KU could dominate in area

Friday, August 7, 2009

Talk about being blessed with a genie in a jug and the stopper in your hand: That’s the enviable status of the Kansas University athletic program as 2009-10 approaches.

The Kansas City Royals are en route to a 100-loss baseball season; even mainstays such as Zack Greinke are having trouble working miracles. Don’t expect Royals fans to shift to the T-Bones.

The restructuring Kansas City Chiefs will have a terrific football season if they win as many as six games. K.C. soccer remains as dull and inefficient as ever, and there are no hockey or basketball franchises to create box office and media stampedes. UMKC won’t see any women throwing house keys to Kangaroos from the balcony at Municipal Auditorium.

So here sit the Kansas Jayhawks, strong contenders for the Big 12 North football title, while the basketball team is favored by many to win two more league championships, then a national crown. If Bonnie Henrickson and the KU basketball women can pick up where they left off after that 16,000-plus fan finale last season, the sports spotlight will feature Crimson and Blue activities more than it has for a long time.

Kansas is in a tremendous position to rule the Midlands and soak up the ongoing coverage.

Missouri cannot be as potent in football as in 2008. The Tiger basketball team will be good again, but not as powerful as when it had the likes of Leo Lyons and DeMarre Carroll. The consensus is that MU will finish behind Kansas and Nebraska in the northern football division. MU really likes its basketball newcomers and thinks its holdovers can show well. But if Kansas doesn’t dominate the two-state court scene from start to finish, something will be way out of whack.

Jayhawk fans have the delightful treat of bubbling, justifiably, about both football AND basketball at the “basketball school.”

Kansas State lost quarterback Josh Freeman and is trying to recycle Bill Snyder as football coach after a three-season Ron Prince disaster. There is static about whether Snyder was overpaid from past alignments, and there is that obscene deal where Prince is due to rip off KSU for $3.2 million during the 2015-20 period. KSU’s new president and athletic director, along with Snyder, will have many more sleepless nights trying to unravel all that costly fol-de-rol as well as win a lot more football games than Prince could (17-20).

Word is that K-State faithful are returning to the fold to help overcome the debacles of the recent past, but will the sagging economy allow enough of them to provide the high-dollar amounts needed for a major renaissance? Kansas State built up a tremendous wealth of Purple Pride in Snyder’s first 17 years as coach. Can that once-powerful force be reconstituted?

Wildcat basketball under Fierce Frank Martin has visions of Big 12 and national contention with touted new guys and pretty decent holdovers. But just as with Missouri, KSU quite likely will be playing second- or third-fiddle as Bill Self’s Jayhawks soar to new heights.

KU’s Henrickson is on the spot this year to catch K-State and prove she deserves her generous $630,000 salary package. Now or never? Just as KU is expected by many to win the North in football, so is Bonnie under pressure for an overdue sweep against K-State and Mizzou.

Yet right now, Kansas is the equivalent of the area’s 800-pound gorilla in the three big sports, and if it maintains strong control of that cork in its jug of success, KU and its fans will have one of their greatest years to date.

Ain’t we got fun?