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Kansas State athletics, 1921-22: the great basketball faceplant

A horrible year all-around at least ended with stadium construction.

E.C. Curtiss, murderer of KSAC basketball.
E.C. Curtiss, murderer of KSAC basketball.
1923 Royal Purple

With Charlie Bachman’s system now in place, the fortunes of the Aggies experienced a significant boost in 1921, but at the start of the season it looked as though anything but was in store.

An old foe which hadn’t been seen in awhile marked the beginning of the season, as the College of Emporia came to Manhattan. The Aggies had to scratch and claw their way to a 7-3 win, and the natives might have been forgiven for being a bit fretful. The following week, some of those fears were eased when the visiting Pikers of Washington were trounced 21-0.

A 14-7 loss at Creighton a week later stung, but the following Saturday the Aggies bounced back and got past Missouri at home 7-5. At Kansas a week later, a 21-7 loss angered the faithful; again, the Aggies sucked it up and prevented a losing streak from beginning as they beat Grinnell by the same score in Manhattan.

The pattern would not be broken the following two weekends. At Ames, the Aggies fell 7-0, but the homecoming crowds at the season finale were treated to a 14-7 win over the Sooners. Perhaps in the glow of recency bias, the Royal Purple proclaimed the game to be the greatest win in KSAC football history.

That might have had more weight if Oklahoma hadn’t finished in seventh place in the Valley. The Aggies, on the other hand, went 5-3, 4-2 in conference play, to finish in a second-place tie with Missouri. In one season, KSAC had exceeded their conference win total accumulated over seven seasons. Despite this, not one Aggie placed on the Valley first team.

Running total: 97-73-15, 89-76-10 against colleges, 7-18-4 Missouri Valley

After the lone year of E.A. Knoth’s tenure as basketball coach, the reins were turned over to baseball coach E.C. Curtiss. To put it bluntly, the Aggies would have been better off if Curtiss had instead taken over the intramural program.

The season was an abject disaster by any measure. Some excused it as the result of graduating three stars, including two two-time All-Valley honorees. But time would prove otherwise.

The campaign started just fine; the Aggies smoked both Grinnell and Washington at home. But then what tied the longest losing streak in KSAC history began when Iowa State came to town and won by 10. An absurd 26-3 loss at Oklahoma followed, and then the embarrassment of a 22-14 loss at home to Emporia Normal really laid bare the problems. The Aggies fell at Missouri, then came home to lose to Kansas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska.

A three game road trip, with two games in Iowa, then commenced. Iowa State extended the losing streak to eight before KSAC finally got another win, this time at Grinnell. It would be their last. They fell at Kansas on the way home, lost to Drake and home and then in Des Moines before losing at Nebraska, lost to Missouri at home, and finally the season was euthanized in Saint Louis, where the Aggies lost to last-place Washington.

A 3-13 conference record resulted in a seventh-place finish, ahead of only Grinnell and Washington. That the lone non-conference contest was a loss to the Normals just made matters that much worse. To the surprise of nobody, no Aggies were named All-Valley.

To the surprise of everyone, Curtiss was invited to return.

Running total: 153-108, 140-101 against colleges, 72-52 Missouri Valley

Inexperience was also the excuse for Curtiss’s charges on the diamond. Once again, the media guide lacks a great many results, only claiming a 2-2 mark on the year. In reality, the Aggies went 3-8. They split a pair with Saint Mary’s, took two of three from Nebraska, and lost all three times they faced both Oklahoma and Kansas.

Running total: 200-137-5, 178-127-5 against colleges, 25-35-3 Missouri Valley

Track results from 1922 are sketchy. The Royal Purple merely states that KSAC failed to beat any other Valley team in a dual meet. The Aggies took fourth in the inaugural conference indoor meet at Kansas City in March; in May, they took third in the outdoor championships at Lawrence.

Cross country, on the other hand, had a pretty good year. Kansas and Nebraska were vanquished in duals, at home and away respectively, although Kansas turned the tables in Lawrence. The conference meet, however, saw the Aggies finish in third place.

Swimming is an interesting tale of confusing references. In the 1921 Royal Purple, the swimming team is clearly referred to as an intramural club team. But the 1922 edition lists swimming as a varsity sport in its second year. The season only featured a win over Nebraska and a close loss at Washington, apparently due to the illness of Aggie Burton Colborn.

In all, it was a desultory academic year for Aggie athletics. But as that year closed, at the corner of 17th and Anderson construction crews were diligently working to turn Ahearn Field into something more...