Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Kansas senior makes dream come true

By Andrew Curtis

As the NCAA commercial says, most college athletes go pro in something other than sports. This is not the case for University of Kansas senior softball player Maggie Hull.

Hull, who holds the record for highest career batting average at KU and is tied for the career RBI record at the school, was drafted 11th overall by the Chicago Bandits in the 2013 National Pro Fastpitch College Draft.

“To be among the top 20 to be drafted to play professionally,” Hull said. “Words can’t really even describe what that’s like, but we’re all going in there as rookies not knowing what to expect and it’s going to be a whole new ballgame.”

As a Lawrence native who has spent most of her life living in the unique college town, things will be different, especially when she plays without her twin sister Rosie for the first time.

She has spent the last four years as a 4.0 student, primarily trying to help build up the program at Kansas. By making herself well known, she has created national attention for Kansas softball.

“It was my dream to play at Kansas,” Hull said. “To know that I will be leaving a legacy means so much to me.”

Unlike most other professional sports, the National Pro Fastpitch League isn’t a full-time job. It features a season that only runs for the three months during the summer.

Even though it’s just part time, there is an income tied to it. According to the USA Today, the teams have a $150,000 salary cap, with player salaries ranging from $4,000 to $25,000, not bad for three months of work right out of college.

She isn’t the only female athlete from Kansas to be drafted. Basketball player Angel Goodrich was drafted 29th overall by the Tulsa Shock of the WNBA.

The WNBA, which has a longer season and stands on a slightly higher platform, offers a rookie minimum of $35,000 and a league average of $72,000. There is a lot of parity player salaries, with the league maximum being $105,000.

The difference between men’s sports and women’s sports on the professional level is player endorsements and sponsors, which give athletes a significant bonus in income.

Softball was removed from being an Olympic sport in 2005, so it’s slowly building its reputation back up in the U.S.

Hull won’t be gone from Lawrence for long. After she graduates and her final collegiate season ends, Hull will report to the Bandits immediately. Chicago is the closest city in the NPFL to Lawrence.

After the season, ends in August, Hull, who is engaged, will know whether she has a future or not in the sport and move back to Lawrence.

From there, she will seek to find a job through her journalism and Spanish double majors to make an income for the other nine months of the year.

Tons of friends and family have her back, including her teammates. In the first moments after the news that she had been drafted, the experience was once in a lifetime.

“Within a couple of minutes, all of my teammates had found out and were all texting me,” Hull said. “It’s a huge honor to have all the support and how excited they are for me, it makes it that much more of a big deal to me.”

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Josh Swade: Mission Accomplished

Posted: May 7, 2013 in News

Documentary filmmaker plays crucial role in bringing the rules of basketball back to his home state of Kansas

There’s no place like home. No, this isn’t a Dorothy reference from the Wizard of Oz like people outside of Kansas generally make, it’s the title of the documentary seeking to bring the original rules of basketball home to its roots in Lawrence, Kan.

One man in particular did more than could have been thought possible to persuade some of the University of Kansas’ wealthiest alumni to make significant financial contributions to keep the original rules where they belong. His name is Josh Swade.

Swade, who was raised in Overland Park, Kan. and attended the university, took on the task of directing and appearing in ESPN’s “30 for 30” series with his own documentary about the quest to bring the rules home.

The most interesting thing about the film for Swade, who makes documentaries for a living in New York, was being able to use his off-the-charts obsession with Kansas basketball in order to bring the rules home while doing what he loves.

“I was not a member of the media. I was simply a documentary filmmaker,” Swade said. “It’s hard for me to find that line between this and journalism, because let’s face it, I’m coming from a place where KU’s the greatest place ever, and journalism is more about being bipartisan.”

Swade put enormous pressure on himself to do whatever it took to get the famous document back to Kansas, where Dr. James Naismith, who invented the game in Springfield, Mass., was the first coach in school history.

Traveling all over the country, Swade met with important figures with Kansas backgrounds such as David Booth, Roy Williams, Larry Brown and Mark Allen, the grandson of legendary Jayhawk coach Phog Allen, whom Kansas’ historic arena is named for.

