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Kansas State athletics, 1922-23: Memorial Stadium and Wildcats

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The Wildcats broke in their new home with a pretty good campaign.

Memorial Stadium, from 1924
Memorial Stadium, from 1924
Morse Department of Special Collections, Kansas State University Libraries

During the summer of 1922, construction crews feverishly worked to complete concrete grandstands along Denison Avenue just north of Anderson Avenue. Those grandstands would loom over the existing patch of grass known as Ahearn Field, and would be christened Memorial Stadium, in honor of the former KSAC students like Lieutenant Eddie Wells who’d given their lives in World War I.

On October 6, the gates opened for the first time. The visiting opponent: the Ichabods of Washburn, making the short trip over from Topeka. It would be amazing and unthinkable in today’s media environment, but regional newspapers discussing the game in the days leading up to kickoff made virtually no mention of the new facility.

Prowling the sidelines of the new stadium was an important new addition: Touchdown, a live Wildcat. From the March 2, 1922 Topeka Daily Capital-Journal:

Ain’t Aggies no more, ma.
Ain’t Aggies no more, ma.
March 2, 1922 Topeka Daily Capital-Journal (PD)

Newspapers would freely interchange Aggies and Wildcats for some time, but it was at this opening game against Washburn that the moniker officially and finally stuck.

The newly re-christened Wildcats celebrated these dual events by beating the holy tarnation out of the Ichabods. The Wildcats ran for 227 yards and outgained Washburn 370-18, with Washburn gaining exactly zero yards through the air. Washburn actually had 12 first downs to only nine for the Wildcats, but that’s because the Wildcats were penalized a ludicrous 155 yards, mostly on illegal motion calls.

And that is how KSAC crushed Washburn 47-0.

A week later, the Wildcats traveled to Saint Louis and outlasted the Pikers of Washington 22-14. Again, the Wildcats gained over 200 yards on the ground, although Washington had the edge in the passing game.

The next two weeks were frustrating, yet still somewhat acceptable. In Norman, the Wildcats battled Oklahoma to a 7-7 tie; the next weekend, the Jayhawks came to town for homecoming with the same result. Touchdown received a fine meal before that game, gifted with two “jayhawks” which he happily devoured. Near the end of the game, with Kansas on the KSAC 1-yard-line, the Wildcat defense did the same to preserve the tie.

A week later at Columbia, the Wildcats won a narrow 14-10 contest, in which Missouri fullback Knight fumbled under center deep in Tiger territory late in the game to allow KSAC the winning score. The following week in Manhattan saw the Wildcats and Cyclones playing in a torrential downpour which made running the ball infeasible; the hosts managed to claim a 12-2 decision.

Still unbeaten, KSAC traveled north to Lincoln with the conference title potentially at stake, depending on the result of the Drake-Grinnell game on the same afternoon. In the end, the latter game did not matter, although Drake won to finish the Valley season unbeaten at 4-0; Nebraska stonewalled the Wildcats 21-0 to finish 5-0 and claim the crown. KSAC was forced to settle for third place despite an impressive campaign.

Two weeks later, the season ended with a non-conference tilt at home against TCU in which the Wildcats took out their frustration at having lost their shot at the Valley title on the hapless Horned Frogs. It was TCU’s final year in the TIAA before joining the Southwest Conference, and the Wildcats doomed the Frogs to a losing record in a 45-0 beatdown.

The Wildcats concluded the campaign at 5-1-2, 3-1-2 in the Valley. It would be 1997 before the school posted another one-loss season, and 1933 before they only lost one conference game again.

Guard Ray Hahn and tackle Ralph Nichols were named to the Valley first team, and Hahn was honored by Grantland Rice as a first-team All-American — the school’s first such honor on the gridiron.

Hahn, who also lettered in basketball, went on to coach briefly at Norton High School before coaching both sports at South Dakota School of Mines for six years. After a short break, he arrived in Lindsborg to take over as football coach at Bethany College, where he remained for 19 years (although he did miss three years during World War II, coaching the army unit at Leavenworth). He also helped to co-found the National Association of Intercollegiate Basketball, which is now the NAIA, an organization of whose hall of fame he is a member. The gym at Bethany is named in his honor.

Running total: 102-74-17, 94-77-12 against colleges, 10-19-6 Missouri Valley

On the hardwood, E.C. Curtiss got himself fired with a career record of 5-27. Playing a Valley-only schedule of 16 games, the Wildcats were completely outmatched. Most galling of all was an 0-8 record at home; the only wins on the year were at Nebraska and at Grinnell. Only three times all season did the Wildcats score as many as 20 points in a game.

It was unspeakable, and therefore we’ll just stop speaking about it.

Running total: 155-122, 142-115 against colleges, 74-66 Missouri Valley

The baseball squad also posted a losing record, going 5-6. All but two games (a loss to Saint Mary’s and a win over Baker) were Valley contests; the Wildcats won once at home over Oklahoma, once at Kansas, and split two-game sets with Missouri in both Manhattan and Columbia.

Once again, the media guide is incorrect; 1924 is listed as being part of the Curtiss era, but this would be his final season on the diamond as well. He departed with a career record of 11-25-1.

Running total: 205-143-5, 183-133-5 against colleges, 29-40-3 Missouri Valley

In track, the Wildcats were unable to host any outdoor meets due to continuing construction at Memorial Stadium. They won a dual meet at Missouri, but lost at Kansas. They did make marks in the Drake, Illinois, and Kansas Relays, however, and at season’s end took second place in the Valley outdoor championships in Ames.

Of the cross-country team, there is no mention this year, and the swimming team’s results have been lost to the vagaries of yearbook publishing — the 1922 team’s results printed in the 1923 Royal Purple, but the 1924 edition reporting the 1924 team’s outcome.