I was born and raised on the plains of Kansas in towns small and large. I was fortunate to have close relationships with my great-grandparents and they instilled in me a keen appreciation for the limitless horizons of the wide open prairie and a strong personal identity. They helped me cultivate an interest in local and family history from an early age. In the fifth grade I announced my intentions to become an historian and have never looked back. I attended Baker University, where I studied history and worked in the campus archives, while continuing to explore the local and regional history surrounding me.
Other than history, sports have captured my attention. I spent the majority of my adolescence on sports teams. Motivated by the stories of Jim Ryun, Glenn Cunningham, and Billy Mills, distance running became my specialty. Although I never equaled their records, I captained my high school and college cross country and track and field teams and achieved moderate success. The lure of athletics proved so strong that I briefly coached track and field after my running career ended. These experiences pushed me to learn more about my sport and launched me on a journey to investigate the many contradictions within college athletics, and the role sports play in American culture.
My studies at the University of Nevada helped solidify my quest to blend sports and history. There I refined my research skills and found my scholarly identity while writing a master’s thesis on one of my childhood heroes, Billy Mills. I completed my Ph.D. in history at Purdue University where I wrote a dissertation entitled: “From Dust Bowl to Dynasty: Bud Wilkinson’s Oklahoma.” The project explores conceptions of image, civic boosterism, and state pride that created a new era in Oklahoma history. I argue that college football played an important role in recasting the image of Oklahoma and contributed to the state’s economic and political development during the immediate postwar era. Legislators, businessman, university officials, students, fans, and the NCAA all had a stake in shaping the image projected by the team, and in the contentious negotiations over commercialization, mass media, and race as they sought to control big-time college sport during the 1950s. In addition to my research, I founded and co-edit the “Sport in American History” group blog.
Beyond the academy, I am an unabashed booster of everything Kansas City and obsessed sports fan. College basketball and Kansas City Royals baseball are in my blood. My summer evenings are filled with the smooth voice of Denny Matthews and quick taps of my keyboard as I listen to the highs and lows of the Royals season and follow their every move on Twitter. I’m also an avid domestic traveler. I’ve visited 38 states and frequently take long road trips with my Boston Terrier, Brutus, serving as my copilot. I also enjoy barbeque, music, disc golf, craft beer, photography, and restoring my 1952 Chevy pickup.