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August 24, 2014

GPC Special: Robert's Words 2014

EDITOR'S NOTE: Kansas State super fan Robert Lipson delves into recruiting, staying undefeated and K-State's baseball meltdown in his annual address to the Wildcat Nation that he calls, "Robert's Words."

Greetings Wildcats everywhere! Hope you had an awesome summer. Now let's cut right to the chase.

After so many decades of following the Wildcats, the conference and college athletics, there is always one thing that absolutely makes no logical sense to me.

We trot out there the best coach in the history of the game and practically all of the four- and five-star prospective student athletes are just not interested. This was also true when Jack Hartman was our coach. Coach Bill Snyder has always had to make a living mostly by unearthing usually overlooked prospects.

Now if these exact same two- and three-star players already on our team were much more athletically gifted and grew up in Houston, Tampa, Atlanta, etc. as four- and five-star prospects, do you really think they would still come here to play football for Bill?

Most likely not. Every Wednesday during the season Bill allows me to fist bump the team as they come in from practice. I once asked some of them if they would still come here if they grew up Houston, Tampa, etc. as four- and five-star prospects and they confessed most likely not.

During Bill's first tenure some players confessed to me that they felt overlooked and disrespected by those historic traditions they grew up dreaming about playing for in their own state. They came here anxious to prove that they were certainly wrong about not offering them.

Where would they had been if they were offered by their dream teams? But all of those players then and now always confess to me that they would much rather be here and are grateful they were not offered by their first choices.

In fact all of the top prospects do not realize that they would never want to be anywhere else but here because they have never experienced it here yet. That is biggest battle we have to wage for their commitments.

Way too many prospects put way too much priority into fitting in. I can understand why a sensible prospect would not want to join a team full of cliques and snobs. But way too many four- and five-star's are painstakingly and needlessly split hairs over fitting in.

Chances are they did not choose which high school they attended and certainly have no choice which NFL team to join, but if they don't really care that much about all of the dignity and integrity exemplified here combined with the most superior coach, doing everything the right way, 16 goals for success, etc., then we just don't want them on our team.

Also way too many top prospects choose style over substance. They are very impressionable. There are always coaches and recruiting coordinators elsewhere that certainly can make top prospects feel much more comfortable, excited and fit in better there much more successfully than we can. They accomplish this by having very charming and sensational personalities and are very persuasive. They make their offer much too irresistible to turn down. This is exactly what makes some coaches much better recruiters than others.

So many prospects insist upon staying close to home so friends and family can always watch them play home games. I really wanted to attend the University of Connecticut because it was so close to my home in New York state. But UConn had absolutely nothing I wanted. University of California/Berkeley had everything I wanted but it was all at the graduate level.

I came here only because KSU had some courses also available to undergraduates that no other school had.

Too many top prospects feel that family and friends are too vitally important to them to play far from home. But you really cannot assume the families of players here from Florida and California are less important to them than the families are to players close to home.

Being the best they can possibly become sometimes requires some necessary sacrifices. That is the reality we all deal with. So many of the top prospects just do not want to make those sacrifices.

Some prospects truly believe they will have a much better chance to be drafted or drafted higher by joining certain other teams because they always have so many players selected during each NFL draft. These teams always have more and higher draft picks because they have superior recruiters. But look at any NFL roster and you will always find a number of players from bottom feeder teams, Division II and Division III, including the Super Bowl champions.

Illegal inducements are also most certainly a factor. Not all of the most successful football programs are always squeaky-clean all of the time.

I had former players and assistant coaches three or four decades ago tell me that if you seriously want to be in the mix for almost all of the premium prospects then you must pony up or lose them all to those that do.

There are also some of those that commit to us as a two- and three-star players then blossom into four- and five-star players during their final season at high school or juco then suddenly flip on us. Also a two- and three-star commit suddenly gets offered hard by a big time power or a much better recruiter then flips on us. Why settle for playing football in a "corn field" when I can now play for Ohio State, Alabama, USC etc.!

There are also some that use their commitment to us as a bargaining chip or leverage to compel their first choices (usually a significant championship contender) to finally offer them already then flip on us.

I would be most anxious to ask the top 100 prospects exactly how much being the best you can possibly be by playing for the best coach ever in the history of the game, doing everything the right way, the 16 goals for success are vitally important to them.

What are their top priorities? What else influences their decision? It would be most interesting to find those answers.

If all the top prospects would just take some time to examine how much Coach Snyder accomplished here with what he had to work with compared to coaches who win championships and/or have the most NFL draft picks elsewhere that always have the best recruiting classes. Then I would only want those that take themselves seriously enough as football players, have enough pride in themselves and are mentally tough enough to commit to where they can be the best they can possibly be. I would not want any other than those kind of premium athletes on our team as long as Bill is our coach. Anything less than that is a liability to this team. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. But any prospect with a genuine five-star head will suffice.

