Ashworth: Homecoming weekend shows importance of basketball

Lawrence is a basketball town.  History supports that conclusion.

This weekend solidified it.

Homecoming is scheduled in order to make football the centerpiece of the weekend.  At most schools around the country during their respective homecoming weekends, the stadiums fill to capacity, with people fighting for seats like hungry carp fighting for a piece of day-old bread.

The official attendance for the Texas Tech game was 35,648.  Kansas’ Memorial Stadium holds more than 50,000 people.  Kansas fans couldn’t even fill three-quarters of the stadium, and most attendees fled the stadium during the fourth quarter like spiders from a basilisk.  Five points if you understand the Harry Potter reference.

Meanwhile, Kansas’ other main source of athletic revenue, the basketball team, held a practice on Friday night.

This “practice” goes by a more well-known name: Late Night at the Phog.  Clearly, the word “practice” does not adequately describe the tradition and entertainment that Late Night emcompasses.  But ultimately, you can put rabbit ears on a dog and call him a rabbit, but he’s still going to bark at the mailman.  Late Night, technically speaking, is a practice.  A fun practice, but a practice nonetheless.

Numbers have varied, but there are reports that as many as 25,000 people attempted to get into Late Night.  Allen Fieldhouse’s capacity is 16,300.  This was like trying to squeeze William Howard Taft into a small T-shirt.  It just didn’t work.
While the backlash from having to turn away 9,000 people is undesirable, the interest in Late Night was exactly what the administration wanted.  The administration also wants a similar interest for football.  But it just didn’t happen.  More people showed up for the football game, but that is indicative of the difference in capacities.  Put simply, one event overflowed while the other undersold.

This relative lack of interest in the football program is crippling to its development and recruiting.  Any recruits who were at Memorial Stadium saw a lot of empty seats during Homecoming weekend.  Is this the sales pitch that will have them signing on the dotted line?  Unlikely.

On the other hand, basketball recruits such as Kelly Oubre and Cliff Alexander got to witness the pandemonium of Late Night.  Presenting that kind of atmosphere to a high school student borders on unfair.  Kansas basketball has the limo, the extravagant dinner and the six pack abs to offer its prom date.  Kansas football drives a ’95 Saturn and purchases its date Chinese takeout.  The fortune cookie reads that a second date is not likely.

The hierarchy is clear at Kansas.  Some coaches are up to the enormous challenge of trying to force a shift in the status quo.  Turner Gill was not.  Charlie Weis still has time.  But he is constantly going to be facing an uphill battle.

The success of the basketball team and the devotion of its fanbase are great for the University and put Kansas on the national radar.

However, this same success overshadows the football team and hurts its long-term prospects.

Kansas Homecoming 2013 was simply a demonstration of this.

  • Updated Oct. 7, 2013 at 11:13 pm
  • Adi Gordan

    Your conclusion is absolutely untrue. Yes, Kansas Basketball overshadows Kansas Football in terms of fan loyalty and excitement. However, that’s not necessarily bad for the Football team.

    it is far more likely that many of the 35,648 fans, that had made their way to memorial stadium for the game, wouldn’t have shown up in Lawrence at all, had they not already been in town the night before for Late Night. It’s absolutely ridiculous to think that Kansas’s basketball success is doing anything but helping out the football team. Kansas hasn’t traditionally been a successful football school, but the fact that our basketball team is consistently successful and the recent success of women’s track are proof that our Athletics Department is capable of producing a good football in the years to come. Now, whether or not that happens is a completely different story… but Late Night being hours before the Homecoming Game?… They planned that.