The Shockers and Jayhawks finally meet again in basketball, the Kansas City Royals regain baseball’s crown and the intersection of tragedy and sports were some of the biggest local sports stories of the year.
The past 12 months have given Kansas and Wichita sports fans some big moments – and some somber – to remember. We’d like your opinion of which moments were the biggest in 2015.
Instead of just choosing one top moment, we’re asking Eagle readers to rank their top three selections at Kansas.com/sports. We want to find out why you selected the stories you did and what you’ll remember the most.
As with previous years we include stories about the Royals and Chiefs as they are the most popular teams in their leagues within Kansas.
Leave a comment in the form online and we’ll run some of the best ones in a later story. Did we miss a big moment? Let us know that as well.
Here are the nominees in chronological order:
Jim Mora Jr.-Bill Snyder handshake takes surreal turn at Alamo Bowl – Remember UCLA’s 40-35 victory over Kansas State? Not likely. A video of the terse postgame handshake went viral online and through social media. Some questioned K-State’s play at the end of the game. Others questioned Mora’s sportsmanship.
Mourning high school coaches – Beginning with the Jan. 7 death of Carl Taylor, the City League’s winningest basketball coach, Wichita and Kansas lost many influential coaches in 2015, including Kapaun’s Alan Shepherd, Carroll’s Roger Robben, East’s Bob Timmons and Lawrence’s Bill Freeman. Two other Kansans made their mark in college: Emporia’s Dean Smith and Parsons’ Bill Guthridge.
NCAA hands down WSU baseball sanctions – Players utilizing improper discounts on non-baseball merchandise led to big sanctions by the NCAA, including vacating 69 victories in 2012 and 2013 and the 2013 NCAA Tournament appearance. Former coach Gene Stephenson, whose appeal was denied by the NCAA, slipped to third in career coaching victories due to the penalties.
K-State basketball tops KU in Manhattan; highlight of dismal season – In the midst of the Wildcats’ first losing season in 12 years, K-State came up with its best game against the Jayhawks in Bramlage Coliseum. The 70-63 win over No. 8 KU added a chapter to the rivalry and the national debate on courtstorming.
College GameDay comes to Wichita as Shockers clinch MVC title – Wichita State’s sports management class got its message out on social media with #GameDayinWichita. The ESPN crew was on hand for the Shockers’ 74-60 win over No. 10 Northern Iowa in the de facto MVC title game.
KU wins 11th straight Big 12 title – A season after losing the players picked No. 1 and 3 in the NBA Draft, the Jayhawks did what they seemingly always do under Bill Self – win another Big 12 title. Their streak is tied for the second-longest streak in any conference in NCAA history. KU is two titles short of UCLA’s record set in the ’60s and ’70s.
WSU women win third straight MVC title; cheerleading squad picks up opponent – The Shockers reached the NCAA Tournament for the third straight season, but the Shocker cheerleaders and yell leaders received national attention at the women’s MVC tournament as they invited Loyola’s lone cheer squad representative to join them. In December the team received a Musial Award for their sportsmanship.
Wichita-area teams win state basketball titles – The Wichita East and Heights boys took the Class 6A and 5A crowns, while McPherson won 4A-Division I. The Wichita South girls won their third straight 6A championship. The Hesston girls captured 3A.
Hoxie girls, St. John boys set state records – In winning their fourth straight Class 1A-Division I title under coach Shelly Hoyt the Hoxie girls broke Little River’s record of 91 straight wins set in the 1990s. Hoxie has pushed the streak to 100 to begin the 2015-16 season. In December the St. John boys under Clint Kinnamon took down Wichita Heights’ record of 62 straight.
Hutch women reach NJCAA final again; sanctions wipe out team's record – The Blue Dragons have reached basketball’s final game three of the past four seasons, but an NJCAA investigation and its fallout marred the 2015 season. Excess benefits cost Hutch all of its victories from 2014-15 and some scholarships.
Shockers defeat KU to reach Sweet 16 – Wichita State fans finally got their wish – a shot at the state’s perennial power. Thirty-four years after their last NCAA Tournament meeting, the Jayhawks and Shockers met again with a Sweet 16 berth on the line. The Shockers took the game and bragging rights for the foreseeable future with the 78-65 win.
Gregg Marshall stays at WSU after serious push by Alabama – The Crimson Tide led this year’s edition of the The Annual Courting of Marshall. He decided again to remain with the Shockers, receiving a pay bump to $3 million annually before bonuses. That continuity helped Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet postpone pro careers for their senior seasons.
Players desert WSU women's basketball, leading to president-ordered investigation – Four players who left the Shockers were critical of Jody Adams’ coaching style and treatment of players. The university’s investigation brought about some promised changes by Adams. Parents of the players asked the NCAA to step in.
Kansans in the NFL Draft – The Miami Dolphins selected Circle’s Jordan Phillips in the second round, kicking off a flurry of Wichita-area picks including Carroll’s Blake Bell, Hutchinson’s Geneo Grissom and Blake Heeney. Seattle drafted K-State’s Tyler Lockett in the third round. Lockett was named to the Pro Bowl as a returner.