Booth, who pledged millions of dollars to have the Kansas Hall of Athletics built and attached to the front of Allen Fieldhouse, played a vital role.

However, Swade felt uneasy about asking for all this money from someone he didn’t know.

“There’s no way you could have so much at stake and not be nervous,” Swade said. “Not to mention, looking at who David Booth is and what he’s done for KU, and I’m just some guy from off the street.”

At his initial meeting with Booth in Las Vegas, Swade was relieved after persuading Booth to get involved.

“I’m good for a million,” said Booth in the film, as if it were just pocket change.

But that wasn’t enough.

“The next hurdle is, we need more than one million,” Swade said. “So, immediately, the thought process goes from, ‘OK, we’ve got a shot’ to ‘we need to try and get more’.”

Swade, who wouldn’t have ever gotten in contact with Mark Allen if it hadn’t been for Allen’s wife hearing Swade on a Kansas City radio show, got Allen to travel to Booth’s home in Austin, Texas, to receive Booth’s full endorsement.

“If Mark never comes to Austin to help me persuade David Booth, then I would put David’s participation under 40 percent,” Swade said. “I’m not saying it wouldn’t have happened, but chances are, it wouldn’t have happened.”

Following the meeting, on Dec. 10, 2010, Booth purchased the rules with a final offer of $4.3 million at a Sotheby’s auction in New York City. If Booth hadn’t come through, chances are that the rules would have resided at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke had the next highest bidder at the auction.

The university has tentative plans for the construction of a new building on the northeast corner of Allen Fieldhouse as the home for the rules.

The documentary aired in Oct., 2012. Swade was back in Lawrence on Feb. 16 for the basketball game against Texas. He also had a public viewing of the documentary on campus the next day, courtesy of Student Union Activities.

Swade made it clear how he wants to be remembered.

“I don’t want people to think of me other than just a passionate fan. Not to be cliché and try to be humble, but I’m just a regular fan. I really am.”

Quidditch: The Sport

Posted: April 29, 2013 in News

Extracurricular activities are playing an increased role in the college life. In this new day and age of 2013, there are more options by the minute to keep students occupied when not in class or at work.

For those that have read the Harry Potter books or seen the movies that chronicle the work of author J.K. Rowling, you’re probably aware of a game called quidditch.

The quidditch team at the University of Kansas, which isn’t affiliated with the athletics department, was started after a tournament in October of 2010.

Connor Drake and Doug Whiston, who were freshman roommates at the time, gained steam on the movement in January of 2011, forming quidditch as an official sports club at KU.

As a lifelong sports fan who has grown up playing multiple sports and also happens to have read all the Harry Potter books and seen all the movies, Drake’s reasoning for playing quidditch is different from what you’d expect.

“My love of quidditch, the sport, has nothing to do with the fact that it is Harry Potter related,” Drake said. “There are a number of people on the team who have never seen the movies or read the books.”

However, many people have been critical of the game, questioning whether or not it actually qualifies as a sport.

Colby Soden, the team’s current vice president and next year’s captain, has a lot to say in defense of the harsh and, at times, unwarranted criticism.

“A sport is defined as any physical activity that takes skill and you compete against another individual or team,” Soden said. “Quidditch requires all of that.”

But what else makes constitutes it as being a ‘sport’?

“With five balls in play at a time with three separate roles as well as four different positions on the field, there’s a lot going on that you have to be aware of,” Soden said.

The game is new and delicate, with so many brand new strategies being applied and modified, that it’s refreshing for those involved. It serves as a change of pace to other games such as soccer and basketball, but still requires some degree of athleticism.

The team at KU has adjusted nicely to the nuances of the game, especially in 2013, resulting in their best season yet.

Kansas finished sixth at the World Cup this season. The Jayhawks compiled a 35-5 overall record, winning five of their seven tournaments, including the final one this past weekend at Arkansas.

Because of a large senior class, there will be plenty of spots available on the team next year. It’s rather easy to get involved.

