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Kansas State athletics, 1925-26: four Cats to the NFL

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Several Wildcat teams just off the championship mark, but cross country repeats.

Ralph Kimport, three-year star in distance running.
Ralph Kimport, three-year star in distance running.
1927 Royal Purple

The Missouri Valley accepted a new member in the summer of 1925, with the Aggies of Oklahoma A&M joining the ranks. That their dream of joining their big-time fellows only lasted three years has had a lot to do with the Stillwater inferiority complex over the last century.

In the figurative shadow of the initial construction of Van Zile Hall, 150 freshmen came out for the football squad. Reporting on the pre-season scrimmage against those freshmen, the Collegian allowed that it looked like the varsity might just pass the ball some during the 1925 campaign.

Charlie Bachman must have chuckled, because it was the running game which held up the Wildcat end of the bargain in the season opener against the Emporia Teachers. At the end of the first half, the Teachers led 7-6 despite being outgained on the ground 220-2 thanks to a blocked kick return. The passing game wasn’t non-existent, but it was not the key feature previous Bachman teams had made it. KSAC was able to run at will between the twenties, but had a hard time scoring until late in the third quarter when the Emporia defense finally lagged. Ultimately, it was a 26-7 victory for the Wildcats, who outgained the Teachers 513-46 with only 51 of those yards through the air.

A week later, the faithful hosted the Oklahoma Sooners. The Wildcats were outgained 144-140, but won the contest 16-0 thanks to one short drive and an 82-yard interception return by Dick Haskard.

The tables turned the next week in a meeting of early Valley leaders. In Des Moines, the team which the year before had won in Manhattan through clear official incompetence won again via pure skill and athleticism. Turnovers destroyed KSAC, and the Bulldogs easily won 19-0.

For the second year in a row, Kansas was dispatched. The Jayhawks fumbled the opening kickoff, and the Wildcats scored on the next play. From that point, it was an even battle, but the damage had been done in a 14-7 win.

On a sloppy track the following week, the Cats fell 3-0 to Missouri. Two weeks later in Milwaukee, rain was not the Wildcats’ meteorologic foe — snow was. In a blizzard, KSAC was able to wrest a 2-0 win over Marquette in the first big-time intersectional game in Wildcat history.

Homecoming saw the other Wildcat nemesis, Nebraska, invading Memorial. The weather was not wet, but it was still miserable and cold. Neither team could find the scoreboard in a 0-0 tie, which for KSAC may as well have been a win in most respects given their history with the Huskers.

Finally, the season ended in Ames the week before Thanksgiving with a 12-7 win. The game was scoreless at the half, but it took only four plays for the Wildcats to break that tie after intermission. The winning score came when Iowa State blocked a Wildcat kick, but Dick Haskard recovered and raced to the end zone in a play that could not happen now due to rule changes.

The Cats finished 5-2-1, 3-2-1 in the Valley, tied for third. Harry McGee, captain and guard, was named All-Valley. He was not given All-American recognition, however, which is surprising because two other Wildcats were: junior tackle Zerlindon Pearson, a local boy making good, and end Horace “Proc” Randels, who had lettered from 1918-20 before leaving school for several years. In today’s structure, Randels would not have been able to play his fourth year under these circumstances, but such was the era.

McGee and Randels would both move on to the NFL, and they were joined by both of KSAC’s 1922 All-Valley honorees, guard Ralph Nichols and end Ray Hahn.

McGee’s career was the longest by duration. McGee, a native of Stockton, Kansas, spent four of the next five years in the league, playing two games for the Cleveland Bulldogs in 1927, ten for the Staten Island Stapletons in 1928, and one for the Newark Tornadoes in 1929 before returning to Staten Island in 1931 for one last hurrah, playing in one contest. He died in Florida in 1983.

Randels, from Chaparral, only played three years but his career had more value. His career exactly paralleled the first three years of 1924 graduate Lyle Munn’s career, which is amusing as they never shared the field Manhattan as Munn arrived after Randels began his sabbatical. The following year Randels and Munn joined the Cleveland Bulldogs, where Randels appeared in five games, starting two. Finally, the pair decamped to the Detroit Wolverines; Randels appeared in ten games, starting three. Proc tragically died in January of 1933, slain by his father-in-law.

Ralph Nichols also met an early end. After one season in the NFL, playing ten games for the Hartford Blues in 1926, Nichols decided to use his degree and embarked on a career in the oil industry as a geophysicist for Sun Oil. In January of 1932, he was killed in an auto accident in San Angelo, Texas.

