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Kansas State athletics, 1909-10: quiet dominance

Football and baseball posted elite results, and basketball suddenly got better

The 1910 KSAC base-ball team
The 1910 KSAC base-ball team
1910 Royal Purple

The scheduled eased up a bit in 1909, with Oklahoma jettisoned from the program. The idolization of Mike Ahearn continued unabated; there was actually a movement on campus to get him to run for governor, a movement which was completely oblivious to the impact such a thing would have on, you know, KSAC athletics.

So it was, in retrospect, no surprise that when Ahearn announced his retirement at the end of the season, the students nearly revolted. The result was that Ahearn promised to coach in 1910-11, on the condition that the students would promise to allow him to retire afterward without dissent.

But to get to there, we have to get through here. The season opened with a 35-0 drubbing of Kansas Wesleyan. The next week, the Aggies traveled to Columbia for their first-ever game at Missouri. News reports of the time all agreed that KSAC had the better of the game; the only problem was that they couldn’t score. Mizzou prevailed by a field goal, 3-0. The dejected Aggies returned home and lost to Kansas 5-3 the following Saturday. Again, the best team lost, according to the Kansas City Star; KSAC had outgained KU 336-123.

They wouldn’t taste defeat again for another year.

Southwestern was bombed 60-0. At Emporia, the Aggies blasted the Teachers 44-0. Creighton returned the previous year’s visit, and KSAC sent them home in body bags after a 56-3 win. Oklahoma A&M visited, and fell 9-0 in the midst of a muddy torrent. The yearbook writer had a particularly witty take on the conditions:

“...Bates booted the ball (which, with the real estate attached, weighed somewhere between five and thirty pounds) over the goal while standing in mud ankle deep. Later Spear swam 50 yards to a touchdown.”

The win leveled KSAC’s all-time record at 42-42-6, although that included six wins that really shouldn’t count.

The result was, of course, nothing compared to the fate of Wichita, who the Aggies methodically dismantled in a 71-0 blowout, their biggest win ever. Finally, on Thanksgiving, a trip to Washburn resulted in a 40-0 win, their second win in a row over the team which had truly been the Aggies’ bete noire to date.

The final tally: 7-2 record, the KCAC championship, opponents outscored 320-11, and opponents outgained 4020 to 387.

Yes, you read that right. Aside from Missouri and the muddy slog against Oklahoma A&M, KSAC had gained at least 336 yards in each game, capped by a 742-yard outburst against Emporia. Only Kansas topped 100 yards of offense against the Aggies; after the Kansas game, no team managed to gain more than 35 yards.

That’s less yardage than W.G. Speer managed on one play in the mud, folks. Speer became K-State’s first recorded 1000-yard rusher, rolling for 1120 yards in only 8 games. He later became, for a short time, the head coach in both football and basketball at Fort Hays State, where he went 18-6 on the gridiron and won the KCAC title in 1917. After that, he spent four years coaching both sports at Nebraska State Normal School, which is now Peru State College.

And with that, the stage was set for what would become the greatest season of K-State football until some guy named Snyder showed up.

Running total: 44-42-6, 38-42-1 against colleges

The outcry which kept Ahearn on the football sideline for another season would also hold sway on the hardwood.

The Aggies opened with home wins over Nebraska and Baker. In their third game, the Kansas City Athletic Club came to visit, and controversy ensued. With the game tied at 41, a bad call resulted in a technical foul which resulted in an angry crowd which unfortunately resulted in a referee getting a fistful. The game was immediately forfeited.

The Aggies bounced back a week later by beating McPherson and Bethany, but immediately left home for a weekend trip. Two days later, they lost at Kansas 44-19, and the following day at Baker 30-27.

They wouldn’t lose again, which seems to be a theme.

Nebraska visited and lost. The final road game of the season was at Nebraska Wesleyan the following night; the Aggies won. Four days later Washburn came to town and KSAC obliterated them by the truly ridiculous count of 100-5. Sadly, we can’t find details of that game.

The season concluded with wins against Kansas Wesleyan and on consecutive nights against the visiting Nebraska Wesleyan squad. The final tally: 10 wins, 3 losses. It wasn’t enough to life Ahearn’s career basketball coaching record above sea level, but it was a good foundation to leave for the opening of Nichols Gym. (SPOILER, OOPS.)

Running total: 28-37, 20-30 against colleges

Ahearn would also be managing his penultimate season of baseball in 1910. Three times in 1910, the Aggies would lose by a single run. They won the season opener by one more run than that.

Indeed, the year started with a nine-game winning streak, with Nebraska Wesleyan, Fort Hays, Nebraska (twice), Missouri Valley, Kansas Wesleyan, Manhattan High, Ottawa, and Emporia State all falling by the wayside. A pair of losses — to Manhattan and at Arkansas — broke the streak. On the way back from Arkansas, the Aggies stopped off and beat Drury, but lost again on their return home to Washburn.

Thus humbled, KSAC went on to win their final seven contests. They beat Tarkio and William Jewell before hitting the road again, where they knocked off Nebraska Wesleyan, Cotner, and Nebraska. They finally returned home and posted a pair of shutouts over Cotner and Haskell to close out a 17-3 campaign.

Part of the Aggie success in 1910 was due to the contributions of catcher Josh Billings, who’d transfer to Oklahoma A&M with Ahearn’s retirement. He went on to play over a decade in the major leagues, six years in Cleveland and five as a Saint Louis Brown. But he was perhaps more notable, in retrospect, for being the manager of the Kenosha Comets in 1943.

That’s the Kenosha Comets of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, for those of you who don’t remember A League of Your Own that well.

Running total: 124-72-2, 117-68-2 against colleges

Unfortunately, we don’t know anything about track in 1910, because the 1910 yearbook went to press before the track season began and the 1911 yearbook isn’t available. On the other hand, we do know that men’s tennis became a thing in 1910, with matches scheduled against Nebraska, Baker, and Kansas Wesleyan plus an entry into a big tournament at Emporia. But we don’t know how that turned out, as those matches also took place after press time for the 1910 yearbook.