LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — When the Royals put away the Mets to win their first World Series championship in three decades on Sunday night, Massachusetts Street not far from the Kansas campus erupted in celebration.
Fans flooded the streets. The celebration spilled over to Memorial Stadium, where students and others knocked down a fence and tore down the south goal post, almost as if the Jayhawks had finally won a meaningful game after years of struggles.
Kansas coach David Beaty said he received a text about 3:25 a.m. about the incident.
“Listen, what an unbelievable day for this city,” Beaty said Tuesday, about the same time the Royals were having their victory parade through downtown Kansas City. “We’re not going to talk about (goal posts). It is what it is. All the folks out there that have been fans and been along with those guys for a long time, it’s been a long time coming to get back to this point.”
Long time, indeed. The Royals had one winning season from 2002 to 2012, and had been absent from the playoffs for 29 years before falling one win short of a championship last season.
There are certain parallels between the Royals and Jayhawks, though.
Over that same period, Kansas had three winning seasons and went 56-87, roughly equal to the Royals’ winning percentage. It’s only been in the past few years that the organizations have gone in different directions, with the Royals trending upward and the Jayhawks headed down.
Beaty intends to use Kansas City’s success as a teaching moment.
On Monday, the coaching staff pointed out to their players how long the Royals struggled, and how it took development of the team from the bottom up to make things happen.
“It’s amazing how the people that are there now were allowed to develop, even when people were saying, ‘Why are you pinch-hitting this guy?’ And that guy ends up winning the game for them the other night,” Beaty said. “Some really, really cool things happened throughout this season that you can track all the way back to the beginning.
“We talked a lot about that with our team,” said the first-year Kansas coach, “and I think it gives them some perspective on how you build something.”
That doesn’t mean the Jayhawks are suddenly favored to end their long losing streak. They head to Texas this weekend to face a team they haven’t beaten since 1938.
That winless drought against the Longhorns isn’t the only statistical anomaly that comes into play this week. Kansas is in the midst of a 0-for-36 skid in games played outside Memorial Stadium — not to mention an 0-33 record when games are played on an opponent’s field.
After this weekend, Kansas has only a trip to TCU to change that narrative.
The last time the Jayhawks started 0-9 was 1954, when they finished 0-10 for the worst record in school history. But if the Jayhawks want to compare themselves to the Royals, there is at least some reason for optimism: Their worst season in franchise history was 56-106 in 2005.
Ten years later, they won the World Series.
“It puts things into perspective,” Kansas offensive coordinator Rob Likens said. “The easy fix is not the way out. Whenever you try to go with the easy fix, most of the time, it backfires on you. It’s just not good for the long haul. Right now, we’re enduring and going through that portion of it right now. Just like (the Royals) did.”