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Sunflower Showdown: 1922

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Ahead of this weekend's game against Kansas, we take a look back at Sunflower Showdowns of years gone by, including the watershed 1922 game.

The K-Men of 1922
The K-Men of 1922
1923 Royal Purple

The first-ever win over the University of Kansas in 1906 had done wonders for the self-esteem of the Kansas State Aggies, but the feeling was short-lived. For the next fifteen years, Kansas State would go winless against their most hated rivals, a long streak of futility broken only by a scoreless tie in Lawrence in 1916. The despondent K.S.A.C. fanbase, despairing of ever winning another game, had turned to supernatural causes and named their losing streak The Jinx.

There should have been no reason to expect a win in 1922, except for one important detail: the construction of a brand new stadium. A decade earlier, the wooden grandstands and other structures from Athletic Park had been moved to an open field on campus, later named Ahearn Field. The team had enjoyed some success at Ahearn, but Kansas had just built a $1 million dollar arena in Lawrence and Kansas State was determined not to be outdone.

This endeavor was fully supported by Charlie Bachman, Kansas State's head coach.

bachman-1922

Source: Kansas State Agricultural College 1923 Royal Purple

Arriving from Northwestern in 1920, Bachman looked more like a matinee idol than a football coach. But he was also a World War I veteran, and in an address dubbed the "$60,000 speech" by the local newspaper, Bachman admonished alumni and citizens to give freely towards the construction of a new stadium that would also be a memorial to those who had perished in the Great War.

Give so that you may be more loyal to your college as students today and as alumnus [sic] tomorrow, so that when you return you may point with pride to this stately monument and say, "I helped."

Bachman was also responsible for restoring the team to its original nickname, the Wildcats. Having abandoned the Aggies moniker for Wildcats in 1915, and then Farmers, the program had reverted to Wildcats in 1920.* To reinforce the new-old nickname, Bachman decided to have a live bobcat as a mascot. The original mascot, Touchdown I, did not survive the journey from Idaho to Manhattan, but his successor, Touchdown II, became a beloved fixture at Wildcat games through the 1920s.

Bachman would go on to a 33-23-9 record at Kansas State before moving on to a stellar career with the Florida Gators and later, the Michigan State Spartans. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1978.

The west end of Memorial Stadium was complete by October 1922, and though it had been inaugurated in a 47-0 win over Washburn, its true debut happened the next week at Homecoming, when Kansas came into town.

Source: K-State 150 Archives

Nearly 13,000 fans--an unprecedented number--filed into the stadium to watch the game, prompting the editors of the Royal Purple to later remark:

[T]he overcrowded conditions of the seating accommodations demonstrated clearly and convincingly that the Stadium entire must be built.

The east end of Memorial Stadium would ultimately be completed only in 1924 (as pictured above).

The Jayhawks came into the game with a 1-2 record but confident that The Jinx would continue. They were well rested and coming off a two week-long layoff. The Wildcats were 2-0-1 on the year already, but they had played Oklahoma to a tough tie the previous week, and nearly the entire first team was playing hurt.

That first team included Harold "Tom" Sebring at right end, pictured here in his official K.S.A.C. portrait:

Sebring

Source: State Library and Archives of Florida (public domain)

Sebring, a highly decorated veteran of World War I, had returned to Kansas State to finish his degree and became a star athlete in the process. He lettered in football, boxing and track and field, and was an All-Missouri Valley Conference player in 1921 and 1922.

After college, Sebring went on to law school at the University of Florida, and in 1925, while still a law student, became the Gators head coach. He compiled a 23-6 record there as a head coach, but quit on graduation, favoring his legal career over coaching. He would go on to become a state supreme court justice, and in 1948, Sebring was appointed to the bench at the Nuremberg Trials for Nazi war criminals by President Truman.

The biggest star on the team was its captain, Ray D. Hahn. He had lettered in football, basketball, and track and had been an all-MVC player the previous year. In 1922, he became the first All-American in school history when he was named to the Grantland Rice All-American squad as a lineman.

Hahn

Source: Kansas State Agricultural College 1923 Royal Purple

Other stars on the team included left half Arthur Stark and quarterback Burr Swartz, a left-handed passer. With Stark and Swartz, Bachman had perfected a variation of Notre Dame's famed backfield shift, and the Wildcats had effectively screen-passed their opponents into defeat.

Unfortunately, they had also shown an unusual propensity for fumbling the ball, and the game against Kansas began ominously, with the Jayhawks recovering a fumble and returning it to the Kansas State 20. But the Wildcat defense stood tall, and Kansas, forced to try a fake punt to advance the ball, threw the ball right into the waiting hands of Kansas State captain Ray Hahn. He returned the ball 70 yards for the score, and with the Wildcats leading 7-0, the Jinx appeared to be on its deathbed.

hahn-TD
Source: Kansas State Agricultural College 1923 Royal Purple

Unfortunately, the thrill of being ahead only lasted a few minutes. On their next series, the Wildcats would fumble and Kansas would recover at the Kansas State 18. Four plays later, the Jayhawks tied the game 7-7. The two defenses then held the line, and the teams played to a 7-7 tie.

The Jinx, though not quite dead, was on its last legs. The teams would play to a scoreless tie the next year, and in 1924, Bachman and his Wildcats would finally win the big game against Kansas to begin a win streak of their own.

The 1922 team would go on to beat Missouri and Iowa State before losing to Nebraska to finish tied for second in the conference, with an overall record of 5-1-2.

*Despite the new nickname, journalists and fans continued to use "Aggies" throughout the decade.

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Note: Photographs from the KSU Libraries Archive and the K-State 150 Archives are used under a Creative Commons license. The 1923 Royal Purple yearbook is available for download at Archive.org, as part of KSU Libraries' Open Access program. Details of the Kansas game were drawn from game reports in the Royal Purple and the Kansas State Collegian (Tuesday, October 31, 1922).