University of Kansas

State's birthday adds flavor to KU-KSU

On Saturday, the state of Kansas turns 150.

To celebrate, the Kansas Jayhawks and Kansas State Wildcats will meet at Allen Fieldhouse for a basketball game that will be televised nationally on ESPN.

Coincidence? Hardly.

"That was on purpose," said Big 12 senior associate commissioner Tim Allen. "Having the game that day for Kansas Day was a very natural, easy, yeah-let's-do-that fit. Everyone was excited about it."

Allen, a native of Chanute, was one of the Big 12 officials who pushed for ESPN to send its traveling "College GameDay" show to Lawrence and take part in the Sesquicentennial festivities.

Coming into the season, ESPN informed the Big 12 it wanted to broadcast two games in its marquee, primetime Saturday slot. And it wanted those games to take place at Kansas and Baylor.

So when Jan. 29 was noticed as an available date, the league office recommended Kansas host K-State on that day. (The schools' women's teams meet at 2 p.m. in Manhattan.)

Officials from K-State and KU had already lobbied for a Kansas Day game between the teams.

"When we found out the dates, we said this is the day we want," Allen said, "because it means something special to the state. It was one of those things that was on our radar, and then it all fell into place."

The Big 12 is often sensitive to local and regional events that can enhance basketball games. Earlier this week, Oklahoma State hosted Texas in a game that was televised nationally by ESPN in part because of the halftime ceremony the Cowboys had to honor the 10th anniversary of the Oklahoma State plane crash that killed 10 men.

ESPN tries its best to oblige the requests.

"Locally, factors like that can work as a good draw," said ESPN director of programming and acquisitions Nick Dawson. "It may be hard to grab national viewers just because of something like that, but that was certainly a factor in why the Kansas-Kansas State game is on the date that it is."

It is the first time the Sunflower Showdown will be played on Kansas Day since 1991. That season, the No. 24 Jayhawks defeated the Wildcats 78-69 at Bramlage Coliseum.

The return meeting between Sunflower State rivals? A Valentine's Day "Big Monday" appearance on ESPN. Fitting.