For the first time all season, the ROTC color guard did not march onto the court for the national anthem at last Saturday's Kansas -Texas Tech basketball game at Allen Fieldhouse.
KU's game management staff of associate AD Richard Konzem and facilities directors Darren Cook and Brad Nachtigal suspended the group's involvement at games until a time management problem could be resolved between the color guard and KU officials.
For the past four home games, the color guard had been asked by KU officials to march from the center scorer's table to midcourt, instead of from the north end zone to center court. The request was made to save time with players from both teams on the court for the anthem as part of the NABC's "One Nation, One Flag" program. The color guard the past four games continued to walk from the end zone through KU's players with KU officials deciding to halt the tradition until the situation could be finally resolved.
"The last four or five games it has become an issue," Konzem said. "On TV games, the most pressure from a time management standpoint is at the start of the game, making sure the tip occurs as TV comes on the air, when the players are ready to play.
"We were having a problem with the color guard walking through our team and tried to make an adjustment. The Missouri game, I stood down there and said, 'Go, go, go,' but I didn't have the rank and they didn't go. Coach (Williams) waved for them to go. The game before coach (Joe) Holladay waved for them to go. We've been strugging on the timing from the start and decided to go a game without the color guard and then re-evaluate it."
On Tuesday, the re-evaluation was jeopardized when a cadet wrote an opinion column in the student paper indicating KU coach Roy Williams "yelled at" the color guard for not marching to center court quickly at the Missouri game. The letter writer questioned Williams' patriotism and said the coach "won't go to bat for the flag."
Williams says he's "dumbfounded and shocked" by the charge and says it's simply "not true." He said he promised "he did not yell" at those flag bearers.
Air Force Colonel Kevin McNellis wrote a letter of apology to KU athletics director Al Bohl on Tuesday. KU received permission to print some of the colonel's letter on its website.
"Dr. Bohl, sir neither you, Roy Williams, or anyone in the KU athletic department merited the disrespectful commentary published today by the Daily Kansan. I sincerely, apologize it is undeserved. To shout unpatriotic epithets in these times is berift of reason. Undignified and undisciplined accusations woefully inappropriate....
"Sir, on behalf of all ROTC programs here at KU, I apologize for the unconscionable attack on your department and our university. Undeserved."
Sponsored by KU's Air Force ROTC, a special KC Washington High School color guard unit will work Saturday's game against Baylor. And talks will continue with KU's ROTC color guard to work out the problems for future games.
Konzem said KU officials have great respect for the color guard.
KU had a giant flag spread over the field at a football game this past season. Saying he is patriotic even to the point of sometimes being "corny," Williams has said he ordered his players to make sure they were in their seats for that flag presentation at the football game.
"We've had great cooperation with the ROTC program," associate athletics director Doug Vance said. "We've worked with them for many years, including the flag involvement at one of our (football) games. Our intention has been to have a patriotic theme all season.
"For whatever reason we've been unable to resolve this situation so we've suspended their involvement until we get it resolved. Pregame activities are carefully choreographed with a time format mandated by the Big 12 Conference," he added.