© 2024 Kansas Public Radio

91.5 FM | KANU | Lawrence, Topeka, Kansas City
96.1 FM | K241AR | Lawrence (KPR2)
89.7 FM | KANH | Emporia
99.5 FM | K258BT | Manhattan
97.9 FM | K250AY | Manhattan (KPR2)
91.3 FM | KANV | Junction City, Olsburg
89.9 FM | K210CR | Atchison
90.3 FM | KANQ | Chanute

See the Coverage Map for more details

FCC On-line Public Inspection Files Sites:

Questions about KPR's Public Inspection Files?
Contact General Manager Feloniz Lovato-Winston at fwinston@ku.edu
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Headlines for Wednesday, February 7, 2024

A graphic representation of eight radios of various vintages, underneath the words "Kansas Public Radio News Summary"
Emily Fisher

Kansas High Court Gives Up Oversight of School Funding Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - The Kansas Supreme Court has relinquished control of a school finance case. On Tuesday, the state's highest court ended its oversight in the Gannon case, which forced the state to spend more money on public education. The Supreme Court says it has fulfilled its obligation to oversee phased-in increases in school funding required by the years-long case. Attorney General Kris Kobach requested that the high court close the case. Justice Eric Rosen was the lone dissent in the ruling. He said the court should not give up oversight because the Legislature has a history of cutting public school funding. Governor Laura Kelly says the Legislature should not take the court's ruling as license to cut education funding.

(– Additional reporting –)

Kansas Supreme Court Ends School Funding Case Oversight

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) – The Kansas Supreme Court has ended its oversight of a long-running school finance case that led to increased funding for K-12 public schools. The Kansas News Service reports that the two-page order signed by Chief Justice Marla Luckert says the Legislature has followed through with a multi-year plan to increase funding for Kansas public schools. That essentially ends the lawsuit over whether school funding was adequate after nearly 14 years. The court accepted the funding plan in 2019 to resolve the lawsuit but maintained oversight to make sure the increases actually happened. Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach asked the court last fall to drop the case. Governor Laura Kelly issued a statement saying lawmakers should not take the ruling as license to cut funding from public schools.

As Long School Funding Lawsuit Ends in Kansas, Some Fear Lawmakers Will Backslide on Education Goals

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The highest court in Kansas has closed out a nearly 13-year-old lawsuit that repeatedly forced the Republican-controlled Legislature to boost funding for public schools, and Democrats predicted Wednesday that GOP colleagues soon would be trying to backslide on lawmakers' promises.

The state Supreme Court's brief order Tuesday shutting down the suit said legislators have fulfilled promises of annual increases in aid to the state's 286 local school districts as outlined in a 2019 law. The state expects to provide $4.9 billion in aid to those districts during the current school year — 39% more than the $3.5 billion for the 2013-14 school district — and state law dictates future increases to keep up with inflation.

But closing the case gives the Legislature more leeway on school funding issues in the short term. Educators who feel legislators aren't providing enough money or distributing it fairly enough were able to take their complaints directly to the state Supreme Court while the case was open.

Kansas has been in and out of lawsuits over public schools for 35 years, and legislators backtracked on their promises after two earlier rounds of litigation when the state economy faltered and the budget became tight. In recent years, conservative Republicans have pushed to set aside state education dollars for parents so that they can pay for private schooling for their children.

“If history tells us anything, I predict it’ll take all of five seconds for the other side to exploit this trust from the court,” the top Democrat in the Kansas House, Rep. Vic Miller, said in an emailed statement.

The court’s order Tuesday said that one justice, Eric Rosen, would have kept the case open given “the legislative history of school funding.” Leah Fliter, a lobbyist for the Kansas Association of School Boards, said many local school board members would be more comfortable if the Supreme Court had opted to keep the case open for a few more years.

The court's majority also rejected a request from Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly to file a “friend of the court” brief on whether the case should be closed. She is not a party to the lawsuit. . Now they would have to file a new lawsuit, if they chose to do so, which would take at least several years to resolve.

In her brief, Kelly argued that lawmakers had “achieved the bare minimum” and that “compliance once is not sufficient."

