You say you're a little down right now and need a generous serving of slap-thigh, rub-gut hilarity to perk you up? If you somehow can hold out until Sept. 25 you'll get all you can handle, and boost a worthwhile project in the process.
The occasion will be "An Evening with Coach Fam and Friends" at the Holiday Inn Holidome. The Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center will get the proceeds. Fam, of course, is Don Fambrough, Kansas University football icon who played, coached and promoted Jayhawkery on a par with anyone you can name.
Surround the 80-year-old Don with the caliber of people due for these festivities and you're assured a delightful and rewarding evening. It's on a Thursday. Two days later, KU plays hosts to Missouri. That means that sometime during the various events an emotional Fambrough will remind everyone that William Quantrill was a Missouri U. graduate who never paid full penance for his 1863 massacre here.
Don used to trot out that myth every now and then when one of his teams was heading into a showdown with the Tigers. OK, so he didn't always let the facts spoil a good story. If beating Missouri is the goal, almost anything goes, right?
If Fambrough happens to have a lull during the cocktail party and dinner, the incomparable Jack Mitchell, whom Fam assisted here, will be ready to unfurl some of his facts and fables, all interspersed with that familiar window-rattling cackle.
The speaking roster includes KU All-Americans John Hadl, David Jaynes and Gale Sayers. Other All-Americans who have been invited and probably will attend are Bobby Douglass, Bruce Kallmeyer, Gil Reich, Otto Schnellbacher and John Zook. You can bet Charlie Hoag and a lot of his stellar contemporaries like Galen Fiss will be around along with the likes of Mike Shinn. There is some talk that former coach Pepper Rodgers might make the scene.
You want star power, tradition and nostalgia, man, you'll be able to carry home a bucket of it that night. If you can't find something to chortle about, have somebody kick the dirt in your face because you're already in a hole wearing a graveyard gabardine.
KU's never had a more fiery competitor than Fambrough, a brilliant guard/linebacker/placekicker of the late 1940s. He held numerous assistantships and had head coaching stints of 1971-74 and 1979-82. Nobody ever was a finer ambassador for KU than Don. After his coaching duties he did liaison work for Sen. Bob Dole, one of the greatest patriots-public servants in our nation's history.
Don's still the same colorful, gravel-voiced delight he always was. Because KU has had so many football coaches come and go, Don has remained a rallying point for football functions here.
Roy Williams did a fabulous job of drawing all the loose ends together to create the basketball family atmosphere KU's incredible history deserves. Let's hope successor Bill Self can keep that fire burning and that reunions continue regularly with special events to heighten the experience for the court alumni.
Well, football doesn't have anything quite like that because of the fits and starts in the coaching ranks and the erratic records of the Jayhawks. But always shining through as a beacon of the good things that have been and could be is the incomparable Fambrough.
There's a lot of work to be done in this department and the word is that current coach Mark Mangino hopes to be around for some of the sessions with Fambrough and Friends. Glen Mason and Terry Allen never could quite get the football alumni program going the way Williams did for basketball. But maybe Mangino can set the Jayhawks on track.
Lew Perkins, the new athletic director, also is due to take part in the Fam and Friends events and that might help set up a football atmosphere that will build support for the future. Fact of the matter is, Kansas University has some tremendous people with gridiron pedigrees to admire and honor regularly. Trouble is, nobody has quite done it the way Roy did for the court heroes.
Sept. 25 and the Bert Nash Bash also will provide a good occasion to link the KU past with the present and future. The athletic department has been in a turmoil ever since Al Bohl started wheeling and dealing and there have been massive changes in personnel and policy. Lots of folks are goosey, not quite sure where things are headed. They see the bloody axe hanging over the fieldhouse and wonder what new blood might show up on it, and how soon. Are the changes done or are more coming?
Heritage, continuity and affability are doggone vital ingredients at this point. The Fam and Co. function might help get things rolling in the right direction. Lord knows that's needed. Lots of links with the past no longer are around; KU's gotta regroup and do a massive sales job to show promise for the future.
By the way, local pharmacy magnate Newton King is arranging for a gathering of as many of the 1958 KU freshman squad as possible. Newt was a tackle on that great group and points out it's the only undefeated team Fambrough ever coached. Under Don's guidance, the frosh won their two games, 36-21 at Kansas State and 12-0 over Missouri here.
At Manhattan, halfback John Hadl caught touchdown passes of 14, 10 and 8 yards from quarterback Lee Flachsbarth. Against Missouri, center Kent Staab blocked a punt and fullback Larry Weimers for a TD, then Mr. Hadl ran a punt back 63 yards. KU's defense was merciless.
KU's had some great footballers and fantastic moments and it'll be great to relive a lot of that glory Sept. 25 and try to transcend it into the present and future.