’t worked either. He suggested the Jayhawks may see some risk in playing the Shockers, particularly in men’s basketball.
“It’s not a guaranteed win (for KU),” he said. “These mid-majors that are good are dangerous.”