LOS ANGELES—March Madness just got sexier.
There may be no other adult star in the country that will be following the NCAA Tournament closer than former University of Kansas student Samantha Ryan.
Ryan, who attended KU in Lawrence, Kan., for 1 ½ years in 1995-96, last weekend was declared “KU basketball’s official No. 1 fan” on Fox Sports Radio. Due to her unexpected national notoriety in the past two weeks, she was a special guest in Fox’s LA studio last weekend discussing her love of Jayhawks basketball and sports in general.
Ryan’s innocent Twitter post about going to the Kansas-Kansas State rivalry game on March 3 on the KU campus sparked a media frenzy that made her into the No. 1 story on AOL.com last weekend in addition to news outlets from the HuffingtonPost.com to ESPN.com writing about her porn-KU connection. Ryan, who began her adult movie career in 2004, scored courtside seats to the game from Kansas assistant coach Kurtis Townsend.
Not long after she thanked Townsend for his generous gesture and posted a picture of herself with the Jayhawks mascot in her tweet, she found herself in the national spotlight.
“First it made St. Louis radio and then it went viral and picked up steam and by the end of day CBS Sports.com, SI.com, every major sports outlet picked up the story,” Ryan said.
Only trouble was the full-court media press was not all positive, especially for Coach Townsend, who had to explain to KU athletic officials why he gave a porn star tickets to the game. Ryan met Townsend on a plane flight from LA to Kansas City several months ago when they were sitting in an exit row together.
“He was wearing a KU jumpsuit. I’m very talkative on planes. We were talking about everything from the food supply to pharmaceuticals and then toward the end of the flight we got on the topic of KU and I started rattling off my stats,” said Ryan, who can recite past KU games, players and scores matter-of-factly. After seeing Ryan’s love for KU hoops, Townsend handed her his business card. They didn’t communicate for months until Ryan sent him in an email in advance of the March 3 game which happened to fall on her 32nd birthday.
“At the time of the game KU was ranked No. 2 and K. State was No. 5. It was the final home game of the season, the most special night of the season. I knew it was going to be a historic game,” Ryan said. “The worst seat was going for $200 from scalpers and I couldn’t afford to fly to Kansas and buy a ticket to the game. So I figured at that point I would at least ask him, seeing as how he saw my passion for KU basketball.”
And Townsend came through in a big way for Ryan, who did not bring up her adult film career when they met, saying simply she was a model and actress. Now most of the controversy surrounding the ticket hook-up has subsided and Ryan, whose story also appeared in the Kansas City Star, recently spoke with Townsend.
“He wanted to let me know everything was OK. He wasn’t losing his job,” Ryan said. “I felt horrible and apologized. I was devastated. I was bawling because [the media] made it out to be something it wasn’t. This is my team, my school. I never in a million years would want to hurt my team or hurt this coach who helped bring Sherron Collins, the winningest player in KU history to the school. I don’t want them to lose their focus. That would devastate me. Now I want them to go win the national championship.”
KU (32-2) plays 16th-seeded Lehigh (22-10) at 6:30 p.m. PST today in the first round of the Midwest Regional in Oklahoma City. The Jayhawks are a 2-to-1 favorite in Vegas to win it all on April 5 in Indianapolis.
In addition to having family in Kansas, Ryan often flies to Kansas City to see her close friend who is a hairdresser and well-known fundraiser there for a Leukemia/Lymphoma foundation.
“Her being around me has motivated me to move forward. It has been refreshing,” said Ryan, who overcame some health issues last year and now is just about back to 100 percent. “She’s been donating her time to the foundation. We went to high school together. We were on the drill team together and dance team. We met up again at our 10-year high school reunion and she said ‘you got some balls.’”
And some brains. She was valedictorian of her senior class and before porn was an engineer at a billion-dollar firm in Orange County. The former national champion color guard competitor is also an avid hockey fan—she’s been to 128 NHL games— plays the piano, sings and sky-dives.
Now that Ryan is suddenly one of KU’s most high-profile fans and the Jayhawks are the overall No. 1 seed in the field of 64 that begins play today, the media opportunities are continuing to roll in. Not only is she invited back to Fox Sports radio this weekend to break down the first and second rounds, she also has a story coming out on ESPN.com’s Page 2 and if KU makes it to the Final Four she may even be doing locker room interviews with the players.
“This has been my absolute dream,” said Ryan, who used to be part of the group campouts outside Fog Allen Fieldhouse to get better seats in the student section. “Fog Allen is special for those who understand it. We camped out for a week for my Senior Game.”
She added, “I have a pretty good following in Kansas City. I’ve been getting lots of emails.”
Photo courtesy of Alan E. from StillsbyAlan.com.