After the court acted Tuesday, Kelly said in a statement: "The Legislature must not take this ruling as license to cut funding from our public schools and crush an entire generation of Kansas students."

Top Republicans rejected the idea that they're ready to backtrack on funding. House Speaker Dan Hawkins, a Wichita Republican, said lawmakers have made education a priority “by fully funding schools.”

State Sen. Molly Baumgardner, a Kansas City-area Republican who chairs the Senate Education Committee, said: “We as a Legislature have kept our word.”

The Supreme Court closed the lawsuit at the request of state Attorney General Kris Kobach. A conservative Republican, Kobach previously has argued that the court's orders on education funding improperly encroached on the Legislature's power to make those decisions under the state constitution.

Kobach said Wednesday that that the state constitution anticipates that the Legislature will decide spending issues, with the Supreme Court stepping in only over “a constitutional violation.”

“The constitution doesn’t contemplate that the court is involved at all stages, and this just brings us back to our normal constitutional framework,” Kobach said of Tuesday's decision.

The Supreme Court closed a previous lawsuit in 2006 based on laws promising increased spending on schools, but within a few years, educators said lawmakers were failing in their duty under the state constitution to provide an adequate education for every K-12 student.

Four school districts sued the state in 2010, and the Supreme Court issued seven rulings from 2010 to 2019. The first six told lawmakers that they needed to increase spending or distribute the money more fairly or both.

Alan Rupe, an attorney representing the four districts, said they will remain “watchful” with the case closed.

“Everybody remains optimistic,” he said.


Kansas Lawmakers Consider Plan to Strip More School Districts of Accreditation

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) – More Kansas schools could lose their accreditation under a plan being considered by state lawmakers. The Kansas News Service reports that a bill endorsed by the Kansas Policy Institute would strip school districts of their accreditation if they don’t comply with state laws. The conservative group thinks the state’s system of accrediting districts lets too many schools operate without showing progress in student test scores. State Board of Education member Ann Mah opposes the measure. She says the board works with districts on improvement plans, adding that “...the Legislature should not create a private right of action for anyone who just simply doesn’t agree with us. We get elected to make those decisions, as you do.” Some opponents say the bill is part of a campaign against the teaching of race and diversity in schools.


Kansas Legislature Examines Bill to Require Age Verification for Some Internet Sites

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) – A proposal at the Statehouse would require people in Kansas to verify their age before accessing adult content on the internet. The Kansas News Service reports that websites that mainly host sexual content would have to verify their users are at least 18, most likely through a government ID or other personal documentation. Critics say the measure could violate users’ internet privacy and free speech. But proponents say the measure would protect minors from age-inappropriate material. Joseph Kohm with Family Policy Alliance told legislators that “...not only does pornography harm children’s wellbeing. There is also a strong correlation between pornography, human trafficking, and sexual abuse.” The bill would create a civil penalty of up to $10,000 for websites that violate its provisions. Similar bills have become law in Louisiana and Utah in recent years.


Legislature to Hear Bill Banning Smoking in Kansas Casinos

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) – Casino employees are asking Kansas lawmakers to pass a bill banning smoking in their workplaces. The Kansas News Service reports that lawmakers heard testimony on the bill Wednesday. Kansas casino worker Joe Hafley supports a smoking ban because he claims secondhand smoke has contributed to his chronic lung disease. “I am doing this because I have a wife and a son who I want to be there for for a very long time,” he said. But casino operators fiercely oppose a ban. Kevin Fowler, an attorney for Kansas Crossing Casino said it would hurt business and reduce tax revenue. He testified that “...our clients are interested in generating revenue — not only for their shareholders, but also for the state of Kansas. That is why we are in business.” He says Kansas could lose customers to casinos in Oklahoma and Missouri, which allow smoking. Nebraska and Colorado have banned casino smoking.


KBI: Teacher Arrested and Charged with Sex Crimes

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) – The Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) has arrested a Kansas teacher for allegedly committing sex crimes. On Tuesday evening, KBI agents arrested 38-year-old Brian Stuckenschmidt, of Topeka, on a warrant for rape and aggravated criminal sodomy. In May of 2023, the KBI initiated an investigation after a former student reported incidents that took place in 2018 when Stuckenschmidt was her music teacher in Johnson City, in western Kansas. Stuckenschmidt is currently employed at a Topeka school, but was placed on administrative leave last year when KBI agents brought the investigation to the attention of school officials. Following the arrest, Stuckenschmidt was booked into the Shawnee County Department of Corrections.


