Throwback Thursday 4.25.13 Jim Sauer (Swimming & Diving) 1978-80
April 25, 2013
Jim Sauer arrived at the University of Kansas to swim in 1978 after he transferred from the University of New Mexico. During his time representing the Crimson and Blue, Sauer contributed to two Big 8 Conference Championships in 1978 and in 1979. During his time on the swim team, Sauer was a co-captain from 1978-80 while being recognized as a three-time Big 8 Champion by winning the 100 butterfly in 1979 and 400-medley relay in 1979 and 1980. Upon graduating from KU in 1980 with a degree in education and administrative recreation, Sauer went into high-tech sales with companies like Xerox and Dell, for which he traveled all over the country.
Being a student-athlete at KU left a remarkable footprint in Sauer’s life. Not only is KU his alma mater, but it is also the place where he met his wife of 33 years on a blind date. Together, Sauer and his wife, Ailan, have two children, Colleen and Kevin, who is currently attending law school at KU, and two grandchildren. Sauer is retired in Austin, Texas and has returned to swimming and training. He also participates in triathlons. This Friday he will be celebrating his 56th birthday.
Why did you decide to transfer from New Mexico to KU?
“New Mexico was basically getting rid of their swimming program because their coach left. In 1977, my old coach that I swam for took over the coaching job at KU. I emailed him asking him if I could walk on because I had already redshirted one year. He said, `Yes absolutely, walk on.’ Then at the end of that semester, he gave me a scholarship. So it worked out really well.”
Was there anything special that drew you in to KU?
“I had started to travel to visit my dad in Chicago in the summer of 1977. On my way from New Mexico to Chicago, I stopped at the KU campus. I spent about a half day walking around and seeing the campus. I went to Robinson Gym and looked at the pool. I thought to myself that this really is an incredibly beautiful campus. I realized that I wanted to go school there. Through seeing the campus and knowing the swimming coach, I convinced myself that I wanted to go to KU.”
What was your favorite part about being an athlete at KU?
“I loved the camaraderie and the team atmosphere that we had at KU. The University of Kansas has a very rich tradition in men’s swimming. They have won many championships in a row, which made them have a tradition in the Big 8 Conference. I always loved being a part of a team and being with the guys. The swim team was like our fraternity.”
What swimming memory stands out most to you?
“I think it was when we won the Big 8 Championship in the spring of 1979. We won as a team, and I was fortunate enough to win the 100 butterfly that year and I was also part of winning the 400-medley relay. Our whole team shaved our heads that year, even our coach. Our coach told us if we won the medley relay he would shave his head, and we won the relay. It was a pretty eventful experience that year.”
What was the whole experience like being a part of a team at KU?
“I always loved the practices, the workouts, and all the trips we took. We would go to Missouri and swim. It wasn’t like the basketball team going to Missouri, but it was pretty close. It was always special atmosphere when Missouri came to Lawrence to compete or we would go there to compete. The rivalry was pretty intense and that was a lot of fun. I have great memories competing against Missouri because of the rivalry between both KU and Missouri.”
Did things ever get heated swimming against Missouri?
“There were a lot of cheers back and forth. We beat them every time we swam against them. I’m sure there was a lot of trash talking going back and forth, but I can’t really recall a specific comment. There was no love lost between us and Missouri. It’s funny because whether it is basketball, football, swimming or track, the rivalry is always intense.”
How was the student aspect of college life like at KU?
“I loved it. I took a lot of psychology classes. I basically lived in Fraser Hall. About every class I had was in Fraser. I have of great memories of walking from the Jayhawk Towers and walking on campus and hanging out at Wescoe Beach. I always enjoyed the student side of being a student-athlete. I wouldn’t say I was a great student, but I was ok. I certainly wasn’t in my son’s category of being a student though, considering he is in law school.”
What was the hardest part about being a student-athlete?
“I think I would say managing my time was the hardest part. We slammed in 11 practices during the week along with two days a week of weight training. I had to manage all the classes within the hours of all the practices, so that was a bit difficult to handle. Just figuring out a schedule and getting my homework done was probably the hardest part.”
What was your greatest memory outside of competing for the Jayhawks?
“I think it was meeting my wife on a blind date. We were set up by a guy on the swim team, and he and his girlfriend set us up on a blind date. They set us up on the Mass Street Run, which is basically having one beer at every bar on Massachusetts Street. I will never forget that night. I have been married to my wife now for almost 33 years and it all started on a blind date on Mass Street.”
What did you end up doing after you graduated?
“Since I graduated from high school in northern California, I asked my wife-to-be if she wanted to move to California with me because I had a friend out there and we could find jobs. We moved to the San Francisco area with no jobs. I tried to coach swimming but that didn’t really work out. I ended up working in high-tech sales with companies like Xerox and Dell. I traveled a lot, and I really enjoyed it.”
What was your favorite part of your career?
“My favorite part about my career would have to be traveling. I have traveled all over the country, a lot for my job. I have been to practically every state, except for both of the Dakotas, and Alaska.”
How are you spending your retirement?
“Just about three years ago I went back to swimming. I have been doing master swimming now. I have been getting back into training, and it feels great. I have done some triathlons as well. It just goes to show that you’re never too old to keep doing what you love.”
Do you have any advice for current and future student athletes?
“I would say to be sure to manage your time well and get your degree. Staying focused in your sport and your education is probably the best advice I could give.”