It’s been a couple (30+) years since I’ve been in college at K-State, but some of the memories that come back to me make it seem like just yesterday. Since 1980, I’ve witnessed numerous changes at K-State and in Manhattan. One of the only ways to remember the ‘old’ days is to talk about them. So here it goes, my top 10 K-State/Manhattan memories since 1980.
#10. President Ronald Reagan Speaks
On September 9th, 1982 then President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, gave a speech in front of thousands of K-State students and other attendees on the state of America. He discussed the issues that American’s were facing at the time, such as our agricultural crisis and our natural resources usage. President Reagan went on to describe the determination of our nation, and how we would get through hard times and prosper.
In his speech President Reagan reminisced on how he used to be a sports announcer, and enjoyed following the Wildcats’ victories in basketball. He followed by mentioning that his favorite sport was football and at K-State “…there have been some trials and shall I say some misfortunes in football.” He refrained from coming right out and saying “K-State is so bad they shouldn’t have a football program”.
#9. Big 8 Conference
It wasn’t until 1996 that the Big 8 Conference became the Big 12 Conference with the addition of the four Texas schools. Back in the Big 8 days, rivalries seemed to be fiercer. Although K-State never won the Big 8 basketball regular season championship after 1980, they did win the 1980 basketball Big 8 Conference tournament. The only disappointment of the Big 8 was the fact that K-State was the only school in the conference without a national championship in any sport.
#8. Hanging at Pillsbury Crossing
One of the ‘hot spots’ to hang out back in the day was Pillsbury Crossing just south of Manhattan. I can recall many-a-day parking our vehicles in the water and tossing around the football. Pillsbury crossing was, and still is, a relaxing spot to congregate.
#7. Legendary Canoe Races
Canoeing may seem like a relaxing hobby for most people. During my college days, canoeing was the hype of a great competition. Each year, K-State students competed against KU students in a race down the Kansas River starting in Manhattan and ending in Lawrence. Our teams consisted of four people, two paddling the canoe and two driving a vehicle ahead of the race. Once the team of paddlers was tired, their relievers in the vehicle would switch spots with them.
I don’t believe we ever actually finished the two-day race, due to our severe sunburns and “dehydration”. Nevertheless, it was an event we looked forward to every year.
#6. Good times in Aggieville
Aggieville has been the place to be for decades. Although bars and stores frequently change, the vibe of the ‘Ville stays the same. I can still recall the wet t-shirt contests, 25-cent draws and $2 pitchers at Brother’s Tavern. One of the best memories was ‘first one to pee’ night, where the entire bar drank for free until the first person went to the restroom!
Today Aggieville is still hopping, and is great place to grab a bite to eat or cheer on the Wildcats. I’m sure if you look hard enough you can even find a wet t-shirt contest going on.
#5. Rockin’ Ahearn Fieldhouse
Ahearn Fieldhouse was regarded as one of the best college basketball venues in its day. As a student, we often camped out up to three days and nights just to score season tickets. I can remember my ears ringing for days after a game, due to the deafening atmosphere.
K-State had so many memorable victories in Ahearn that it’s hard to recall them all. I know it was hard to see Ahearn be replaced in 1988. If you’re looking to refresh your memories of Ahearn, go watch the K-State volleyball team play a match!
#4. Farrell Library
I don’t recall doing much studying back in college, but I did like to hang out at Farrell library to meet girls. In the off chance that I WAS actually studying, the 2nd floor was my place of focus. There have been several changes and additions to Farrell (now called Hale) since 1980, and I remember when they added their one-millionth book back in 1986.
#3. Riots in Aggieville
Who could forget October 13, 1984 when we beat KU 24-7 in football? The goal posts were torn down and carried to Aggieville. Soon after one of the largest parties in Aggieville history was underway, and everyone was having a good time.
Things turned ugly when several of the partiers got out of hand by smashing windows, knocking over street signs and overturning cars. I remember police being chased by the crowd while trying to gain control of the situation. Only two years later the same situation unfolded when K-State beat KU 29-12. The second time around students were wearing shirts that said “Riotville.”
#2. Hiring of coach Bill Snyder
Arguably the biggest staff hiring in the history of Kansas State University was the mastermind, Bill Snyder. Prior to coach Snyder, it was hard to stomach watching K-State football. When you’re the first team in the nation to lose 500 games, of course tickets are going to be free! The only positive of the ‘pre-Snyder’ era was getting to carry your cooler with you into the stadium during the games.
It’s been one of the most amazing things to watch as Coach Snyder has taken the worst football program in the nation and turned it into a conference and national contender. Coach Snyder has put K-State on the map not only for our football team, but our other sports teams and the entire university as well.
#1. Three Big 12 Championships
I can reminisce on my glory days for hours, but I would be hard pressed to find another moment in K-State history since 1980 that is as sweet as winning three Big 12 Conference championships in one academic year. Each sporting season (football, basketball and baseball) was magical on their own, as none of the squads were picked to win the conference title.
Coach Snyder masterfully prepared his team for each game, and narrowly missed making it to the national championship had it not been for Baylor. We also had our first Heisman finalist since Michael Bishop, as Collin Klein finished 3rd in the voting.
The disappointment with Frank Martin leaving the basketball program was felt around Wildcat Nation prior to basketball season last year. However, concerns and chatter about how successful our basketball program would be under new coach Bruce Weber were put to bed as he led the Wildcats to their first conference championship since 1977 and yet another trip to the NCAA tournament.
It was equally as exciting to watch our baseball team win its first conference championship since 1933 (80 years ago). I watched in hope that they would make their first ever appearance at the College World Series, but they were stopped just shy by losing two straight game to Oregon State.
Will we ever see the Wildcats win three conference championships in one year again? Only time will tell, but I sure hope so. Until then, “Faithful to our colors, we shall ever be. Fighting, ever fighting, for a Wildcat victory!”