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Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Woodling

Woodling: KSU job only gets tougher

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Kansas University's 2006 football schedule shows the Jayhawks playing host to Kansas State in the regular-season finale. Don't cut that in stone, however. You know how fluid college football schedules are these days.

Anyway, on paper, new KSU football coach Ron Prince will have to wait another 11 months before he makes his second visit to Memorial Stadium.

Prince was wearing a Junction City High football uniform during his first visit in 1986. He was a 6-foot-5, 280-pound lineman for the Blue Jays when they met Lawrence High in the Class 6A state-championship game.

Not that Prince, despite his huge frame, caused an impact. The Lions posted a 20-7 victory after trailing, 7-0, at halftime.

In fact, Lance Flachsbarth, the Lions' quarterback on that November afternoon, has been scratching his head ever since he heard the Wildcats were considering the former Junction City High lineman for their head-coaching vacancy.

"I don't remember him," said Flachsbarth, now a Lawrence Police Department detective. "I just don't remember them having anyone that big."

Neither does Mike Hill, Free State High's baseball coach. Hill was the nose guard on that '86 LHS team.

"I remember they had some big guys on the line, but mostly I just saw their ankles," Hill quipped.

Like his predecessor, Prince was an obscure member of an NCAA Division I-A football staff. But Prince is 36 years old, and Bill Snyder was in his late 40s when he came unheralded from Iowa University to take charge of the NCAA's most moribund program in late 1988.

Then again, is age really a factor? Glen Mason was 37 when he took over KU's football program in early 1988, and Roy Williams had just turned 38 when he replaced Larry Brown as KU's basketball coach in the summer of '88.

Granted, Mason had two years of head-coaching experience at Kent State when he was hired, but Williams' only head-coaching experience had been at the high school level, unless you count North Carolina's JV team.

Truly, age and experience are not so much cause and effect in coaching as are diligence, commitment and -- most important -- resources.

Kansas State officials were so determined to shake the school's football doormat image in the late '80s that they did two things. First, they handed Snyder a blank check. Then they created an academic environment conducive to the admission and retention of marginal student-athletes.

The formula worked and Kansas State made the most dramatic turnaround in college football history, eventually arriving at a point where it could, for the first time, use tradition as a recruiting tool.

Eventually, however, the inability to recruit partial qualifiers (Big 12 rule) and the removal of the private jet as a transportation tool (NCAA no-no) hit Kansas State hard.

No doubt the 'Cats had a great run. K-State was a major player for 11 seasons, but the last two years have been mediocre, and you have to wonder if history will eventually denote the period from 1993 to 2003 as KSU's glory years.

Snyder was the right coach at the right time. Prince could be the right coach at the right time, too, but he will not enjoy all the resources available to Snyder.

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