In this week’s edition of “Conversations with Clayton,” I talked about Kansas State athletics with a jack-of-all-trades named Grant Thome. Grant has covered Kansas State sports for close to a decade now, both as a writer and a podcaster. Currently, he is the co-host of The Salute Podcast, which focuses on Kansas State athletics, and he writes about Kansas State athletics for Land Grant Gauntlet. Among other things, we discuss Bruce Weber’s performance at KSU, the Konza Prairie Preserve and dynasty mode in NCAA Football 2009.
Clayton Trutor (CT): How did you get involved with covering Kansas State athletics?
Grant Thome (GT): My mom got our family's first K-state football season ticket package in 1996 and I've been hooked and have attended at least three games a season every season since. I've been a season ticket holder since I was a freshman in 2003. So after I graduated college, I started to do my own "Facebook Notes" recapping each game starting in the 2009 season. Soon thereafter around 2010 or so I joined Bring on the Cats of SB Nation and enjoyed doing a few pieces here and there, but never hitting contributor status. I realized how much I hated editing my own English, so I got the wild idea to continue my recaps on as podcasts and started emailing those out to my friend in the 2011 season. Eventually another friend of mine helped finance the other half to a podcasting website EMAWdio.com for the 2012 season when Collin Klein and company made a run at a BCS national title game if not for that night in Waco. Eventually we shut that down in October of 2015. Since then I've contributed for LandGrantGauntlet.com and theSalutepodcast.com. At the moment I have no plans to do anything for the 2017-18 campaign, but I'm sure I'll get suckered into something.
CT: What are your thoughts on Frank Martin's run this spring with South Carolina?
GT: Mixed emotions. I'm happy for the guy. I've long said I think K-State and Frank Martin parted ways at the right time. I think if he stayed longer at K-State there would of been NCAA sanctions of some sort (I have no way to know that, it was a gut feeling. But since he's been at SC, it probably would not have happened). Point is though, when he left I can only think back and remember positive things about the guy. And for that I'm grateful. As much as I'm not excited about Bruce Weber returning for another year next year, I have to remind myself that the fanbase is mad at letting go a coach who got to the Final Four five years ago and hired a coach who has been to the Final Four. And when you say that out loud it sounds kind of ridiculous.
CT: Three things people don't know about Kansas State:
- They were one of the first teams to send 50,000 fans across state lines to Dallas for the 1996 season Cotton Bowl. As a point of comparison, the home stadium only held 42,000 at the time.
- Kansas State was long a basketball school before Bill Snyder showed up (of course we were the losingest program in college football the day Bill Snyder had his inaugural press conference). The 1990-91 media guide showed K-State was tied for 6th with St. John's for most All-time NCAA Tournament Appearances with 20, only behind Kentucky, UCLA, North Carolina, Notre Dame and Louisville. No mention of Kansas.
- In Snyder's first go around, our football offense wasn't really centered around controlling time of possession, as much as it was around just scoring.
CT: Three things people don’t know about Manhattan, Kansas:
- It's going through a culinary explosion right now. The number of awesome places to eat for a town that size is unbelievable.
- The 8,600-acre Konza Prairie Preserve is as a field research station by Kansas State University Division of Biology just south of town. The Konza ecosystem contains forest, claypan, shrub and riparian communities in addition to the dominant tallgrass.
- A man made lake north of town rests within the vicinity a fault line. Though seismic activity is not much of a thing in Kansas, it's believed that the potential is there for an earthquake to break the reservoir dam and flood a portion of the city should it ever happen.
CT: After five years of Bruce Weber, what grade would you give his performance as KSU's basketball coach? why?
GT: C+. The year the Marcus Foster implosion happened (14-15), a lot of fans were mad. I didn't care. I gave him a free pass for that season, because in his first year he put hardware in the trophy case. The 2012-13 Big 12 Championship was something that had not happened since the 1977. So since he did something so great, it was easy to forgive something so horrible. But after that point anything was fair game. It was predictable that the 15-16 season wasn't going to be great, but as a fan base we entered this year hungry for some semblance of greatness once again. And Bruce never delivered. There comes a point when you collect so much data that you know what you got, and what the exception is, and what the rule is. It's plain to see, without the residual toughness of a Frank Martin player, Bruce's teams just lack that final ingredient of toughness (both mental and physical) to climb past that plateau of 8-10 in the conference. So there's no reason to be excited for Bruce to be back next year. Will I cheer for him to fail? No. That's not in my DNA. But I can't sit here and tell you I'm excited he's back. I guess he gets another year to prove it, but he's had plenty of opportunity to deliver greatness after the start of the 2015-16 season, and it hasn't ever showed back up. So don't be surprised when you see K-State finishes 8-10 in conference play in (or worse) in 2017-18.
CT: Predictions for Kansas State Football in 2017?
GT: 10 wins. That may have to come through a bowl, but it wouldn't surprise me that K-state wins a Big 12 title this year either. Because of the (stupid) re-institution of the Big 12 title game this year despite only having 10 teams, I could see a scenario in which K-State finds a way to finish second in the league, and then have a good performance that first weekend in December to steal one from the better team. When usually they should have been runner up. Big 12 is good about screwing itself in that sense. But take 10 wins out of 13 or 14 to the bank (with the obligatory qualifier of the "save a bad injury year" thing).
CT: What is the greatest victory in Kansas State athletics that you have witnessed?
GT: In person - 1998 win over Nebraska in Football (2000 was also a good one). 2003 win over Oklahoma (dubbed greatest college football team in the history of college football) was fantastic to watch in my dorm room my freshman year and to see the town erupt.
CT: What other teams do you follow?
GT: Kansas City Royals, Arizona Cardinals, occasionally Clemson (because I had cousins that went there) and love watching any Big 12 football game.
CT: When you hear "Cincinnati," you think ___________
GT: Bearcats, Queen City, Reds, Bengals, Skyline Chili.
CT: Describe your greatest victory in a sports video game:
GT: I once scored over 100 points on KU with a simple run sweep play they couldn't stop in my NCAA Football 2009 dynasty mode on my Wii once. Five minute quarters. No cheating. My roster was in the middle of their three national titles in five years run. And I was upping the difficulty level each year. Not sure what year that was in the run though.
Follow Grant Thome on Twitter: @GTCat_EMAWdio
Listen to Grant on the Salute Podcast
For more of the same, follow me on Twitter: @ClaytonTrutor