Jayhawks appreciate men who drove them on road to Omaha
OMAHA — The road to the Final Four can’t be traveled without bus drivers behind the wheel. The Kansas volleyball team has a way of making fans out of those transporting them.
“My favorite team,” said John Bialek, bus driver for KU’s basketball teams, baseball, softball, soccer, track, cheerleading, swimming and sometimes tennis teams. “They treat me like a king.” Bialek normally is allowed entry to watch the matches, but with tickets so tight at sold-out CenturyLink Center, as of this afternoon, he wasn’t yet sure if he would be able to watch tonight’s 8:30 match vs. Nebraska.
Bialek said he has been driving KU’s teams for “about 12, 13 years. When I first started driving them, I didn’t know the rules real well. After driving them for so many years, I can yell at the referees ‘cuz I know the bad calls when I see them.”
Bialek said he’s made to feel like part of the volleyball team.
“When they have their banquet for senior night, they always invite me and recognize me,” he said.
They don’t just appreciate Bialek, but everyone who drives them, it seems.
“Our bus driver, Jose, did a great job for us,” senior Anna Church said, looking back on their trip to San Diego, the launching pad to the Final Four. “He was giving us motivational speeches. He really emphasized, ‘Play for yourselves. Play for KU. Remember, you’re representing KU and you guys can do this.’ He was just a really great guy."
Shortly after the team arrived at CenturyLink Center for the Nebraska match, Jose sent a text to KU assistant athletic director Jim Marchiony, wishing "the No. 1 volleyball team in the NCAA tournament," luck.
“He gave us a tour of San Diego," Church said of Jose. "He knew everything about the city. He took us to the fish market. There’s a big Navy Ship. I don’t remember what it’s called. The Fish Market’s a restaurant down in the harbor area, and we drove through downtown to get there, so he gave us a tour of downtown.”
Church, who transferred to KU from Saint Louis University for her senior year, couldn’t remember the name of the ship, but Google, the font of all knowledge, knows it: USS Midway.
With Bialek behind the wheel, the volleyball team left Lawrence at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday. Just being in their company put Bialek in a good mood.
“There’s more spotlight on the (men’s) basketball players, more pressure,” Bialek said. “These girls, I’ve been to some of their parents’ houses for dinner and what not. It’s just a lot more fun.