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Kansas State athletics, 1910-11: goodbye, Mike Ahearn

An argument for a national championship

Mike Ahearn, the Bill Snyder of the nineteen-oughts.
Mike Ahearn, the Bill Snyder of the nineteen-oughts.
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He’d been talked out of retiring immediately following the end of the previous season, but Mike Ahearn was adamant: 1910 was the last hurrah. He had coached all three major squads on campus to stellar seasons, but he was saving the best for last.

Coming off a six-game winning streak to end 1909, the Aggies started the season off with a first — their first-ever September game, crushing William Jewell 57-0 on the 28th. Just three days later, Haskell fell 39-0, and the following week saw a 22-0 win at Emporia State.

The following weekend, the Aggies played a Saturday-Monday road trip, surely a taxing affair. They began in Fayetteville, posting a 5-0 win over the Arkansas Razorbacks. Two days later in Springfield, they gave up their first points of the year, but it hardly mattered; the result was a 75-5 win over Drury.

Returning home, they faced off against Missouri School of Mines (later Missouri-Rolla, and now Missouri S&T). The Miners were dispatched 23-0. A week later the Aggies were in Omaha, posting a hard-fought 6-2 win over Creighton. At this point, they were 7-0, had win 13 in a row, and were outscoring the opposition by an absurd 227-7.

Then, disaster.

Traveling to Colorado Springs, the Aggies faced Colorado College. The Tigers, now a Division III program, were at the time a powerful opponent. Indeed, they ran the table in the Rocky Mountain Faculty Athletic Conference.

The Aggies struck first, scoring only four minutes into the contest. But they would not be able to find the end zone again, only adding a late field goal to their tally. The end result was a 15-8 loss which ended their unbeaten season, but effectively ensured Colorado College’s. The Tigers would finish unbeaten at 7-0, sharing the RMFAC title with Colorado, who they did not play in 1910.

The Aggies returned home and took care of business for the rest of November. Wichita fell 33-6, Baker 35-0, and Washburn 33-0. The Aggies had outscored the opposition 336-28, and ran up a record of 10-1 while claiming their second straight KCAC title.

The loss to the Tigers is the primary reason no major organization has ever claimed the 1910 Aggies to be national champions. The NCAA recognizes Harvard and Pitt; only Harvard claims the championship. But there’s something to consider:

They were the only team in the nation to win 10 games. Only one other team won 9, the unbeaten Pitt Panthers, who don’t claim the 1910 championship. Only two other teams — Harvard and Vanderbilt at 8-0-1 — won 8.

There’s an argument. Pitt’s record was as sketchy as KSACs, with only Penn State as a truly major victory. The Panthers did outscore their opponents 282-0, which is a pretty substantive argument.

Still, the 1910 season was remarkable in that no team really stood out as a true champion. We’re not suggesting KSAC deserves it, but they definitely should have been in the conversation.

In part because they were deemed to be playing in a minor conference, and in part because they were barred from playing Kansas this year for the first time due to Missouri Valley Conference rules, the Aggies made the decision to apply to join the larger league.

But Mike Ahearn wouldn’t be around to lead the squad into this new era.

Running total: 54-43-6, 48-43-1 against colleges

As for coaching, the situation was apparently nebulous enough that K-State’s media guide lists 1910-11 as being part of the following era. However, Ahearn’s career record can’t possibly be reconciled unless 1910-11 is part of it, so we’re going to assume he was still in charge.

It was a short season, and lethargic. No major opponents were faced, and the squad lurched to a 5-3 finish, splitting with both teams they played twice (Washburn and Southwestern). Strangely, the road team won both Washburn games.

Running total: 33-40, 25-33 against colleges

As with basketball, the coaching situation in 1911 is murky, but it’s safest to presume that Ahearn stayed in charge, if only nominally. The Aggies played Kansas four times, splitting pairs both home and away; the two losses were the only setbacks on the season. The squad posted double wins against Washburn, Bethany, and Cooper (a now-extinct college in Moundville, Mo.), as well as wins over Warrensburg and Wichita. They finished 10-2, which wasn’t the exceptional result of 1910, but it was nothing to be ashamed of.

Running total: 134-74-2, 127-70-2 against colleges

As promised, Ahearn retired his posts after the baseball season; as promised, the students and faculty did not protest. He did not leave KSAC, however. Ahearn remained as a professor, returning to prominence a decade later as the school’s athletic director. His coaching career ended with a 39-12 record in football, a 26-27 record in basketball, and a 103-35-2 record in baseball.

Not too shabby, Mike.

The track team, led by one Robert V. Christian, only participated in two meets in 1911. A third, against Nebraska Wesleyan, was cancelled. On May 11, the Aggies outpointed Baker 67-64; on the 17th, at the state meet, Baker emerged victorious despite Christian recording the first sub-10 second 100 yard dash in state history.

Men’s tennis appears to have disappeared.