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Sports Illustrated FEBRUARY 13, 1978
EVERYONE who is at all interested in athletics is now talking basketball, yet it does not stop here. Those who hitherto have manifested no interest in any sport of skill and strength seem now to be enthusiastic over the new game.
FROM THE VERY BEGINNING BASKETBALL has always been something special at the University of Kansas. A few schools may win more games or attract larger crowds or produce more All-Americas, but no one—not UCLA, not Kentucky, not Indiana—has a legacy to equal Kansas's. This is the school where James Naismith and Phog Allen coached, where Clyde Lovellette and Wilt Chamberlain played, and where Adolph Rupp and Dean Smith learned their trade. This is also the school where students shout "Rock chalk, Jayhawk, KU!" and nobody asks what it means.
The Jayhawk is a mythical bird, embodied in a 65-pound costume worn with great difficulty, but there is nothing phony about the tradition it represents. And when Kansas plays archrival Kansas State in Lawrence, that tradition consumes the KU campus. Snob Hill vs. Silo Tech, as the two schools are known in their home state, is the kind of game that gives college basketball an excitement and intensity that most other sports rarely match. There are other great rivalries across the country, but for statewide interest and institutional pride, this one is special.
The most recent reminder came in mid-January, when 15,790 people left the warmth of their homes and the convenience of their television sets to make the trip up Naismith Drive and into Allen Fieldhouse. The line for seats to the 7:35 p.m. game began forming at 1:30 a.m. in 9� weather when four Acacia fraternity brothers pitched tents in the snow, unrolled sleeping bags and uncorked a half-gallon jug of rum. At 4:30 a.m. other students joined the vigil to obtain tickets for the last 400 unreserved seats, which did not go on sale until midmorning. For all of these hardy souls, the sacrifice was made worthwhile by an exciting 56-52 victory, the 114th by Kansas in the 185-game series.
The history of the rivalry—indeed the history of basketball—goes back to Naismith, the man who invented the game at a YMCA training school in Springfield, Mass., in 1891 and began coaching it at Kansas in '98. Coaching may not be quite the right word, because Naismith once told his student and successor, Allen, "You don't coach basketball, you just play it." Being a minister and doctor by training, Naismith was more an advocate of spiritual and mental fitness than a teacher of technique. "So much stress is laid today on the winning of games," he wrote in 1914, "that practically all else is lost sight of, and the fine elements of manliness and true sportsmanship are accorded a secondary place." Not surprisingly, Naismith is the only one of Kansas's five coaches with a losing career record.
That did not prevent Naismith from being named to the Jayhawks' athletic Hall of Fame. In his case the criterion that a coach had to have won a national championship was waived. Allen, on the other hand, was admitted on performance. Ted O'Leary, an all-conference player for Kansas in 1932, says, "Doc Allen convinced us we had an obligation to win."
It was Allen, the colorful, controversial osteopath, who turned Kansas into a basketball power. In 39 seasons (1908-09 and '20-56) he won 24 conference titles, two Helms Foundation national championships and the '52 NCAA tournament. He was also founding president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches; the leader of the movement to make basketball an Olympic sport; and a severe critic of the AAU, the NCAA, college football and Kansas State. His greatest tribute came from Naismith, who gave him a picture inscribed, FROM THE FATHER OF BASKETBALL TO THE FATHER OF BASKETBALL COACHING.
Until Rupp passed him in 1967 with his 771st victory at Kentucky, Allen was also the winningest college coach in history. When he lost the distinction to his old player, Allen stayed in character by saying, "Bless his bones. If Rupp can count that high, he can have it."