By Samuel D. BradleySparks Sports Staff Writer
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Kansas State basketball has not mattered for decades. That changed Thursday with the hiring of coach Bob Huggins. Although I grew up a diehard Jayhawks, fan, it is the Sunflower State's land-grant university from which I hold a degree.
K-State once had a proud tradition. Now there is mediocrity. The fans' welcoming of Huggins is not all about the wins. Yes, we will win now. But it is more that than. I wanted K-State basketball to matter
The Wildcats are now the second most prominent hoops team in the Big XII North. Iowa State, Missouri, Colorado, and Nebraska are now the step-children.
How many times had you ever heard Texas Tech basketball mentioned on SportsCenter before they hired Bob Knight? Now Texas Tech has its own reality TV show, Knight School, on ESPN. Now the program matters. They made it to the Sweet 16 last year. Yes, K-State will be back.
There is another comparison between Texas Tech and Kansas State. I moved to Bloomington shortly after Knight was run out of town. Texas Tech hats were everywhere. They still are. Today's Kansas City Star
reported that K-State T-shirt sales spiked in Cincinnati the day after Huggins was hired:
"The most popular items just arrived. Those would be purple T-shirts at $16 a pop that are a tribute to Huggins. One reads on the front, 'Feeling bad about your SELF? Get a big HUG!' The other says, 'Huggieville' on the front and 'Got Huggs' on the back."
Today K-State basketball matters. And although Huggins has been vilified by the Cincinnati administration, he is no Jerry Tarkanian. I was a newspaper reporter when coach Neil McCarthy was removed. I covered the entire thing. I talked to players, attorneys, boosters. Trust me, I know a thing or two about renegade coaches. Huggins is not that.
Can he recruit the same kids that Mike Krzyzewski recruits at Duke, but he will not pay kids or commit NCAA major violations. And there's a whole lot less trouble to be found in Manhattan, Kan.
Indeed, it's the beginning of a new era for Wildcats hoops. I just hope that I can find a way to make it to Bramlage Coliseum for a game next year.