By Dr. Ken
Although Kansas State was literally the bottom of the barrel in the Big Eight Conference, finishing in the cellar four out of five years going into 1965, they were seen as "big time" to many UC athletes. Even while playing a schedule that was tough, demanding, and included a number of nationally ranked or known teams, any time there was an opponent from one of the major conferences or a major independent coming up, there was a general feeling that their athletes were perhaps a bit more talented or they were tougher because their level of competition was a notch higher. This is probably the case at almost every mid-level program that has a few games each year where they have to "rise up." Cincinnati brought this to ridiculous heights in the mid-1980's when Mike McGee was the Athletic Director. Just as UC was a stepping stone for coaches, a number of Athletic Directors also seemed to use the Bearcats as a means to a better job, one with more prestige, more pay, and more national notice. Cincinnati served as the homecoming game or an early non-conference opponent for the likes of Auburn, Florida, Alabama, Penn State, Miami, and West Virginia. West Virginia perhaps could be considered a natural rivalry as the schools are not far apart and often competed for the same athletes in the Steubenville and southern Ohio region but the others? It was strictly for the money and after two games against that level of opponent, the injury rate was such that the team could barely compete successfully against schools it should have faced on even keel the remainder of the season. Kansas State was in the Big Eight and that was very much the "major show" but it was a team bereft of stars and success and thus, and equivalent opponent.
When Doug Weaver became yet another in the long line of K-State coaches, I'm sure he saw a way to find success but his seven year record between 1960 and 1966 was a terrible 8-60-1 and in truth, it was not very much worse than previous regimes at Kansas State. Weaver was used to success, starring as a center on Michigan State's great early 1950's teams, one of which was given careful consideration for the national championship. He served as an assistant on Duffy Daugherty's staff at his alma mater and then took on the K-State position. They had difficulty overcoming the advantages of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Colorado, were difficult to travel to, and just didn't have the tradition to recruit the best athletes in their conference. They got bombed with Weaver going 0-10 in 1965 and 0-9-1 in 1966. When they hung him in effigy, he quipped, "I'm glad it happened in front of the library. I've always emphasized scholarship." We beat them both years although Cornelius Davis shredded us for 172 yards rushing in 1966, flashing past everyone in his royal purple jersey and white pants. As "royal purple" was the only official school color, this left each coach to interpret the "trim" color as they wished. The K-State helmets in '65 were white with a purple stripe and purple block numerals on each side. In 1966, they went to an off-set "K-State" logo in purple on the same white shell, with a large "K" above the word "State". With the purple stripe and purple trim on white pants, or the away jersey of white with purple numbers, I thought they had a very sharp uniform. Receiver Dave Jones, linebacker Danny Lankas, and Davis were excellent players, Lankas' #33 was all over the field against us, earning him a place on the 1966 All-Opponent team. K-State just didn't have enough good players to sustain a record of consistent winning in a tough conference. When Kansas State and Kansas squared off in their annual in-state battle, one of the most underrated rivalries in college football, one of the most aspects of the 1966 game was that the K-State fans were rooting for Kansas so that Weaver would be fired (he would after the game) and the Kansas fans were rooting for their rivals so that their coach, Jack Mitchell would be fired. The 3-3 tie resulted in both coaches being relieved of their duties. Weaver was replaced by Vince Gibson who instituted his "Purple Pride" campaign which resulted in a few more wins during his tenure than Weaver had and a great purple helmet. Weaver landed on his feet ironically as an assistant the next two years on the Kansas staff of Pepper Rogers in 1967 and '68 and later became Athletic Director at Michigan State after leading the football program at Southern Illinois. The Michigan State indoor football facility is named after Coach Weaver, a fitting tribute from his alma mater.
Kansas State's fortunes were revived with the arrival of Bill Snyder who was hired on November 30, 1988 for the 1989 season. His genius turned around a program that had a number of the "top ten" losing streaks of all time in college football and under his tutelage, K-State became one of the midwest's powerhouse teams. He also commissioned the development of what became the "Powercat" logo which is now synonymous with high caliber, winning football. Coach Snyder announced his retirement but a few weeks ago but he leaves the infrastructure of the program as one of the best in the country.