Kansas House Adopts Resolution Asking Governor to Send National Guard to Texas Border

TOPEKA, Kan. (Kansas Reflector) — The Kansas House has adopted a non-binding resolution calling on Governor Laura Kelly to send the Kansas National Guard and law enforcement officers to the southern border to help Texas Governor Greg Abbott stem the tide of illegal immigration. The Kansas Reflector reports that House Resolution 6035 characterized the influx of millions of migrants across the border as an invasion.

Representative Pat Proctor, a Leavenworth Republican, said the resolution sponsored by more than 60 House members made clear the federal government has failed to protect southern border states in violation of the U.S. Constitution. “Let us make no mistake, the state of Texas and all the states on our southern border with Mexico are being invaded,” Proctor said. “It’s not just those from Mexico looking for a better life. It’s people from all over the world, including military-age males from China and the Middle East.”

Democratic Representative John Carmichael, of Wichita, said the resolution was unnecessary because the U.S. Senate was working on a bipartisan bill to increase border security. “We do not need to pass this resolution because it is the responsibility of the United States Congress and the president to protect our borders,” Carmichael said.


Proposal Would Move Mail-In Ballot Receipt Deadline to End of Election Day

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) – Kansans who vote by mail would have to return their ballots by the end of Election Day under a bill being considered by state lawmakers. The Kansas News Service reports that under current law, mail-in ballots have three days to arrive and be counted as long as they’re postmarked by Election Day. Some lawmakers say they want to eliminate that grace period so results aren’t changing after Election Day. But critics say results still would not be finalized on Election Day due to the canvassing process. They say the bill is voter suppression. About 15 percent of votes in Kansas are cast by mail, but it’s unclear how many come in after Election Day.


Marion County Faces Another Federal Lawsuit After Police Raid on Newspaper, Publisher's Home

UNDATED (KNS) - Last year, police in Marion County, Kansas, raided a newspaper office and the home of its publisher. Now, officials in Marion County are facing a second federal lawsuit. Phyllis Zorn, a reporter for the Marion County Record, is suing city and county officials, including former police chief Gideon Cody, who ordered the Aug. 11 raid. The search of the newspaper’s offices and the homes of its reporters and publishers happened after police said Zorn had illegally obtained information on a source. State officials later said that information was available publicly. In court documents, Zorn alleges the defendants violated her First and Fourth Amendment rights during the raid. Zorn is requesting a jury trial and nearly $1 million in damages.

(–Additional reporting–)

A Reporter Is Suing a Kansas Town and Various Officials over a Police Raid on Her Newspaper

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A reporter for a weekly Kansas newspaper that police raided last year filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against its hometown and local officials, saying the raid caused her physical and mental health problems.

Marion County Record reporter Phyllis Zorn is seeking $950,000 in damages from the city of Marion, its former mayor, its former police chief, its current interim police chief, the Marion County Commission, the county sheriff and a former sheriff's deputy. The lawsuit calls them “co-conspirators” who deprived her of press and speech freedoms and the protection from unreasonable police searches guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

Officers raided the newspaper's offices on Aug. 11, 2023, as well as the home of Publisher Eric Meyer, seizing equipment and personal cellphones. Then-Marion Chief Gideon Cody said he was investigating whether the newspaper committed identity theft or other crimes in accessing a local restaurant owner's state driving record.

But the lawsuit alleges Cody was “infuriated” that the newspaper was investigating his background before he became Marion's chief in May 2023. It also said Zorn was on Cody's “enemies list” for laughing off a suggestion that they start a rival paper together.

The raid put Marion, a town of about 1,900 residents about 150 miles (241 kilometers) southwest of Kansas City, at the center of a national debate over press freedom. Legal experts said it likely violated state or federal law, and Cody resigned in early October. Meyer's 98-year-old-mother, who lived with him, died the day after the raid, and he attributes her death to stress caused by it.

