Sunflower Showdown

Sunflower Showdown

The Sunflower Showdown is the series of athletic contests between Kansas State University and the University of Kansas, most notably football and men's basketball. The name is derived from the official nickname for the state of Kansas: the Sunflower State. In addition to being natural geographic rivals, both schools are members of the Big 12 Conference North Division, so they are guaranteed to play each other annually in all sports.

The two schools compete each year for the Governor's Cup in football. The football series dates back to 1902, and has been played every year since 1911, making it the fourth-longest uninterrupted series in college football history. [cite web| title =NCAA Record Book | url = | format = English | accessdate =2006-10-11] The University of Kansas built a large advantage in the series by 1923, and still leads overall 63-37-5 following the 2007 game. In the 1990s and early 2000s, Kansas State boasted a long winning streak, but KU has now won 3 of the last 4.

The basketball series dates back to 1907, and is the most-played series in either school's history. The University of Kansas leads the basketball series 175-90 following a season split of the two contests in the 2007-2008 season.


The rivalry between the two schools can be traced indirectly back to their creation in the 1860s. The towns of Manhattan, Kansas (now home to KSU) and Lawrence, Kansas (now home to KU) both competed to be the site of the state University – required in the Kansas Constitution – after Kansas achieved statehood in 1861. Manhattan would have become the home of the University in 1861, but the bill establishing the University in Manhattan was controversially vetoed by Governor Charles L. Robinson of Lawrence. An attempt to override the veto in the Legislature failed by one vote. In 1862, another bill to make Manhattan the site of the University failed by one vote. Finally, on the third attempt, on February 16 1863, the Kansas Legislature designated Manhattan as home to the state's Land-grant university. Yet the legislature was not done. Prodded by former Governor Robinson, the Legislature distinguished this institution from the "University" in the Constitution, and on February 20 the Legislature named Lawrence as the home to the state University (provided Lawrence could raise $15,000 and acquire 40 acres of land). When Lawrence met these conditions, the University of Kansas was established there in 1865. [cite web| last =Griffin | first =C.S. | title =The University of Kansas and the Years of Frustration, 1854-64 | url = | format = English | accessdate =2006-10-06]

The two institutions officially met for the first time in athletic competition a little more than thirty years later, in a baseball game in 1898.

Men's basketball

The two schools had a strong rivalry in basketball for several decades, peaking in the 1950s. For the past two decades, however, the University of Kansas has dominated the series, including a winning streak over K-State that lasted from 1994 to 2005. Yet even when the schools have been at different levels, upsets are always a possibility in the rivalry, as when Kansas State upset a KU team that was ranked #1 in the AP Poll on January 17, 1994, or when KU pulled the upset on a K-State team ranked #1 on January 17, 1953.

Over the decades, the rivalry has seen a number of notable coaches match wits, including Jack Gardner, Tex Winter, Lon Kruger and Jack Hartman at Kansas State, and James Naismith, Phog Allen, Larry Brown, Roy Williams and Bill Self at KU.


Both schools were national title contenders in the 1950s, with Kansas State starting the decade in the title game of the 1951 NCAA tournament, and KU winning the title at the 1952 NCAA tournament. Befitting a clash of these titans, one of the best games of the 1952 season was an epic 90-88 overtime victory by #4 KU over #8 K-State. KU returned to the Final Four in 1953, claiming the league title along the way over a KSU team that had earlier been the top-ranked basketball team in the country.

The rivalry heated up even further with the arrival of Bob Boozer at Kansas State and Wilt Chamberlain at KU in the middle of the decade. In the 1955-1956 season, Kansas State split the season series with KU and won the Big Seven Conference title. The following year, Chamberlain led KU to the league title and a triple-overtime loss to North Carolina in the title game of the 1957 NCAA tournament. Kansas and Kansas State played another classic the following season, when Boozer scored 32 points in a 79-75 double-overtime victory at KU on February 3, 1958, while KSU was ranked #4 and KU was ranked #2. (When the two teams had previously met that season on December 30, 1957, they were ranked #2 and #3 in the country.) Following that season, KSU made another appearance in the Final Four. To close the decade, Kansas State swept the season series from KU on the way to a 25-2 record and a #1 ranking in the final AP Poll for 1959.During the 1950s, the two schools also engaged in one-upsmanship in facilities. In 1950 Kansas State opened Ahearn Field House, one of the largest and most impressive basketball facilities in the country at the time, which seated 14,000 spectators. Meanwhile, KU continued to play their home games on a converted stage in an auditorium with a seating capacity of 5,500. In response to the construction of Ahearn, the University of Kansas successfully lobbied the state to pay for the construction of Allen Fieldhouse, which would seat 17,000. [cite news| title =Fieldhouse Built to Catch KSU, MU | url = | publisher = Lawrence Journal-World | format = English | accessdate =2008-06-24] KU opened the facility with a game against Kansas State on March 1, 1955 (a 77-66 KU victory).

This period also saw the beginning of the 'Sunflower Doubleheader', with two non-conference teams visiting the state to play KU and K-State at one venue one night, then switching venues and opponents the following evening. This event was held from 1957 to 1968, and featured national powerhouses such as UCLA, Xavier, San Francisco, St. Joseph's, Cal, and Marquette.

