Saturday's Kansas-Kansas State football game has the ingredients to be one of the most entrancing battles in the series. It could be an overwhelming contrast to what probably was the ugliest-ever KU-KSU face-off, in 1966. Unique spinoffs from that 3-3 tie in Manhattan bounced off the walls for years.
Fervent fans may recall that game of bungles, but they may not be familiar with the daisy-chain of career capers that involved the tutors, Jack Mitchell of KU and Doug Weaver of KSU. Both schools entered the game hoping the other would win so they could oust the coaches.
K-State nabbed an early 3-0 lead. With only 50 seconds left, quarterback Bill Nossek bungled a pitchout he shouldn't have tried, and KU's Bill Lynch recovered at the KSU 30. KU quarterback Bobby Douglass lost three yards, then completed his first pass, to end Sandy Buda, who reached the Wildcat 21. No timeouts; Douglass fired the ball out of bounds.
Enter sophomore back Thermus Butler, who never had attempted a field goal in college, or even practiced such. Butler had been in for only two previous plays. With Tommy Ball, a Manhattan kid, holding, Thermus banged home a 38-yarder with four seconds to go. Fans everywhere, including the 17,900 in the stands, left grumbling and grousing about a tie that complicated their coach-ouster desires.
But Mitchell, in his ninth year at KU, was canned by athletic director Wade Stinson after a 2-7-1 season. He eventually departed to operate the Wellington Daily News, which he had purchased. KU paid Jack, now living it up in Arizona, all of his $20,300 salary through the following June 30, then shelled out $14,000 the following four years for a total of $56,000.
Mitchell had a 44-42-5 record and remains the last coach to leave here with a winning mark. With a lot of interests, genial Jack's had a great life, and admits he was ready to give up coaching. He deserves good things.
Weaver? He starred at Michigan State, assisted at MSU and Missouri and became KSU's head coach at age 29. His record was 8-60-1 at a time when K-State seemed a hopeless cause. He also was fired, then came to KU to go to law school.
Pepper Rodgers succeeded Mitchell, saw that Weaver still loved the game and hired him as an assistant for 1967-69 while Doug turned barrister. Pepper left KU for UCLA after 1970, with a 20-22 record, and Weaver eventually became athletic director and football coach at Southern Illinois.
Doug's coaching mark at SIU was 3-18-1. Then he was hired as athletic director at Georgia Tech, where Pepper Rodgers had been a brilliant quarterback from 1951 to 53, with a 30-2-1 record, three bowl victories and a national title in 1952. When Tech sought a new coach, Weaver returned the '67 favor at KU and hired Pepper to come home and create new legends.
Would you believe Weaver had to fire pal Rodgers in 1978? Then from 1979-89, Doug gained stature as athletic director at Michigan State, where he had his assistant coaching start. Pepper, meanwhile, got involved with pro football at various levels and at one time was vice president of football operations for the Washington Redskins. He's since left that job but continues to prosper.
Weaver has retired to Stillwater, Okla.
Wonder if there will be any long linkages of this incredible nature for K-State's Ron Prince and KU's Mark Mangino 30 or 40 years down the line. Whatever, their 2006 game can't be as ugly as that '66 edition.