Zorn’s federal lawsuit is the second over the raid. Former Record reporter Deb Gruver sued Cody less than three weeks after the raid, seeking $75,000, and the parties are scheduled to meet with a mediator in April, according to court records. Zorn’s attorney is Randy Rathbun, a former top federal prosecutor for Kansas. “I’m certainly not anti-law enforcement because that's what I did, but this kind of stuff just drives me crazy,” Rathbun said in an interview. “I know law enforcement, how they should react, and this is not it.”

The Kansas Bureau of Investigation took over the investigation of newspaper, but it later had the Colorado Bureau of Investigation look into the civil rights issues. Their findings have not been made public. The former Marion mayor, the sheriff and the county commission chairman did not immediately return telephone messages Tuesday seeking comment. Neither did Cody nor an attorney representing him in Gruver's lawsuit.

Marion City Attorney Brian Bina said he had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment, adding that typically the city's insurance company would later hire a lawyer. The amount sought by Zorn is more than the city raises annually from property taxes to help fund its budget, which was $8.7 million for 2023.

The lawsuit said before the raid, Zorn had seizures that were controlled by medication so that she had gone as long as five years without having one. Within days of the raid, the seizures returned. “The seizures have been debilitating and have led to extreme depression and anxiety,” the lawsuit said.

Cody maintained that he had questions about how the newspaper verified the authenticity of a state document confirming that the local restaurant owner's driving record had been suspended for years over a past drunken driving offense, according to documents released by the city in response to open records requests.

Zorn's lawsuit said a tipster sent her a copy of that document and she and Meyer used an online, public state database to verify its authenticity. Meyer emailed Cody a week before the raid about the document and their verification.

The lawsuit said Zorn's and Meyer's actions were “clearly legal.” Cody and the city's current interim chief were involved in the raid, as was the sheriff. The lawsuit says the former mayor authorized Cody's investigation, and documents show that the former sheriff's deputy helped Cody draft search warrants.

The lawsuit alleges the county commission failed in its duty to properly train the sheriff's department to avoid civil rights violations.


Kansas Health Foundation Launches Major Investment in Racial Equity Programs

UNDATED (KNS) – A non-profit focused on tackling health disparities in Kansas is kicking off its biggest investment in racial equity – to the tune of up to $30 million. The Kansas Health Foundation has partnered with 30 grassroots organizations across the state to address health disparities in minority communities. Valerie Black, with the foundation, says each of the organizations were selected through a competitive process, and will receive up to $100,000 a year over the next decade. Black says they will partner with organizations that have already established trust in the communities where they work, adding that “...they just need, you know, greater capacity in order to increase their power, influence and impact.” Black says the initiative, called the Building Power and Equity Partnership, will also provide participating organizations with training and other resources. Black went on to say that this is the biggest investment in racial equity in the foundation’s history.

Editor's note: The Kansas Health Foundation is a financial supporter of Kansas Public Radio and the Kansas News Service.


Eureka Becomes the Latest Rural Kansas Community to Lose a Health Clinic 

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Rural Kansas communities continue to lose access to health care. The latest is Eureka, where residents are now losing a health clinic. KWCH TV reports that the Care Arc Health Clinic will close its doors at the end of the month. Administrators at the clinic say staffing and recruitment issues have forced them to close.


Rural Kansas Full of Pharmacy Deserts

PAOLA, Kan. (KNS) - Pharmacy deserts, or places without a nearby pharmacy, are growing nationwide. Independently-owned pharmacies in rural areas are hit the hardest. And the challenges come on making money on the most basic services they provide. Nate Rockers is owner of Rockers Pharmacy in Paola. He said in 2023, 20% of the prescriptions they filled were dispensed at a loss, and 50% were filled for only a $4 profit. "When I say we dispensed at a loss that is just for the cost of the product,” he said. “That doesn't include the time and the resources that we had into fulfilling that prescription, including the bottle, the label, the labor." (Read more.)


