Jayhawks take Wichita State football off the hook

A Wichita State football helmet in 1986.
A Wichita State football helmet in 1986. File photo

Kansas football relieved a bit of the burden of history on Wichita State on Saturday. The Jayhawks lost 49-7 at Baylor to extend their road losing streak to 38 games.

According to College Football Reference, the Jayhawks passed the Shockers for the second-longest road losing streak. No. 1 is Western (Colo.) State, which was considered a “major” division school from 1924-37 when it played in a conference with schools such as Utah, Colorado and BYU. Western lost 44 road games from 1926-1936.

I’ll let you decide if Western State counts.

Regardless, the Shockers are no longer the owners of the state’s — and perhaps the nation’s — longest road losing streak for major-college football.

The 37-game streak started with a 24-18 loss at Arizona State in 1964 and continued at Utah State, Arkansas, Oklahoma State and Tulsa that season. The Shockers opened 1971 with a loss at Texas A&M. The streak ended with a 26-24 win at Southern Illinois, a game played one year after the Oct. 2, 1970 plane crash.

It’s fair to look at that 0-37 stretch as summarizing the period that ultimately doomed Shockers football.

In 1963, the Shockers went 7-2 and shared the Missouri Valley Conference title with Cincinnati. They won at Arizona State, which didn’t lose another game. They won at Louisville and defeated Cincinnati and Tulsa at home. They lost at Boston College and North Texas.

That 1963 season ended a stretch in which the Shockers won or shared MVC titles in 1954, 1955, 1960, 1961 and 1963. In those 10 seasons, the Shockers had six winning seasons and played in the Sun Bowl.

Shockers football was competitive at their level. If there was a time to keep pace nationally, that was it.

Instead, the Shockers suffered eight straight losing seasons from 1964-71. After a 6-5 record in 1972, WSU had one more winning season (8-3 in 1982) before dumping the program in 1986. During that time, football separated dramatically into haves and have-nots because of TV, attendance, facilities and conference affiliation.

The Shockers fell on the wrong side of all those aspects. The program fell behind and never recovered.

Kansas coach David Beaty talks about his team's offensive struggles in a 49-7 loss to Baylor on Oct. 15, 2016.

Paul Suellentrop: 316-269-6760, @paulsuellentrop