A proud but humble member of the United States military, Floyd Temple never spoke to his Kansas University baseball players about his being awarded a Purple Heart in World War II.
“I don’t know how we knew about it, but we all knew he was a Marine — put it that way,” Lee Ice, captain for Temple’s 1977 and ‘78 KU teams, said of his “tough but fair” coach, who died on Friday at the age of 86.
Services are set for 1 p.m., today, at Plymouth Congregational Church.
“It didn’t matter if you were playing hearts or spades in the van on long road trips or Tiddlywinks ... coach Temple did not want to lose,” Ice added of Temple, who compiled a 438-395 record at KU from 1954 to ‘81.
“We competed like coach did. We were not necessarily the most talented group at times, but we competed as a team in between the white lines. Coach Temple was very demanding. He expected hard work. The military background he had and being a football coach (assistant on KU staffs of Jack Mitchell, Pepper Rodgers, and Don Fambrough) as well ... we took the field and felt we had an opportunity to win because of the toughness he instilled with us.”
Ice has first-hand knowledge of Temple’s will to win.
He was one of a handful of Jayhawks asked — OK, ordered — to play the coach in games of racquetball after especially tough baseball practices.
Those were the days handball and racquetball courts were located in Parrott Athletic Center — located a stone’s throw from Quigley Field, now Hoglund Ballpark.
“Coach would ask for volunteers — or call out any two players — and get on the racquetball court, two against one,” Ice said. “Myself, (Carl) Heinrich, (Monty) Hobbs, (Ron) MacDonald ... if you stood in his way, he’d hit you,” Ice said with a laugh.
“Sometimes he’d spot you 10 points. He truly loved to compete. That’s what he instilled in us as players. If you go play the game, you play to win and shouldn’t like losing. One time we played in a tournament at K-State and beat a team we were supposed to beat. We came home from the game and practiced. Coach Temple said, ‘Good thing we didn’t have lights back then, because we’d have gone real late.’ We went until dark.”
Temple — he played third base on KU’s 1949 baseball team that claimed the Big Seven Conference title, KU’s last baseball title prior to the 2006 Big 12 Championship — led the Jayhawks to a 171-101 record in his last six seasons, when his program’s number of scholarship players increased from four to 13.
“There was a time the baseball program had struggled a little bit. Clyde Walker was athletic director and there was some pressure from the (KUAC) board to make a change,” said former KU assistant athletic director Jerry Waugh.
“Clyde Walker told the board that Floyd had only a very few scholarships and was competing against Oklahoma and schools that had as many as 24 scholarships. Clyde said, ‘You give him some scholarships and an opportunity to compete, then evaluate him. It is not a level table right now.’
“The board came in the meeting with the idea they’d get rid of Floyd. They walked away and gave him more scholarships. From that time on, he did very well,” added Waugh, who thinks he knows why.
“Floyd was a great competitor, both as a player here in baseball and football (defensive back) and was that way as a coach,” Waugh said. “He was a good disciplinarian with kids and they loved him for it.”
Ice remembers playing for KU at a time Temple turned the program over to New York Yankee scout Russ Sehon in the fall. Salaries were such at the time, Temple spent football season coaching football, to make extra money.
“He had no paid assistants,” Ice said. “He would rely on scouts to identify players throughout the state because the recruiting budget wasn’t very good.”
Ice said Temple taught him lessons he’s used in his own career. Ice, a former KU baseball assistant, now is softball coach at Free State High.
“I’ve taken a lot from him as far as coaching style and how I want to come across to kids,” Ice said. “The toughness he brought to the field whether arguing with the umps, the other team or even us ... from the time the game started until it was over ... he always had our backs.”
Ice said Temple, who also worked as Jayhawk assistant athletic director from 1981 to ‘92, was fiercely proud of KU. Despite failing health, he attended the final KU-Missouri regular season baseball game on May 19 at Hoglund Ballpark.
Ice sat next to Temple for three innings that day.
“He wanted to beat Missouri. I know that,” Ice said. “Coach wanted to win every game.”
Temple’s No. 13 was retired in 1982 and remains the only jersey number displayed on the outfield wall of Hoglund Ballpark.
“He was tough on kids but very fair with them. They recognized that and performed for him,” said Waugh, who will be a speaker at services today.
Temple, who was born on February 3, 1926 in Coffeyville, is survived by wife Beverly (they were married on Aug. 15, 1948), son, George “Biff” (wife, Leslie) Temple of Granbury, Texas; daughter, Ann (husband, Bobby) Clark of Arlington, Texas; five grandchildren, Stephanie Temple, Kelly Ballard, Taylor Stapleton, Kaci Green, Brett Temple; and six great grandchildren.
The family suggests memorials in his name to Wounded Warrior Project, the American Cancer Society, or to the Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Foundation and may be sent in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary. Online condolences may be sent to www.warrenmcelwain.com