Number of Monarch Butterflies Drops in Recent Key Population Count

UNDATED (KNS) – Butterfly lovers may have a harder time spotting monarchs this year in Kansas. The Kansas News Service reports that scientists say the size of the overwintering monarch population in Mexico is the second-smallest on record. There appear to be less than half as many butterflies as last winter. Kristen Baum directs Monarch Watch at the Kansas Biological Survey and Center for Ecological Research. She says if this year brings good rainfall that boosts plant blooms, it will help the population grow: “The thought is the population will rebound...but it's going to take time and it really depends on all those other conditions.” The butterflies face threats such as habitat loss and insecticides. But Monarch Watch experts say drought delivered an extra blow last fall – making it hard for the butterflies to find enough nectar during migration.


Spirit AeroSystems Announces Loss of Over $600 Million for 2023

WICHITA, Kan. (KMUW) - Spirit AeroSystems recorded a net loss of more than $600 million dollars last year. The aerospace manufacturer and Wichita’s largest employer released year-end earnings Tuesday. The report comes as Spirit deals with a string of manufacturing problems. That includes a panel flying off a commercial airliner last month, which resulted in a temporary grounding of the Boeing 737 Max. This week, Boeing said it would delay the delivery of 50 airliners because of problems with the fuselages delivered by Spirit.


NTSB: Bolts on Boeing Jetliner Were Missing Before Panel Blew Off

UNDATED (AP) - Investigators say bolts that helped secure a panel on the Boeing jetliner were missing before the panel blew off the plane in midflight last month. The National Transportation Safety Board issued a preliminary report Tuesday into the January 5 accident. The loss of the panel forced pilots of the Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 jet to make a harrowing emergency landing.


Kansas Lawmakers Consider Whether to Criminalize Speeding of 100 MPH or More

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - In Kansas, speeding is considered an infraction in most cases. But a bill in the Kansas Legislature would criminalize speeding in cases where the motorist is caught driving 100 miles-per-hour or more. The Kansas Highway Patrol wants the Legislature to make it a crime to reach speeds of 100 mph or more in a vehicle. KCTV reports that within the last few months, state troopers have noticed an increase in the speeds of Kansas drivers. On Monday, troopers stopped a driver in heavy fog on I-135 in Saline County after the driver was clocked at 116 mph. The driver was issued a fine of nearly $500.


KC Man, Convicted More than 50 Times, Sentenced to Prison

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - A judge has sentenced a Kansas City man to seven years in prison for shoplifting less than $400 worth of merchandise. Prosecutors in Platte County, Missouri, say the man’s criminal history of stealing is the reason behind the seemingly stiff prison sentence. KCTV reports that William M. Betts has been convicted more than 50 times since 1991. More than two dozen of those convictions were for stealing. His latest arrest happened in January of last year.


Sportscaster Kevin Harlan and Daughter Olivia Will Make Super Bowl History by Calling, Covering Game

LAS VEGAS (AP/KPR) — The Super Bowl will be a broadcasting family affair. Veteran radio play-by-play announcer Kevin Harlan and his daughter, sideline reporter Olivia Harlan Dekker, will become the first father-and-daughter duo to cover and call a Super Bowl. The 63-year-old Harlan has done NFL play-by-play for 39 consecutive seasons. His 30-year-old daughter works for Sky Sports and Westwood One.

Kevin Harlan is a graduate of the University of Kansas and a former sportscaster on KANU Radio, the predecessor to Kansas Public Radio. The Chiefs-49ers Super Bowl on Sunday will be Harlan's 14th consecutive Super Bowl for Westwood One Radio.


Kansas City to Host Six Games for 2026 FIFA World Cup

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCUR) – Kansas City will host six games during the FIFA World Cup in 2026. KCUR reportsthat despite the good news, the city has to make some significant changes first. Kansas City is the smallest of the 16 host cities. And Katherine Holland, executive director of K-C 2026, admitted that it also has less robust public transportation. Holland said organizers hope to build out a temporary transit system, but did not provide details. Holland says the city will do its best to mitigate disruptions during the 35-day event. “We’re acutely aware that again, we cannot shutdown our city for that amount of time. People need to be able to get to their jobs and this should just sort of be an enhancement supporting the event on top of that. “ Organizers plan to spread activities out across the region -- including potential “base camps” in Lawrence and Manhattan.


The Chiefs Are Super Bowl Underdogs Against the 49ers. Turns Out They Kind of Like It

LAS VEGAS (AP) — For most of the past six years, Patrick Mahomes has had to manufacture the chip that he carries on his shoulder, because the Kansas City Chiefs have been so good for so long that they were almost always expected to win. That is no longer the case.