“If you are interested in quidditch, it is simply a matter of how much you are willing to put into it,” said Samy Mousa, captain of the Crimson Warhawks, the second team at KU, and a member of the International Quidditch Association.

The team offers many different practice times to try and accommodate as many people as possible. Tournaments usually last one or two days and the teams take part in about three tournaments per semester.

“If you make the traveling team, there is a time commitment to make it to practices every week and travel on certain weekends to tournaments,” Soden said. “But you can also just join the club and play at practice and in intramural games.”

Perhaps the most underrated aspect of joining the team is all the places throughout the country and even the world available to travel to for tournaments.

Drake’s two favorites were Kissimmee, Fla. and Oxford, England, while also having the opportunity to go to New York City as well as several cities across the Midwest, mostly college towns.

“I got to travel to Oxford in the summer of 2012 after being selected to play for the United States National Team,” Drake said. “Kissimmee hosted World Cup VI in 2013. 60 teams from four countries competed for the title in the largest, most watched quidditch event in history.”

Quidditch began in 2005 at Middlebury College (Ver.) in 2005 and continues to grow, spreading to hundreds of universities in the United States, Canada, Mexico, England, Italy, France, China and Australia.

It’s well documented that rainouts in the game of baseball can ruin any momentum or help a team catch a break. It’s almost always one or the other. In college baseball, that also holds true, but in a different way than in the major leagues.

Postponements can hurt a college baseball team. For instance, the Kansas baseball team won the first game of the series on Tuesday at Iowa last week, then had the Wednesday game postponed. The game cannot be rescheduled.

Missing a game on a schedule are detrimental to a team’s postseason chances in the college game.

“We’ve lost two home series. We’ve lost four mid-week games,” Kansas head coach Ritch Price said. “We’ve lost ten home games that were originally on our schedule, and if we don’t make those games up some way, it’s going to penalize our team at the end of the season to where we might not make the NCAA Tournament, when we should have qualified.”

Price says that in order to make the NCAA Tournament, you have to get to 35 wins. The only problem with that is that if a team were to reschedule that game against a team with an RPI ranking under 150, it actually has a negative impact on a team’s postseason aspirations.

So, because of all the smaller schools in Kansas and the surrounding states, particularly from the Summit League, Kansas can choose four built-in non-Division 1 rain makeup games at any point in the season. In a schedule that features 56 games, this helps so players don’t have to miss class and the rule also doesn’t hurt a team’s RPI.

Fortunately the game in Iowa City was cancelled at 10:00am on the day it was schedule due to rain, so Price and his staff came up with a plan.

“We got on the bus at 11 and we have the schedules of all the small colleges in Kansas by league, so we started looking to see which team was not playing on Thursday, and Missouri Valley College, the team that eventually came in, was not playing,” Price said. “So we actually called their coach and they’ve lost 16 games to weather. They hadn’t played in a week, so they were excited just to get to play.”

Price has a protocol for when games are cancelled.

“If you lose a Tuesday game here, you don’t make it up here,” Price said. “For example, if a road game was to be rained out or snowed out and it’s possible to play in Lawrence three weeks later on a Wednesday, we’ll call the other team and say ‘that game is now an official game’, so that’s one of the first things we do to protect ourselves.”

In his tenth year at the University of Kansas, Price now has plenty of experience with games being postponed, and he’s seen it in two different environments.

Price is a native Californian and says scheduling is much tougher in a cold weather state like Kansas.

“In California, if you’re rained out on Tuesday, you play the next day, but the difference is, your kids go to school all the way until noon, you drive across town an hour, you play, then you go home and your kids are back in study hall by night,” Price said. “In the Midwest, where our closest team that we can play is three hours away, it makes losing a game to weather really challenging.”

Kansas currently sits at 22-13 with 20 games left on the regular season schedule. It’s crucial that the Jayhawks play well and are blessed with good weather if they want to fulfill their goal of reaching the NCAA Tournament and ultimately the College World Series in Omaha.

