By EARL WATT
• Daily Leader
Unable to respond and lying on a stretcher on his way to the hospital after suffering a stroke, Rolla’s Randy Bane could hear his wife saying, “Please don’t die. Please don’t die.”
He was able to open one eye and mutter the words, “I can’t die yet. I don’t know how Kansas is doing in the national tournament.”
It was the year the Jayhawks lost to Bucknell in the first round.
“Maybe I should have died,” Bane quipped.
In all, he suffered four strokes and was unable to fulfill his teaching and coaching duties. He was forced to retire.
“Not because I wanted to,” he said. “I had to.”
But before his departure, he helped Rolla win one more state quiz bowl title.
“The freshmen asked me to stay until they were done, so I asked the disability people if I could, and they let me,” Bane said.
He doesn’t talk as quick as he used to, and the right hand that he used to tickle the ivories of a keyboard no longer graces the piano.
But his love for quiz bowl led to nine state championships for the Rolla Pirates under his watch, and his accomplishments earned him enshrinement in the Kansas State High School Activities Association Hall of Fame earlier this school year.
Bane started the program in Rolla with a set of spoons in place of buzzers. Later the shop teacher made the team bells.
“But it sounded like they rang them all at the same time,” Bane said.
The team eventually got a set of buzzers, and the team was winning quiz bowl events.
That led to more winning, according to Bane.
“Once you start something, people want to be a part of it,” he said.
In a small school like Rolla, the students are involved in a number of extracurricular activities, and Bane worked his practice schedule around the students.
“We didn’t have a set time,” he said. “But I would never work with one at a time. There always had to be at least two or three.”
In one event called High-Q which was televised, Rolla advanced all the way to the final against the larger schools in Wichita.
When asked by moderator and Kansas TV personality Roger Cornish exactly where was Rolla, the students told him it was about 100 miles west of Dodge City.
“He told them, ‘I didn’t think there was anything west of Dodge City,’” Bane recalled.
Even though his teams chalked up victories, those he coached against still had high respect for his approach and his accomplishment, including Liberal’s Chris Perkins who coached Liberal’s quiz bowl team for 10 years in the 1990s.
“Randy is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever known in my life,” Perkins said. “We played his kids, and it was amazing what he did with a little school like that.”
But being from a little school meant little to Bane, and Perkins could see that in the kind of tournament Rolla attended.
“They may be at a little advantage because there are a lot of small schools out here,” Perkins said. “But they traveled and competed against 4A-5A-6A schools, and beat them.”
And winning nine state titles, according to Perkins, was next to impossible.
“We had great kids that worked hard,” Perkins said. “Most of the time we were combined with 5A-6A. We were competing against big powerhouses and private schools, and the best we ever did was third. To win nine championships, it’s just impossible. It’s very difficult to do that.”
Several of those associated with Bane’s program have gone on to coach quiz bowl themselves.
Bryan Burrows teaches English at Satanta and is the president of the state’s organization for Quiz Bowl coaches. He learned under the system Bane implemented at Rolla.
With nine state championship trophies on display at Rolla, and being inducted in to the Hall of Fame behind him, Bane, now 62, still misses his old profession and those kids.
“The first couple of years were really tough,” he said. “There were still students at the school that you taught. But it’s getting a little easier now.”
He told the students the secret to being the best.
“Every school has smart kids,” he said. “You just have to be a little smarter.”
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