Finding those mostly overlooked diamonds in the rough are relatively easy to recruit. But the kind of players I would want the most on our team are the most heavily recruited highest profile prospects that most certainly could have so easily be tempted to go anywhere else but can overcome all of that because they have enough pride, toughness, integrity, desire, commitment and dedication to never want to settle for anything less than becoming the best they can possibly be in every way by playing here for Bill.

More About Undefeated Disaster
Another thing that makes absolutely no logical sense to me is after so many months of conditioning, practice, preparation, commitment and dedication finally resulting in us being undefeated late in the season only to totally collapse late in the season like 1998, 2012 and OU in 2003.

Yet Nebraska and Oklahoma had no difficulty staying undefeated until their collision in 1971. OU went totally undefeated in 2000. Florida St.ate went totally undefeated last season.

Remaining undefeated can either be a huge distraction or a huge motivating factor more and more so as the wins continue to accumulate. It is either one or the other never both. This is always true if overconfidence and just deliberately letting up are not factors.

Each season Bill invites me to address the team Monday after practice before one game of my choice. If undefeated by 12/1/14 it will most certainly be Baylor. I will emphatically explain to them that being undefeated this late in a season can either be a tremendous distraction or a tremendous motivator. Never both or neither. It is entirely a mental thing.

I will tell them, "How many student-athletes everywhere can only dream about being in this position availed to you right now? You have a tremendous opportunity to do something very special here. Get a picture in your mind exactly what kind of game you want to have. ESPN Gameday will be there. The entire sports world will be watching us Saturday night.

"If remaining undefeated excites and motivates you enough to most anxiously practice and prepare like you never did before then I can wager my rent money on you and not lose any sleep over it. If however you let being undefeated become a distraction to you (and grinds you down), then you are deliberately violating three of the 16 goals for success by not improving, putting self limitations on yourselves and accepting defeat.

"Then everything we have done here since the Michigan game was just a complete waste of our time. Therefore you have this fork in your road. Before deciding which way to go with this, please just take into consideration your coaches feelings, the feelings of all of your fellow teammates that suffered so much in such an agonizing way to lose in the 1998 big 12 championship game, (etc, etc) and finally your own feelings before you do anything else."

I will include 1971 NU and OU, 1998 Texas A&M, 2000 OU, 2003 OU and last season's Florida State, also UConn women's basketball as examples. If you choose to take the very motivated route then staying undefeated should always solidify and unify this team more so after each triumph.

This is exactly how you did it to successfully remain undefeated in high school and/or juco. Exactly how successfully you approach this game depends entirely upon just how much pride you really take in yourselves. It is absolutely nothing else. This will be exactly the difference between enduring the ordeal in 2012 and winning this game. But always remember exactly how you got this far. You put in way too much hard work, dedication, commitment, etc., to approach this game any other way.

Bat Cats
Of the many baseball games I attended, the middle game of the TCU series was the worst I have ever seen. We went from a 7-4 lead to lose 21-7. It was just like the 1987 football game vs Austin Peay State.

I just could not bear to watch it any more but I stayed till the end of the game. When Gary Vought was the Bat Cat coach, at that time Oklahoma State was to Big Eight baseball exactly what Kansas U. is to Big 12 basketball today. We always lost to the Cowboys 10-0, 11-1 type scores. Gary always finished last or second to last in the Big Eight. He lasted only three seasons. The recent Bat Cats were even worse. The pitching was an abysmal failure.

Three starting and top relief pitchers were injured. Also just like the 2001 football team, this team assumed they would just continue winning.

Even though he blamed himself for the performance, you cannot blame Coach Brad Hill for the failure. Being around the players often enough at the hotel before road games, I noticed some of the players were incredibly thin skinned and fragile.

They just could not handle so much adversity. When the season, any season becomes most adverse, the mentally fragile players always wait for good things to happen to motivate them but the mentally tough players always force good things to happen. I saw no mental toughness with most of the pitchers and some of the hitters. Right after the season, much to Brad Hill's credit, he dismissed all of the dead wood on the team, and some quit on their own.

To add insult to injury, the best assistant coach I ever seen here in any sport left us to be the new hitting coach at Mississippi. But the good news is that Andy Sawyers is coming back. He is also an excellent hitting coach and an even a better recruiter.

You must continue to sell out the season tickets and attend all the home games during conference play. Don't be a Jayhawk.

Tailgating 2014
I always look forward to visiting the tailgate community every season. Wildcats are always a very special, caring, devoted and enthusiastic fan base. Even beating Auburn will be like watching paint drying for me compared to visiting the tailgating Wildcats before and after each home game.

Here is the order of sides I will visit each home game. OK now it's time to saddle up!

1. 8/30 vs the Lumberjacks -- west side paved stadium lot
2. 9/18 vs the Tigers -- grass and satellite lots
3. 9/27 vs the Miners -- east side paved stadium lot
4. 10/4 vs the Red Raiders -- west side paved stadium lot
5. 10/25 vs the Mad Steers -- grass and satellite lots
6. 11/1 vs the Cowboys -- east side paved stadium lot
7. 11/29 vs the Jayhawks -- west side paved stadium lot

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