Ray Hahn started in three games for the Hammond Pros in 1926. We covered the later career of this NAIA Hall of Famer in the 1921-22 article.

Running total: 110-80-19, 102-83-14 against colleges, 14-25-8 Missouri Valley

The earliest news for the 1926 basketball squad was its schedule, and the bombshell announcement which kicked it off. The Wildcats would begin the season on a road trip to the heart of Big Ten country, visiting Northwestern, Illinois, and Notre Dame.

That trip started well enough with a 30-28 win in Evanston. But a one-point loss at Illinois two days later was followed by a fairly comprehensive beatdown the following night in South Bend. After a stop for a win over the AAU Kansas City Scooleys, the tired Wildcats finally returned to Manhattan.

They lost the home opener to Kansas before beating Grinnell two nights later. Two weeks after that, they took their annual road trip to the Show-Me State and lost the first night against Missouri, but then went on a tear.

They won at Washington before coming home to trash Nebraska and Iowa State. Heading north the following weekend, they again beat the Huskers, but fell to Creighton the night after. Back home, Washington was again dealt with, and revenge was had on Missouri in the final home game of the season.

A loss at the Kansas City Athletic Club rankled, but mattered little as the KCAC squad was essentially a team composed of former All-Valley stars. A week later, a loss at Kansas mattered a lot. The two losses to the Jayhawks are all that separated the Wildcats from the Valley championship. The season ended with two important games, wins at Iowa State and Grinnell; the Iowa State win was the 100th Valley win all-time for the Cats.

Once again, Charles Corsaut had engineered an improvement over the previous campaign. The 11-7 overall record was merely incremental, but the 9-3 conference record was important. The Wildcats finished tied for second with Oklahoma, against whom they had not played.

Junior guard Clifton Byers earned All-Valley first team honors, but we won’t get into his biography here because we’re not done with him yet.

Running total: 184-145, 171-136 against colleges, 101-83 Missouri Valley

Rain implacably insisted on delaying the start of baseball season, which was unable to commence until April 15 with a split at home against Kansas. Next came a wind-impaired double bill against Missouri, swept by the Cats. In their first official conference meeting with the Aggies of Oklahoma, a split was achieved, and KSAC exited April with a 4-2 record.

A trip south saw splits at both Stillwater and Norman, and the season ended with yet another split in Lawrence. After the season, however, one win over the Jayhawks was forfeited for reasons unknown, leaving the Wildcats with a 6-6 Valley record and third place. (The media guide shows 5-1.)

Running total: 228-165-5, 206-155-5 against colleges, 50-60-3 Missouri Valley

For track and cross-country, for a third year running the stars were once again Ralph Kimport and Myron Sallee. The pair helped the indoor two-mile relay team win the event at the Kansas City Athletic Club meet, and then helped spur the Wildcats to a second-place finish at the Valley indoor championship in Ames, where Kimport yet again won the mile. At the Illinois Relays the two-mile relay nipped Northwestern at the tape for victory.

Outdoor, the two-mile relay dominance continued at the Texas Relays. At Rice the following day, the streak finally ended due to fatigue, with Haskell’s relay team winning the race in a time six second slower than that posted by KSAC in Austin. This began a string of frustrating second-place finishes for the Cats. Haskell again bested them at the Kansas Relays, and Illinois defeated them in the two-mile medley at the Drake Relays. (The medley was a bizarre event where the teams ran two miles with one runner going a half, two runners a quarter, and the anchorman running a full mile.)

At the triangular with Kansas and Nebraska, Kimport’s dominance finally crumbled. He finished third in the mile, and the Wildcats finished third at the meet.

Before the Valley outdoor championships, KSAC and Haskell had a one-off challenge race in the two-mile relay. This time, Kimport’s legs did not fail him, and with a dead heat entering the last half-mile, the Wildcat star raced to victory.

The outdoor championships were a disaster, however. Kimport failed to even place in the mile, taking second in the half; the next-best performance by any Wildcat was Phil Carter’s fourth-place standing in the pole vault. KSAC finished ninth, with only four points.

Kimport and Myron Sallee, neither of whom was scheduled to graduate in 1925, once again led the Wildcats to the Valley cross-country title; the team was so dominant that in dual meets with both Kansas and Missouri, the entire Aggie contingent had already crossed the finish line before an opposing runner managed the feat.

That was not the only conference title of the year. KSAC also claimed the Valley boxing championship, beating Iowa State twice, splitting with Kansas, and most impressively traveling to South Bend and beating the snot out of Notre Dame.

The Wildcat wrestlers fell to Nebraska and Kansas, and failed to score an individual title at the Valley championships in Stillwater.