March Madness is something basketball fans look forward to all year long. The NCAA Tournament is considered to be one of the greatest spectacles in sports.

 

Their favorite team’s early exit from the tournament won’t tarnish the interest of University of Kansas basketball fans. With a Final Four of Michigan, Syracuse, Louisville and fellow Kansas school Wichita State, there are many storylines locally.

 

Senior Sean Robinson has his own criteria on which team to root for, based on his tournament predictions.  

 

“I’m in three different NCAA bracket pools, one with 51 people, one with 80 people, and one with 600 people,” Robinson said. “I have Michigan winning the tournament and if they win, I will scoop all three brackets and about $2,000.”

 

For one, this represents the ten-year anniversary of Syracuse defeating Kansas in the 2003 national championship game by three points, in what was Roy Williams’ last game as the Kansas head coach.

 

Also, Michigan defeated the Jayhawks in the Sweet 16 round to advance this far. In a lot of people’s eyes around Lawrence, it should be Kansas, not the Wolverines, in this position. Kansas had a substantial lead before blowing it down the stretch in that game.

 

Louisville is the number one overall seed in the tournament, so people might cheer for them just to support the underdog. While most people invest their emotions into the school, when filling out a bracket, being realistic is a key factor.

 

“I obviously was rooting for Kansas the whole time, but when filling out my bracket, I always pick someone other than KU,” Robinson said.

 

“So I looked for the most reasonable match up where I thought KU might lose,” Robinson said. “From there, I just decided to roll with Michigan because I figured they were a unique enough pick that if they did pull it off, I would win, and that’s exactly what ended up happening.”

 

Before Saturday’s games, other students at the University of Kansas gave their differing opinions regarding which team to pull for in Atlanta. Danielle Rangel, a sophomore from Wichita, Kan., says she was all in for the Shockers.

 

“You always want your state and hometown to do well. I’m wearing black and yellow for the games because I don’t have any WSU apparel yet,” Rangel said. “I’m pretty superstitious and don’t want to buy anything until the season is over. I don’t want to jinx them.”

 

Chase Hager, also born and raised in Kansas, wants his native state to do well, but has lost some of his interest.

 

“I would actually much rather do anything than watch basketball right now, because I was so emotionally invested in the Jayhawks,” Hager said. “But I guess if I had to choose, I would want the Shockers to win it all.”

 

Rangel says the buzz around Wichita was so tremendous leading up to the big weekend that her pastor of all people talked about it during church last weekend.

 

“You can’t go anywhere without seeing someone wearing Shocker clothing,” Rangel said. “Even to buy shirts, you have to wait in long lines. I think everyone is pretty pumped about it.”

 

Robinson actually predicted two Final Four teams correctly, and those two teams happen to be playing in the championship game after winning the semifinal matchups. Robinson has Michigan beating Louisville for the national title.

 

So, whether you have money on the line, pride with friends or home state pride, choosing the team you want to win is unique. It’s an event that captivates everyone’s attention. Each person has their own take, and that’s why the NCAA Tournament takes over the month of March.

For those that haven’t been to Lawrence, Kan., the city eats, sleeps and breathes basketball year-round. The morale of the citizens of this unique college town depends heavily on the fate of their beloved basketball team.

Brother’s Bar and Grill on a tough, yet surprisingly warm spring-like Kansas night in late March, exemplified what the town is all about.A collective groan was let out by the Kansas fans in attendance for a Sweet 16 watch party at Brother’s Bar and Grill after the hometown Jayhawks ended their season in heartbreaking fashion.

Everyone in the building was elated for most of the game, when Kansas got off to a solid start and took a commanding lead that appeared would last until the end. Much to the chagrin of the crowd, Kansas blew a 5-point lead with 21 seconds left in regulation and ultimately lost the game in overtime.

Once the final shot at the end of overtime that clanked against the backboard and then the rim was decidedly not going in, everyone buried their faces in their hands and the place fell silent for a couple minutes. It was a scene that’s generally not seen as all that pleasant.

Frustration and a “what could have been” type of attitude kicked in after that. Some were joyous, trying to forget about the loss, while others were down in the dumps.