FC Wichita’s inaugural season – Complete with a logo adorned with the city’s flag and stalks of wheat, Wichita began its most organized chapter of outdoor soccer yet. With names familiar to the soccer community such as Larry Inlow and Kevin Ten Eyck the team had a successful debut, capturing its conference of the NPSL. The team frequently sold out its games at Stryker Soccer Complex.
KU-lead Team USA wins World University Games gold; Ron Baker plays on Pan Am team – Team USA won its first gold medal at the World University Games since 2005 with a team made up nearly exclusively by Jayhawks. In the Pan American Games, WSU’s Ron Baker impressed scouts, helping lead the team to a bronze medal.
Four Royals voted to start All-Star Game; KC goes all-in with trades – After a month of hand-wringing by some in the baseball world bemoaning the possibility of an entire All-Star lineup of Kansas City players, fans ultimately selected four Royals to start the game. Later in the month KC showed another sign of its dominance by being buyers at the trade deadline to acquire Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist.
Bat boy Kaiser Carlile dies after accident at NBC World Series – Struck in the head by a practice swing in the on-deck circle, the Liberal Bee Jay’s 9-year-old bat boy died from his injuries a day later. The Bee Jays, other teams at the NBC World Series and strangers from across the country mourned the child who was called the team’s spark plug.
St. John teen tags world-class Kansas whitetail buck – Clayton Brummer, 16, bagged a non-typical buck in Stafford County. Initial measurements placed the buck’s gross score at more than 230 inches.
K-State sanctions marching band director after halftime show – Everyone agrees the marching band performed a “Star Trek”-themed show at halftime of the Wildcats’ game against South Dakota. Everyone agrees there was a Jayhawk involved. After that, disagreement. Some saw the Starship Enterprise, some saw a sex act. Band director Frank Tracz was fined and suspended for the KU game two months later.
Sporting KC wins U.S. Open Cup – Sporting Kansas City became the fourth franchise in MLS history to win the tournament for a third time. It was Sporting’s third major trophy in the past four seasons, the 2012 Open Cup and 2013 MLS Cup.
Royals win the World Series on yet another comeback – Coming up 90 feet short of a possible title the year before, the Royals left no doubt about their resilancy en route to the team’s first World Series title since 1985. Comeback after comeback sank the Astros, Blue Jays and Mets to take the crown. In Game 5 of the World Series the Royals faced a 2-0 deficit in the ninth inning before Eric Hosmer drove in Lorenzo Cain from first on a double. Hosmer then scored when Lucas Duda failed to throw him out on Perez’s groundout. The Royals scored five times in the 12th to guarantee a victory parade and rally witnessed by hundreds of thousands in KC.
Wallace County football player Luke Schemm dies after collapsing in game – A standout in football, basketball and track and field, the senior from Sharon Springs collapsed in a playoff game against Otis-Bison. Larry O’Connor, the school’s athletic director: “He had time for everybody. … He was a friend to everybody. The little kids looked up to him. He spent time with them.”
KU finishes football season at 0-12 – The expectations weren’t high for David Beaty’s first season as KU’s coach, but even Turner Gill and Charlie Weis had won a game in their first year. The possibility of the Jayhawks’ first winless season since 1954 became real after an opening-day loss to FCS opponent South Dakota State. The team balanced close calls against Texas Tech and TCU with drubbings by OU, Baylor, West Virginia and K-State.
Emporia State wins first NCAA playoff football games – Behind quarterback Brent Wilson’s season that earned him a spot as a finalist for the Harlon Hill Award, the Hornets reached the NCAA Division II playoffs, winning games in that tournament for the first time. Emporia State defeated Minnesota State and Henderson State before falling to eventual national champion Northwest Missouri State in the quarterfinals.
Derby wins Class 6A football title – Derby quarterback Brady Rust rushed for 309 yards and two touchdowns in the Panthers’ 27-14 championship game victory over Blue Valley. It was the Panthers’ third title in school history and second in three seasons.
KU volleyball reaches Final Four – All three Kansas schools made the NCAA volleyball tournament – with the Shockers beating the Wildcats in the first round – but it was the Jayhawks who had the staying power. KU upset top-ranked Southern California in San Diego before longtime Big Eight/Big 12 nemesis Nebraska beat the Jayhawks in a national semifinal in Omaha.
Bill Snyder inducted in College Football Hall of Fame – The author of the “greatest turnaround in college football history” became the fourth active coach to be enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. Snyder received the honor in New York days after the Wildcats won their third straight game to clinch another bowl bid, this time to the Liberty Bowl.
Eric Berry returns from cancer treatment to have Pro Bowl season – Nearly a year after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Chiefs safety Berry was back at the top of the NFL, earning another Pro Bowl selection. In addition to surviving cancer, Berry helped the Chiefs to nine straight wins and a playoff berth.
WSU reopens discussion of football, conference affiliation – President John Bardo announced the university would re-examine all aspects of the school’s athletic department, including the 30-year absence of a football program. “Everything is on the table. The sports we offer, facilities, conferences,” Bardo said.