If you want quaint, you’ve got it in Kansas where there are fourteen State Champions crowned in seven different divisions. Don’t get me started on the number of divisions in a state with less than three million people let me, instead, concentrate on the way we crown our champions in a state where the sport is king. Starting today, competition begins in seven venues across Kansas; it culminates with championships games on Saturday afternoon. I’m not sure why we have to spread the action all over the state, maybe because that’s just the way it’s always been. But having covered state for nearly thirty years, I would suggest it’s time for a change.
No, I don’t want to deprive Emporia, Manhattan, Hutchinson, Hays, Salina and Topeka of the tradition they have with these tournaments. The people that run those tourneys generally do a great job and I’m sure having those events are important to the local economies—I get it. I’m not about taking the tournaments from these communities—all I want is one game. Ok, the one game—the final in each class. What am I going to do with them?
Bring it to Intrust---
Imagine what next week would be like if you brought 14 finals to one 15,000 seat venue in downtown Wichita. Practically non-stop championship basketball spread out over three days; it would be the biggest sporting event of the year in Kansas high school sports. The energy it would create downtown would be unprecedented, as we came together to celebrate our love of the game that largely defines Kansas.
Can you imagine the draw it would be for local fans, or fans around the state who’ve always had to choose one venue to go and support? With the event in one location it’s hard to imagine that a regional network wouldn’t be interested. I know there are financial concerns --you’re asking families from outside the Wichita area to travel on consecutive weekends, you’re extending the season by one week, I know all the reasons you couldn’t do this—but how about a reason why you should. To do something great, to make an event memorable, one that’s so anticipated that people around Kansas clear their calendar every March. This would be an event that not only enhances the experience of the fan, but of the young athlete competing for a state title. I don’t mean this as a dig to any of the current championship communities, but honestly—think of any experience you’ve had at a state championship venue and compare it to what it would look like in front of 15,000 at Intrust Bank Arena.
Cat scratch fever---
It won’t be a game that Bruce Weber points to proudly, but his Wildcat’s did manage to subdue TCU on senior night, setting up a big trip to Oklahoma State on Saturday. K-State is looking for a piece of its first title since 1977, when Mike Evans was their star and Jack Hartman their coach. Crazy as it sounds, Kansas State is looking to become the first school in the Big 12 to own a football and men’s basketball championship in the same school year. Of course, KU is looking to become the first program since UCLA during its dynasty to win nine straight conference titles. The ‘Hawks travel to Baylor while the ‘Cats toil in Stillwater, it will be a very interesting Saturday.