1960s and 1970s

The basketball rivalry between the two schools continued unabated through the 1960s and 1970s, with the two schools competing annually for the Big Eight Conference championship (see chart below). In Dick Harp's last two seasons as the KU coach, the Jayhawks plummeted to losing records of 7-18 in 1962 and 12-13 in 1963. Nevertheless, in the championship game of the Big Eight Holiday Tournament in December 1962, KU posted a surprising 90-88 quadruple-overtime victory over K-State. Also, on February 20, 1965, one of the classic pranks in the series was perpetrated when a pair of 6x12 banners saying "Go Cats, Kill Snob Hill Again" unfurled on the east and west sides of the Allen Fieldhouse scoreboard with eight minutes left in the first half of an 88-66 KU victory. Another popular "prank" perpetrated by Kansas State students throughout the years is throwing live chickens on the court during pre-game introductions, as a taunt at the Kansas mascot, the Jayhawk. For years the Kansas State administration has attempted to stop this practice, and following a nationally-televised game on February 19, 2007, PETA complained about it in a letter to KSU President Jon Wefald.


The 1980s saw the return of star power to the schools and arguably the rivalry's most high-profile game. At the start of the decade, Rolando Blackman at Kansas State and Darnell Valentine at KU squared off in some classic match-ups. To close the decade, it was Mitch Richmond (K-State) and Danny Manning (KU) battling.

With Richmond and Manning in their senior years, the 1987-1988 season proved to be momentous in the rivalry. In the first matchup of the season, on January 30, 1988, Richmond scored 35 points to lead Kansas State to a 72-61 win to halt KU's then-record 55-game home winning streak. On February 18, KU turned the tables, prevailing 64-63 in Ahearn Field House to deny K-State a victory over KU in the old field house's last year. In what was supposed to be the rubber game, in the 1988 Big Eight Conference tournament, Kansas State won a decisive victory by a 69-54 score. However, the biggest was yet to come. Both teams qualified for the NCAA tournament, and after three wins apiece in the tournament they faced each other on March 27 in Pontiac, Michigan, for the right to advance to the Final Four. Led by Manning's 20 points, KU turned a tight game into a runaway and prevailed 71-58. They eventually advanced to claim the school's second NCAA Championship. [cite web| title =Rock Chalk Site | url = | format = English | accessdate =2006-10-10] That game in the Pontiac Silverdome was the first of only two meetings between the 'Hawks and the 'Cats that was not played in Lawrence, Manhattan, or Kansas City, Missouri (the second meeting being the 2007 Big 12 Tournament in Oklahoma City).

The 1990s and 2000s

The rivalry slipped in significance after the 1988 season, as K-State slowly declined in the Big 8 and Big 12 conferences. Only occasionally would K-State make some noise, such as the 68-64 win over then-#1 KU in Allen Fieldhouse in 1994. When Tom Asbury was hired at K-State during the 1994 offseason, he vowed to "come after Kansas." Roy Williams accepted this blustering challenge by saying, "South on 177 (K-177), East on 70 (Interstate 70), West Lawrence Exit." Asbury never won a game against the Jayhawks.

From 1994-2005, KU won 31 straight games against K-State, the longest streak for either school in the series. Also, from 1984 to 2007, KU won 24 straight games on the Wildcats' home floor. During the latter streak, K-State won seven games against KU, but all were away from Manhattan: four games in Lawrence (1988, 1989, 1994, 2006) and three games in the Big Eight Tournament in Kansas City (1988, 1989, 1993). That streak began in Ahearn Field House, where KU won the final five meetings, and carried over into Bramlage Coliseum, where KU won the first 19 contests. KU's streak at Bramlage came to an end on January 30, 2008, when #24 ranked Kansas State upset previously-unbeaten #2 University of Kansas 84-75.

The Rivalry Today

When Kansas State hired coach Bob Huggins to replace Jim Wooldridge in the 2006 off-season, it promised to reignite the rivalry. At K-State's Madness in Manhattan celebration to start the 2006-2007 season, Huggins said that "February 19th is when we break the streak." [cite news| title =KU at K-State: 23 and counting? | url = | publisher = The Topeka Capital-Journal | format = English | accessdate =2008-06-24] However, KU managed to sweep the season series from Kansas State, and Huggins departed following the season to take a position coaching at his alma mater, West Virginia University.

The 2007-2008 season presented an intriguing contrast between youth and experience. KU was led by the experienced coach Bill Self and boasted a lineup of returning players. Kansas State was led by a first-year head coach, Frank Martin, and boasted one of the top-rated groups of freshman players in the nation. Prior to the season, Kansas State freshman phenom Michael Beasley boasted that "We're gonna beat KU at home. We're gonna beat 'em at their house. We're gonna beat 'em in Africa. Wherever we play we're gonna beat 'em." [ [ Beasley ensures K-state leaves no doubt ] ] KU came into the first match-up of the 2007-2008 season, on January 30, 2008, with a 20-0 record and a #2 ranking, but Kansas State prevailed 84-75, with each of the team's top three scorers tallying at least 20 points. Kansas State's trip to Lawrence later that year was not as enjoyable for the Wildcats as they trailed Kansas by more than 20 points throughout much of the game en route to an 88-74 loss to Kansas, leaving Beasley's prophecy unfulfilled. Both schools advanced to the NCAA tournament at the conclusion of the regular season, and Kansas went on to win its third NCAA championship.

Conference titles

From 1946 through 1978, Kansas and Kansas State made the competition for the basketball title for their conference (known as the Big Six, Big Seven and Big Eight during this time) virtually a two-way affair. During this 33-year period, KU or KSU won or shared the title 26 times. The following chart shows the conference titles captured by the Sunflower Showdown schools during this span of time.

See also

* Kansas State Wildcats
* Kansas Jayhawks


External links

* [ Sunflower Showdown football site]
* [ Sunflower Showdown basketball site]
* [ College Football in Kansas]
* [ College Basketball in Kansas]

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