Win or lose, those who live in Lawrence love their team.Once all the devoted fans cheered up, they decided to not make it a complete downer of a night by having a good time with their friends and celebrating another good, but not great, season of Kansas basketball.

These people live and die by how their basketball team does, and the passion they share is unrivaled across the majority of the country. The daily mood of these fans depends highly upon the well-being of the basketball team.

Now that the season is over, people will go on with their everyday lives, but the heartbreaking loss to Michigan will be in the back of their minds for months to come, until the annual “Late Night in the Phog” in October.

Losing games in this fashion is unacceptable at Kansas. So is underachieving in the NCAA Tournament. The birthplace of college basketball and its fans expect better. Brother’s Bar and Grill was a prime example of that on Friday night.

In April of 2003, Roy Williams made a controversial decision in the eyes of Kansas fans, leaving to take the head coaching job back home at North Carolina after serving in the same role in Lawrence for the previous 15 seasons.

Fresh off an emotionally devastating loss to Syracuse in the national title game in which Williams was adamant about shrugging off rumors that he was departing, Williams bolted within a week.

Both parties have benefitted from the change, with Kansas winning a national title and North Carolina claiming two of their own since then.

Bill Self is the new man in charge on Naismith Drive and has built a model of consistency that even Roy Williams himself couldn’t eclipse during his time in Lawrence, winning 300 games in just ten seasons while claiming the Big 12 regular season title for 9 years in a row and counting.

Jayhawk fans have moved on since then, putting everything into perspective.

“Roy showed that he is past his prime as a coach,” said Nate Milburn, a University of Kansas graduate. “But he has tremendous class and as KU fan, I wish him well. I don’t have a grudge against him anymore.”

Williams had plenty of teams in his tenure at Kansas that came extremely close to winning it all. 1991, 1993, 2002 and the aforementioned 2003 were the years that he led the Jayhawks to the Final Four, while 1997 was a year that Kansas was favored to cut down the nets entering the NCAA Tournament.

However, it’s not unanimous among Kansas fans that Williams would have won a national title by now if he had stayed at Kansas.

“No, I don’t think he would have. His coaching style just seemed to get us only so far, said Collin Myers, a diehard Kansas fan who attends the University of Oklahoma. “He’s definitely offensive minded, and defense wins championships. Bill’s teams have been aggressive and force opponents to take bad shots.”

In the four meetings between the two coaches in the NCAA Tournament, Self has won all of them, dating back to 2001 when Self was at Illinois and Williams was still at Kansas.

When Kansas won the national championship in 2008, they had to get past Williams’ Tar Heels in the semifinal, dominating from start to finish.

Last season in the Elite Eight, the Jayhawks pulled away in the final three minutes to defeat North Carolina and secure a spot in the Final Four.

Finally, Bill Self’s squad put the icing on the cake with a 70-58 victory Sunday in Kansas City. Williams built a 9 point lead at the half, but the game slipped away in the 2nd half.

“I believe Bill has Roy’s number because he gets his teams prepared better and recruits better players from top to bottom,” said Steven Mowry, who has grown up as a lifelong Jayhawk fan.

Williams is known for wearing his emotions on his sleeve. That was on full display in postgame interviews, when he had tears in his eyes as he normally does after a season-ending loss in the NCAA Tournament.

“He is a bit too emotional, which is a liability in sports, but he is a legend,” Milburn said.

Williams has publicly stated that the 15 years he spent at Kansas were some of the greatest of his life. He was seen sporting a sticker with a Jayhawk logo on it at the 2008 national title game.

“He’s a fantastic coach,” Myers said. “As odd as it seems, since he’s been at Carolina, I feel like the one team he’s okay with losing to is Kansas.”

Whether he is booed or cheered, there’s a shared sentiment among the Kansas fanbase as a whole regarding Williams.

“He still has a lot of respect for KU and I think most of us fans do for him as well,” Mowry said. “If our program fell off for a few years, we would blame Roy, but I think we got a better coach when he left.”