Jan. 31, 2013
Nancy Fankhauser always enjoyed playing all kinds of sports growing up. It wasn’t until she was a student at the University of Kansas that she started playing basketball on an established team when her physical education teacher told her that she should try out for KU women’s basketball team. In 1971, the women made it to the tournament hosted by the Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (replaced by the NCAA tournament in 1982). The KU women placed sixth overall.
Fankhauser currently resides in Emopria, Kan., where she works for a radio station in the sales department. She is also on the Board of Directors for KU’s K-Club, an organization dedicated to assisting current student-athletes and keeping the traditions of the University of Kansas strong.
Growing up, how did you become interested in playing basketball?
“In my days there were no girls’ sports and the only way I learned to play sports was through physical education classes in middle school and high school. At that time I loved any sport in all honesty. I had always been interested in basketball throughout high school because I enjoyed watching the men play. When I got to KU I was in a physical education class and my teacher asked me if I would be interested in trying out for the women’s basketball team. She thought I was a pretty good player. I tried out and made the team. The first time I played five-on-five basketball was my freshman year at KU because we played six-on-six in high school.”
What made you decide to attend the University of Kansas and play basketball here?
“I was a K-State fan while growing up because I grew up on a farm and everything was based on agriculture for me. In the area I grew up, K-State was known for being an agriculture school. The first time I ever cheered for KU was the first football game my freshman year of college. The reason why I chose KU was because I wanted to become a physical education and health teacher, and KU had the best program for that area of study. When people in my town found out I was going to KU, they would always gasp, but I bleed Crimson and Blue now. My family is still a divided house because my brother graduated from K-State, but I am a full blooded Jayhawk.”
What was the most memorable part of being a student-athlete?
“I would have to say going to the CIAW tournament. It was in Cullowhee, North Carolina. We had to go before the advisory board and every board there was for that matter to get money because we didn’t have any money to make the trip. We drove straight through to get to North Carolina. We drove for 24 hours in a van. I remember we met at our coach’s house at six o’ clock at night the night before and made sandwiches so we would have things to eat on the way. We stopped at rest areas to eat and took turns driving to get to Cullowhee. Once we got there, we found out that we had to stay in dorms and we had to sleep on mattresses on the floor for the five days that we were there for the tournament. It was all absolutely worth it. When we ended up in the sixth place game it was a great feeling. At the same time, the men were in the Final Four in Houston, Texas. We actually got some press because we did so well and we did get an article in both the Lawrence paper and the student paper.”
“The relationships that team built were strong. Every night after practice we would go to a taco place called Border Bandido. We thought we owned that place. Most athletes would go to work out whenever possible. Not us, we would go out and eat tacos. It was a lot of fun. I would not trade it for anything.”
What have you been doing since your days playing as a Jayhawk?
“I was a high school teacher and coach for the first six years out of KU. Then I decided I wanted to make more money, so I went back and got a second Master’s in Athletic Administration. That took me to Illinois State University. I worked there as an assistant athletic director. After that I decided I wanted a life of my own since I had been in athletics and education for 14 years; I wanted to have some time just for me. That was when I moved to Chicago and got into sales. I’ve been in consumer product sales for the last 30 years. I moved back home to Kansas three years ago because of my mom. She’s getting older and I wanted to spend more time with her. I live in Emporia and I work for a radio station doing sales. Being back here has allowed me to be more involved with KU as well.”
What led to your career decision?
“Even though I was an assistant athletic director at Illinois State, I was in charge of promotions and fundraising. I was really selling something. I was selling a basketball team or a volleyball team and I really liked that. I found out that it was something I really enjoyed. I decided to use the concept of selling something in a different field.”
How has your time at KU help you get to where you are now?
“I always say there is something about sports that teaches you discipline, and they teach you how to work with people. To me, that is a big skill to have in any job you go in to. I really believe that once you have been on some sort of athletic team, you have to learn about getting along with different people. You have to learn about having goals and about disciplining yourself. I think being an athlete really prepared me for after graduation.”
Describe what you do for the K-Club:
“I’m on the board (of directors). I just got on the board last April, so I’m just learning now. It’s a matter of going to meetings, and hopefully soon I can be involved with different things. K-Club does a lot for the athletes. It’s because of us that all senior athletes get rings and we help generate events and fundraisers for scholarships. The whole thing about K-Club, to me, is helping current athletes, as well as keeping the whole KU tradition going. The tradition of this school is unbeatable.”
Do you still keep in touch with former teammates?
“Yes, a lot. I see everyone at least a couple times a year. It helps that KU has the traditions that it has because it keeps the out-of-state alums coming back to visit. When I see everyone, it’s just like we’re back in college.”
Do you have any advice for current student-athletes?
“I know their time is so limited, but they need to try to attend as many other athletic events as they can. To me, that’s important because it’s important for everyone to support each other. I would tell every athlete to have some fun. That’s what college is about too.”