During a season in which the Chiefs scuffled along on offense, and at one point lost five of eight games, they went from being the favorite on a weekly basis to something entirely different: an underdog. They became the team that received the points when betting lines came out, rather than giving them up, and that chip on Mahomes' shoulder suddenly appeared on its own. “It kind of lit a fire under some guys,” Mahomes admitted, “including myself.”

Perish the thought of giving the two-time league and Super Bowl MVP another reason to feel he needs to prove himself.

Yet that is exactly what Mahomes has done in the playoffs, where he's played the best he has all season. He threw for 262 yards and a touchdown in a frigid wild-card win over Miami, doubled down with 215 yards passing and two scores in a divisional win in Buffalo, and had 241 yards passing and a TD in Baltimore — all without throwing an interception.

In the past two of those games, the Chiefs were underdogs at kickoff, just as they likely will be when they play the 49ers in the Super Bowl on Sunday in the gambling mecca of Las Vegas. San Francisco has been a consistent 1.5-point favorite, according to FanDuel Sportsbook, though that number could change by game time.

Only five teams since 2000 have won the Super Bowl while being underdogs in each of their final three games. “Listen, we understand the reasoning behind it. I mean, we get it, and understandably so,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “We may not be the prettiest bunch, but we're going to battle, and that's kind of been the personality of this team. “I don't think it bothers us,” Reid added. "We understand, so it is what it is.”

In fact, the Chiefs seem to relish the underdog role.

Mahomes certainly does. He is 9-3 as an underdog, giving him the best winning percentage of any quarterback with a minimum of 10 starts — playoffs included — over the past 15 seasons. The Ravens' Lamar Jackson, whom Mahomes vanquished in the AFC title game a little more than a week ago, is next on the list at 9-5 as an underdog.

In fact, the bigger the underdog, the more successful the Chiefs have been in recent years. In five games that they have been at least a 3.5-piont underdog since Mahomes took over as the starting QB, they won four times outright. In the lone loss, in a game against the Patriots in October 2018, they were 4-point underdogs and lost by a field goal, covering the spread.

One player who doesn't subscribe to the notion that the Chiefs are underdogs is 49ers tight end George Kittle. He was on the losing sideline in the Super Bowl four years ago, when the Chiefs rallied with three fourth-quarter touchdowns to win their first Lombardi Trophy in 50 years. The rest of the time, Kittle has watched from afar as Kansas City went to six straight AFC title games, won four of them, and hoisted another Lombardi Trophy when they beat the Eagles last year. “They should have all the attention,” Kittle said. “I think they're very used to it. I don't think it's a distraction for them. But while we might be under the radar, I guess, to people on the outside, I think the Chiefs are very aware that we're not.”

No, one thing the Chiefs rarely do is overlook an opponent. And it seems downright absurd that they would start at the Super Bowl, particularly against the 49ers, who have been favored in each of the 20 games they have played this season. The only other NFL team favored that many times? The Chiefs in 2021, when they lost in the AFC title game. “At the end of the day, it's playoff games. You want to win. This is what you play for,” Mahomes said, “and I think that fire — regardless of if we were an underdog or not — would have been lit, because this is the time of year that you work for, and you put in those hard practices for. I think we have that mindset that if we're going to practice the way we do, and we work the way we work, we're not going to let it slide. We're going to maximize our opportunity every time we’re out there.”


Former Jayhawk, NBA Player and Survivor Contestant Scot Pollard Waits in Hospital for Heart Transplant

BOSTON (AP) — At 6-foot-11, Scot Pollard’s size helped him play more than a decade in the NBA, earning him a championship ring with the 2008 Boston Celtics.

Now it may be killing him.

Pollard needs a heart transplant, an already dire predicament that is made more difficult by the fact so few donors can provide him with a pump big and strong enough to supply blood to his extra large body. He was admitted to intensive care at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center on Tuesday, and he will wait there until a donor surfaces who was big enough to be a match.

“I'm staying here until I get a heart,” he said in a text message to The Associated Press on Wednesday night. “My heart got weaker. (Doctors) agree this is my best shot at getting a heart quicker.”

