FanPost

THE PURPLE HAT CAPER OF 1970

Well, Sean, you DID open this whole thing up by asking WHY Vince Gibson was fired. Which led me to search the old memory banks about the VINCE O’NEIL AFFAIR! Which I did and I quickly fired off a fan post about the whole wretched probation deal during the 1970 season, consulting only the 1970 WIKI page about specific dates and other minutiae about that sad, sad season. Then Cris P Wildcat, in reference to the NCAA sanctions, led me to goggle "KSU NCAA Probation", because I was sure that Jack Gardner (who had preceded the great Tex Winter as basketball coach in the 1950s) had never gotten K-State on probation. Horrors, I learned that my memory was FAULTY on that point, and that it had been faulty on the fact that it was the frickin Big 8 office which had placed KSU on probation just days before the KU contest in 1970, with the NCAA piling on three weeks later (minor details, I know, but a lapse in memory nonetheless). And then Sean T, you JUST HAD TO GO AND POST the comment about "driving a man to drink" and "opening old wounds." Which led me to believe that it is finally time to un-supress that memory and finally tell the tale about the PURPLE HAT CAPER of November 14, 1970. This confession, of sorts, along with the despised HuskerNation’s move to the Big 10, may finally relieve this old grandpa of his nearly live-long feeling of contempt for all things HUSKER. So, here it is:

For K-State, a win meant a tie with the mighty Huskers for the Big 8 title. We were too young to grasp the significance of the recently imposed probation, and my friends and I were tired of listening to such big away games on the tiny RCA radio on the sofa table in the living room. So four of my friends and I (all of us 16 years old and mere juniors in high school) piled into my sister’s 1968 blue Volkswagen Bug that early Saturday morning and headed north 140 miles to Lincoln, NE.

There was of course one minor problem. It is 1970, and BigRed is seven years into its vaunted consecutive sell-out streak. The stadium seated 64,000. We had NO DUCATS - TICKETS! My dishwasher’s hourly rate would not pay the scalpers rate of $50 a ticket. But, as you may have deduced from previous posts, a lack of tickets had not held me and my buddies up from attending BIG TIME COLLEGE FOOTBALL GAMES!

Now, I did not engineer this plan. Credit goes to a long departed friend who was clever; even at 16 he knew the angles (and while he was not totally averse to work, he liked shortcuts better; which leads me to the memory of his jaunt to Acapulco, Mexico in about 1975, and how he was DETAINED there for over seven months, and then there’s the involvement of Consulates and Envoys and such, but I digress). So, in addition to pop and popcorn money, we each had an extra $10.

But now is the time to tell about the Purple Hat Caper. You see, when we go to the Bill now and see 50,000 purple clad fans, Vince Gibson has to get a lot of the credit. In 1967 he came to K-State from his defensive coordinator’s position at the University of Tennessee. He had a thick southern drawl, and his motto was "Purple Pride" and "We Gonna’ Win." Manhattan and K-State, starting in 1968, turned Purple.

I was wearing my purple and white French beret type cap (popular in the late 60s - damn hippies and all). We get to the neighborhood of the stadium. Red every where. Sickening actually. We are milling about, walking to the CATHEDRAL (Memorial Stadium) when suddenly my cap is snatched from my head. I weigh 140 pounds. My friends aren’t much bigger, although one ended up an all-state half back a year later on the Manhattan High football team. Well, we start chasing this guy and he is at least 6'2" and he could run like HELL fire. We chase him into this frat house. He beats it up the stairs. The five of us are yelling and screaming "he stole our HAT." His frat brothers say "tough sh** you ain’t gettin it back", and by the way that guy who stole your hat is a high-hurdler on the Nebraska track team, so don’t mess with him. Well, we had no weapons, so WE HAD to leave. Pissed. So every time I hear some Nub talk about how "everyone" is treated so nicely in Lincoln, I break into a cold sweat, nausea.

Back to the plan, and that extra $10. We got to the stadium early and spied the ticket taker who we believed would accept a $5 a-head-bribe to let us slide into the stadium. An extra $25 in those days would buy a lot of beer. That was the easy part - and it worked. Of course, we knew that getting in was one thing. Finding a place to actually sit, or mill about, so we could actually see the game, without getting thrown out for a lack of - shall we say - TICKETS - was the real challenge. Well, back then Memorial Stadium still had the old-quarter mile track around it. At one of the end zones, the seating expansion had actually been built out over the oval on the track. So we found this security guy, greased him the $25, and he let us hang out under the seating expansion and watch the game. Great seats they weren’t, but I was only about 40 yards away from the play (and on ground level, mind you) when our half back was mugged on the opening kickoff return and ejected from the game. And Lynn Dickey was intercepted five times and BigRed put a big-time beat down on us and our hopes for a shared conference title were - poof - gone.

So. There you have it. The purple hat caper, half back ejection – all of it - leading to nearly a life time of ill will toward BigRed. And now, my little PRECIOUS, they are gone.

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