Thursday, November 2, 2017


I am absolutely crushed this morning.  I just found out that Chuck Woodling has died.  His passing is like losing a piece of my childhood.  He was a cornerstone of my love of all things Jayhawk.  Strange to write a man who graduated from the University of Missouri.

Let me start at the beginning.  Chuck started as a byline to me.  My mother took a subscription to the Lawrence Journal-World when we lived in Abilene, Kansas.  By the late 60's I devoured the Journal-World sports section to keep up on all things regarding athletics at the University of Kansas.  There were Bill Mayer's opinion pieces but it was Chuck Woodling's stories about Kansas basketball that really warmed my heart.  It really helped stoke my love of sports and got me to thinking about a career that somehow involved sports.

Chuck made Jayhawk sports stars like John Riggins and Dave Robisch come alive for me.  He was a subtle homer, carrying the banner but if you read between the lines you could see the where the success and failings lie with any given individual or team.  I also enjoyed reading his columns.  They weren't as pointed as Mayer's or full of the down home humor of Topeka Capital-Journal legend Bob Hentzen, but he filled it with facts, facts that might have escaped the reader in the course of a week.

Fast-forward five years later and I'm a freshman at K.U.  My path began to cross Chuck's in the press box at football games.  He was really hard to read.  What at first appeared to be a standoff personality was really just a man who possessed an incredibly dry wit.  It took a few years to figure out that this was who Chuck really was.  So for those first two or three years, I was simply scared of him.

But I began to realize that Chuck shared a deep love of track and field, just as I did.  And our friendship began to form over that mutual love.  A moment that stands out for me was a simple act that happened after the 1977 Big 8 Indoor in Lincoln.  I had traveled to meet with the late Allen Quakenbush, who had left the Journal-World for the Capital-Journal.  Chuck was sitting in the parking lot stranded.  Allen and I helped Chuck out with a jump and got him back on the road.  The next week he gave us a subtle thank you in his weekly column.  It made me realize what a big heart he really had.

As my career progressed and I became a journalist I would always delight in seeing Chuck.  His humor was always there.  I hadn't seen him since 2006 when he was at the start of his retirement and I was trying to build a news operation in Topeka.  I didn't know he had been battling leukemia the last four years.  I simply enjoyed his snarky broadsides on Facebook, usually aimed at the Kansas football program.

I realized today that Chuck was one of the reasons that I became a journalist.  Reading him, listening to Jerry Bailey and Tom Hedrick broadcast Kansas sports, watching Bruce Rice and Len Dawson on television, all made me think about a career in sports journalism.  And then there were men like Rich Bailey who mentored me through college and helped me become a television journalist.  Thanks Chuck, thanks for all those stories.

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