College basketball fans around the country are ready to put football behind them and enjoy the next three months of college hoops action. Fans at the University of Kansas are considered some of the best fans in the land. They are certainly among the loudest, as the Temple Owls discovered over the weekend when they dueled the sixth-ranked Jayhawks. Although it was neck and neck for a few minutes late in the second half, the Jayhawks came out the winners over the Owls, 69-62.
Basketball and history are intertwined at KU and Allen Fieldhouse is where they meet. With a long and storied history, Allen Fieldhouse is considered by many fans one of the best places in America to watch a college basketball game. The Fieldhouse was dedicated in 1955 and named for Dr. F. C. “Phog” Allen, the Jayhawks’ head coach for 39 years. The Jayhawks play their best in front of the home town fans at Allen Fieldhouse, which has a capacity of 16,300 but often holds more.
Fans are loud and proud at KU, especially in the 4,000 seat student section. But, as the end of each game draws near, the fans quiet down. Then you hear a chant, starting very quietly and gradually growing to a crescendo, “Rock Chalk, Jayhawk, KU.” The chant is repeated three times and the fans love it. According to the KU website, the Rock Chalk chant started as the chant, “Rah, Rah, Jayhawk, KU.” created for the school’s science club in 1886 by chemistry professor, E. H. S. Bailey.
It’s not just KU fans who think the Rock Chalk chant is great. President Teddy Roosevelt said that the Rock Chalk chant was the greatest college chant he’d ever heard. At the 1920 Olympic games, the King of Belgium asked Olympic athletes for a typical American college cheer. The athletes agreed on the Rock Chalk chant and performed the chant for the king.
The Jayhawk became KU’s mascot early in the 20th Century. Like many college sports mascots, the Jayhawk is a mythical bird. The Jayhawk’s history has roots in the history of early Kansas settlers. In the 1850s, as the battle between those who wanted slavery and those who supported a free state raged, factions on both sides of the fight called one another Jayhawkers. The name eventually stuck with the free-state supporters and Lawrence, home of KU, was one of their strongholds.
The Jayhawk name combines two birds: the troublesome blue jay, which is noisy and often robs the nests of other birds, and the sparrow hawk, which stealthily hunts its prey. The name fits for the KU college basketball team, known for its ability to come from behind to pull off a victory with a combination of rebounding, field goals, three-point shots and free throws.
The Jayhawks began Big 12 Conference play this week with a 12-1 record as they took on the Iowa State Cyclones on Wednesday, January 9 at 6 p.m. in Allen Fieldhouse, the conference opener for both teams. Before the game, KU had won 21 straight conference openers and led the series with Iowa State, 171-59. Jayhawk fans at the game kept Twitter in business throughout the game, which Kansas won in OT, 97-89.
Kansas has now celebrated 2,083 victories, the second most in NCAA Division I and is the defending champion in the Big 12 Conference. Next up will be a road trip to Texas Tech on Saturday, January 12 followed by a meeting with Baylor at Allen Fieldhouse on Monday, January 14 at 8 p.m. Saturday’s game will be televised on the Big 12 Network and Monday’s game will be televised on ESPN.
Wherever there are Jayhawk fans, a Jayhawk nation seems to spring up, even in the most unlikely places, with KU watch sites located from coast to coast. Fans gather on game nights in sports bars, wearing the school’s crimson and blue colors to support their alma mater. Although I’m not a KU alumna, most of my friends and coworkers assume that I am since I wear my colors all year long. I come from a family filled with KU alumni and fans, many of whom enjoy being part of the Allen Fieldhouse experience at home games. Rock Chalk, Jayhawk, KU!