K-State ashamed: A recent history of the failed quest for sportsmanship at K-State

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Before the Sunflower Showdown basketball game against KU, students were given sportsmanship flyers to help alleviate the profanity and behavior that gave K-State a bad rep at last years game. A student rips the flyer, showing his opinion of the university's strategies. (Evert Nelson | The Collegian)

The Collegian poster, adorned with a purple hue of space surrounding the Starship Enterprise, was held by fans who arrived early enough to receive one. That poster stood as a symbol, a single cry of laughter that was seemingly just the beginning of what has become a laughingstock of overreach and overcorrection.

A K-State student and his friends got in line nearly four hours before tipoff of the Manhattan half of the Sunflower Showdown. They waited patiently and took their seats in the front row right next to the band, their reward for hours of waiting.

The graduate student, who will remain nameless as he is a university employee, carried a sign in tow. A simple sign. A Jayhawk next to the Starship Enterprise that was shooting at the mascot of his school’s hated rival. Pretty tame, as signs go.

The game went on. Big 12 referees did Big 12 referee things. The student found himself upset, so he booed. It was not a capital crime. I’d say you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who has never booed at a sporting event. He shouted out to the refs, “What the heck are you watching?”

Bramlage Coliseum event staff, stilted in their yellow jackets, leered over at the student and asked him to be quieter.

To be clear, staff on K-State payroll went out of their way to quiet a K-State student during a game versus rival Kansas, arguably the biggest game of the season, not only in the scope but also in the hearts of many people who hang their K-State diplomas on their wall as proudly as they wear their purple on game day.

He did not say anything obscene and he was not overly disruptive. He was being a fan, the same as any other fan who attributed to the excellent atmosphere Saturday in Bramlage.

Later in the game, he displayed his sign proudly.

Now there was a real problem. K-State event staff laid it on the line very clearly: Either dump the sign or get out. The student left with six minutes to play in the game. Another fan shut down by the folks from Anderson Hall.

It’s a scary pattern that is starting to come about.

It started with last year’s court storming and the controversy regarding the administration’s failure to properly protect the visiting team from stormers overshadowed by a manhunt for one student who was unable to control himself from “aggressively bumping” KU forward Jamari Traylor.

Nathan Power was the scapegoat they needed.

He was forced to publicly apologize and even today, it’s the chicken wing, as it’s lovingly referred to, that people remember.

Due to this incident, K-State students had to sign a “Sportmanship Pledge,” which was done in the name of transparency.

The pledge was the first of its kind in the Big 12. President Kirk Schulz and athletic director John Currie had started to get their point across. They would fix the problem known as the petulant children of their student population at K-State, hat in hand and with enough apologies to fill a gorge.

Later that fall, the K-State marching band was opening up their Sudler season, a celebration of being named the best band in the country.

Their halftime show was to feature the music of Star Wars and Star Trek, culminating in a formation featuring the Star Trek Enterprise battling a strange alien life form resembling a Jayhawk.

The formation was unfortunately botched slightly and looked to people with a slightly perverted mind (so nearly everyone) like the Jayhawk was being violated — for lack of a better term — by the spaceship instead of attacked. The Internet, as it so often does, blew a gasket.

The self-flagellation began in tremendous fashion as the administration, led by Schulz, instantly flipped the conversation from a messed-up formation, which was the actual issue, to an entirely unrelated issue of the band displaying another team’s mascot and the apparent “rules” against that.

In my opinion, an unnecessary apology was issued to Kansas fans, validating the fact that the band had done something purposefully wrong. Then, a self-imposed fine was paid in order to fight off the Big 12 compliance hoard that was never on the doorstep of Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

It would only be just after the new year when K-State hosted and beat No. 1 Oklahoma.

Court storming had been banned by the university but not the Big 12, as multiple Big 12 teams have stormed the court this season. Heavy handed threats of prosecution of trespassing taken to the fullest extent were levied toward a student body over the speakers roughly three minutes before the Wildcats had completed the upset.

The students took those threats as gospel, even though they shouldn’t have, as the green-shirted “brute squad” would have been swallowed up by a full court storming and would have stayed in their seats.

Meanwhile, the players and coaches, unaware of any such threats, went so far as to prepare for a possible court storm during practice.

After the game was won, the team saw the students celebrating in their respective seats and decided to join them in the stands. A special memory for sure, but not the way the basketball gods would have drawn it up.

Finally we get back to last Saturday. In addition to the student being forced to leave, innocent sign and all, K-State fans were reminded, cheerfully, of the pledge they signed last fall as they picked up their wristbands for the Kansas game.

It was a “subtle” warning to the uncontrollable and dreadfully embarrassing students that any monkey business would not be tolerated.

Also a video, “#WhyImProud,” was circulated by K-State Athletics, once again scolding the students in the hopes of preventing behavior that Schulz would feel the need to unnecessarily apologize for the next day.

“Sandstorm,” a song that had become synonymous with K-State basketball for years, had been banned. It had not been played in Bramlage in at least a year due to students chanting “Fuck KU” to its raucous beat.

There’s a funny thing about students, or even people in general: If they want to do something really, really badly, like screaming obscenities at Kansas players, coaches, fans and the institution in general, they’ll figure out a way to do it.

At least five times during Saturday’s game, K-State students slipped their profanity ridden protest to a multitude of different songs, including the institution’s beloved “Wabash Cannonball.”

During halftime, a text message went out to those who happened to be on the athletic department’s student list. It read:

“K-State Athletics: Please represent K-State fans positively by refraining from embarrassing chants that contain profanity.”

It’s amazing how much a little sentence like that can say.

First of all, the fact that K-State administration thought this would work, and thus was a worthwhile effort, is delusional on the level of a man trying to avoid drowning by drinking the ocean.

Second, it showed how petty Schulz and his staff were willing to be by trying to correct the behavior of full-grown adults, like a parent with a petulant child who had just spoken out of turn.

If they were serious about their crusade against the four-letter F-word, then fine. Start throwing folks out. It’s not that hard to see those who are saying it, and God knows they would deserve it more than the poor graduate student with the makeshift Star Trek sign.

Finally, in a supposed act of goodwill, Schulz gave the OK from his New Mexico vacation to release “Sandstorm.” Pontius Pilate had heard the crowd loud and clear and set Barabbas free.

Meanwhile, the sleight of hand worthy of a street magician had been complete and the majority of the K-State fans thanked him for returning their golden cow while their dignity as a fan was still due to be crucified.

So where do we go from here?

K-State lost, mercifully sparing Schulz from dealing with the possibility of another ‘chicken-winging” incident and another apology on behalf of the unwashed, purple masses who just don’t know how to act ’round ‘dem civilized folk.

Yes, chanting profanity is bad. So is bumping opposing players and accidentally engaging your rivals’ mascot in oral sex. That’s not the issue.

The behavior of this administration has gone too far in its quest for sportsmanship. Schulz must decide, and soon, if he’d rather have fans or the perception of “classy and well-behaved” students among his peers because he can’t have both.

K-State fans are sick and tired of being told what they should be. They, the fans, are truly K-State proud. it’s just sad that this administration isn’t.

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Timothy Everson
Tim Everson was born in Wichita, KS in 1994. Before fifth grade he moved up to Manhattan for one year before settling in Riley, KS where he graduated from Riley County High School in 2012. Tim has worked for the Collegian since spring of 2014 and took over as Sports Editor during the summer of 2015. Tim loves sports, music, movies and good food when he can get it.