Fans are flocking to Waco, Texas, this weekend to watch the Wildcats play Baylor.
The Kansas State University football team is undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the BCS. For many fans, this historic game is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“It was a last-minute decision,” said Martha Payne of Manhattan. “I had to go see them as No. 1 to beat Baylor.”
For Payne, the football team’s success has been an inspiration and a distraction.
Payne was diagnosed with breast cancer early this year. She said at the beginning of the season she bought season tickets as a way to cope with her treatments. As the Wildcats won game after game, watching the team play and win became a motivation for her to continue her fight. At this point in the season, Payne has finished her therapy, undergone a mastectomy and has been told she is currently cancer-free.
Now that the Wildcats are 10-0, she believes going to Waco to support the team that has supported her is the right thing to do. So, on Thursday she got up early to catch the 6:30 a.m. flight out of Manhattan to Dallas because the weekend flights had already booked up.
“It was well worth it,” she said. “I would have got up in the middle of the night to go see them.”
Payne said the flight was full of fans sporting K-State purple as she boarded, and she knew more would follow.
She was right. One group of fans left early this morning.
Gabe Schwiesow said he has been coordinating the travel arrangements for his group since 1998, after a friend took him to his first home game.
“I’ve been addicted ever since,” Schwiensow said. “It’s what I work for.”
He said last week when the Wildcats beat TCU in Fort Worth, the group drove to Texas, but this week the group decided to fly because the 10-hour drive is too tiring to travel twice.
He said he usually coordinates the hotels and air fares for everyone going, which allows them to get discounts. He said depending on where they are going and who is available, the group ranges from two to six people. He said they usually travel a day ahead of the game not only to watch the game, but also to see the sights.
Manhattan fans are not the only ones headed to the game. Doug Bugner and Johnette Hodgin are both K-State grads living in Texas. Bugner and Hodgin both live in Cleveland, Texas, and plan on making the two-hour trip together. Hodgin said she went to K-State in the ‘60s, but at that time the Wildcats rarely won.
“I dread going to these games because of their history,” Hodgin said. “This year is quite exciting. We’re really excited. Each game I just hold my breath.”
She said she has always been a fan but fears the team will not play well in the bowl game.
“I hope that this year we break that,” Hodgin said. “It’s almost like I’m afraid to go because I don’t want to jinx it.”
Bugner, who graduated from K-State in 1980, said he isn’t worried about jinxing it, but worries the team will not get the respect it deserves. He admitted he hadn’t been to any K-State games until last year, although he watches the games on television every year rooting for K-State — win or lose. Last year he decided to travel to Manhattan at least once a year to watch the Wildcats play and to meet up with family for the games, but this year he is also traveling to Waco to watch the K-State/Baylor game.
He said that while he is a K-State fan, his son went to Baylor, and he wasn’t sure who to root for. But he admitted he secretly wanted the Wildcats to win. He said he also has trouble with his in-laws. He said every year he has had to defend the Wildcats against his wife’s family because they are all huge LSU fans.
“I get a lot of abuse because they think the SEC is the only thing that matters,” Bugner said. “So, this year is great because K-State is on top.”
He said he is glad to see K-State holding its own, and his family is finally acknowledging the Big 12 has some good football.
All of the fans said they hope the Wildcats will make it to Miami to play for the championship to show the nation that K-State not only has a great football program, but great coaching staff as well.
“It’s more than a football game for me,” Payne said. “Bill Snyder and the team deserve to win.”