At nearly 7 feet tall and with a playing weight of 260 pounds, Pollard's size rules out most potential donors for a heart to replace the one that — due to a genetic condition that was likely triggered by a virus he contracted in 2021 — has been beating an extra 10,000 times per day. Half of his siblings have the same condition — as did his father, who died at 54, when Scot was 16.

“That was an immediate wake-up call," Pollard said in a recent telephone interview. "You don’t see a lot of old (7-) footers walking around. So I’ve known that my whole life, just because I had that seared into my brain as a 16-year-old, that -- yeah, being tall is great, but I’m not going to see 80.”

A 1997 first-round draft pick after helping the University of Kansas reach the NCAA Sweet 16 in four straight seasons, Pollard was a useful big man off the bench for much of an NBA career that stretched over 11 years and five teams. He played 55 seconds in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ trip to the NBA Finals in 2007, and won it all the following year with the Celtics despite a season-ending ankle injury in February.

Pollard retired after that season, then dabbled in broadcasting and acting. He was a contestant on the 32nd season of “Survivor,” where he was voted out on Day 27 with eight castaways remaining.

Although Pollard, 48, has been aware of the condition at least since his father died in the 1990s, it wasn’t until he got sick three years ago that it began to affect his quality of life.

“It feels like I’m walking uphill all the time,” he said on the telephone, when he warned a reporter that he might need to cut it short if he got tired.

Pollard tried medication, and has had three ablations — procedures to try to break up the signals causing the irregular heartbeats. A pacemaker implanted about a year go only gets to about half of the problem.

“They all agree that more ablations isn’t going to fix this, more medication isn’t going to fix that,” Pollard said. “We need a transplant.”

Patients in need of an organ transplant have to navigate a labyrinthine system that attempts to fairly match the donated organs with the recipients in need. The matching process takes the health of the patient into account, all with the goal of maximizing the benefit of the limited organs available.

“It’s out of my hands. It’s not even in the doctor’s hands,” Pollard said. “It’s up to the donor networks.”

To maximize his chances, Pollard was advised to register at as many transplant centers as possible — “it's increasing my odds at the casino by going to as many casinos at the same time as possible,” he said. But: He must be able to get there within four hours; the need to return for post-operative visits also make it difficult to get treated far from home.

Pollard listed himself at Ascension St. Vincent Hospital in his hometown of Carmel, Indiana, and last week went through testing at the University of Chicago. He traveled this week to Vanderbilt, which performed more heart transplants last year than anyone else in the country. Pollard arrived on Sunday; on Tuesday, doctors admitted him to the I.C.U.

There, Pollard will wait for a new heart – one that is healthy enough to give him a chance, and big enough to fit his oversized frame. He had been living as Status 4 — for those who are in stable condition — but now that he is hospitalized he could be eligible for Status 2, the second-highest priority.

“They can’t predict, but they are confident I’ll get a heart in weeks not months,” he texted.

Pollard acknowledged it's strange to be hoping for a donor to surface, which is essentially rooting for someone to die.

“The fact is, that person's going to end up saving someone else's life. They're going to be a hero,” he said. “That's how I look at it. I understand what has to happen for me to get what I need. So it's a real hard mix of emotions.”

Until then, Pollard waits with the knowledge that the same genetic quirk that helped him a basketball star — so far, the defining achievement of his life — threatens to be a defining factor in his death.

It's something he's known since his father died.

“I’ve thought about that my entire life,” he said. "I'm from a family of giants. I'm the youngest of six and I have three brothers that are taller than me. And people are always like, ‘Oh, man, I wish I had your height.’ Yeah? Let’s go sit on an airplane together and see how much you want to be this tall.

“It's not like being tall is a curse. It’s not. It’s still a blessing. But, I have known my entire life that there’s a good chance I wasn’t going to get old,” he said. “And so it gives you a different perspective on how you live your life and how you treat people and all that kind of stuff.”


This summary of area news is curated by KPR news staffers. Our headlines are generally published by 10 am weekdays and are updated through 7 pm. This ad-free news summary is made possible by KPR members. Become one today. And follow KPR News on Twitter.