October 11, 2010
If emerging national power Kansas State goes on to win a Big 12 title or make the Final Four under coach Frank Martin in the next few years, a small slice of the credit should go to officials at American Airlines.
Someone at that airlines did the Wildcats a tremendous favor by bringing American Eagle to Manhattan Regional Airport last year.
Kansas State coaches and administrators told the Kansas City Star that three daily round-trip flights American Eagle makes from Manhattan, Kan., to Dallas have been a huge boost to their recruiting efforts. Instead of reinforcing that they're in the middle of nowhere by forcing out-of-state recruits to drive two hours from Kansas City airport to campus, Kansas State coaches can now fly prospects to the small single-gate airport located five miles west of the university.
"We have the best accessibility situation in the Big 12 Conference in terms of being right there," K-State athletic director John Currie told the Star. "You don't have to drive an hour or even 30 minutes to get to the airport. At the big airports you're fighting traffic and all that kind of stuff. At ours you drive right up, park your car for free, go through security and you're on your way."
The ability to fly into Manhattan instead of Kansas City has changed the way Kansas State recruits in many of its sports. Instead of relying on in-state and regional kids to make their roster, the Wildcats are more willing to pursue prospects from the East and West Coast.
Flying out of Manhattan surely saves Martin and his staff time while they're recruiting, but the biggest advantage comes from avoiding the awkward conversation that had to inevitably come up while driving recruits from Kansas City Airport back to campus. A third of the way into that trip is Lawrence, an unfortunate reminder that Kansas is located far closer to the region's biggest city than Kansas State.
"Having to pass your archrival's hometown on the way from the airport was a challenge," Brad Underwood told the Star. "It was something we had to deal with and work around."