Archive for Saturday, August 17, 1996


August 17, 1996


The Rock Chalk chant is only one of many ties that bind Jayhawk fans.

C.J. Werner was a little shocked the first time he attended a Kansas University basketball game in Allen Fieldhouse. As he waited for the game to begin, the two guys next to him put their arms around him and began to sing.

Werner, Hutchinson sophomore, is one of many students to experience one of KU's greatest traditions: the singing of the alma mater followed by the famous KU Rock Chalk Jayhawk chant.

``At first I didn't know what was going on,'' Werner said. ``Then I looked around and saw that everyone was putting their arms around each other and singing, so I tried to follow along. When they started the Rock Chalk Jayhawk chant, I picked it up pretty quickly because it was easy to follow.''

The tradition of the Rock Chalk Chant dates to 1866. The chant first began as ``rah rah rah Jayhawk'' repeated three times. Several years later, an English professor suggested Rock Chalk so that it would rhyme with Jayhawk. It was also suggested because of all the chalk rock -- or limestone -- found throughout the region.

In 1897 it became the official cheer for Kansas University. The Rock Chalk chant is a tradition that must be heard to be appreciated.

The chant begins low and gradually builds in volume. There are pauses between each word to allow the students a few seconds to yell and scream. By the end of the chant, the gym erupts as students yell as loud as they can.

``I had heard the chant before when I would watch the games on TV,'' said Grant Gibson, Lyons sophomore. ``But when I actually heard the chant in person, I couldn't believe it. It was awesome.''

The alma mater came to be in 1891 when George Barlow Penny decided to look for a school song for the Glee and Mandolin Club to sing. Barlow decided to change a few words to Cornell University's ``Far Above Cayuga's Water,'' and ``Crimson and the Blue'' became the school song.

New students will soon realize that they also need to save their newspapers before each home game. Another tradition is to hold newspapers as if they were being read while the starting lineup for the opposing team is introduced.

``It is my favorite tradition. It shows the other team that we don't really care who is starting for them because we are going to win anyway,'' said Kelsi Klein, Russell sophomore.

Even the university mascot, the Jayhawk, joins in and reads a paper. The Jayhawk has come to be one of the more unusual of all university mascots.

``I think that the Jayhawk is one of the coolest birds,'' said Stephen Warneke, Aurora, Colo., sophomore. ``But I'm not sure where it came from or if it is a real bird. The truth is, I really don't know a lot about the Jayhawk.''

Students walk throughout the campus wearing shirts and hats emblazoned with Jayhawks. Several students even have Jayhawk tattoos.

``I just got my tattoo because several of my friends got one also,'' said Jeremy Clark, Hiawatha sophomore. ``I thought it looked cool, but I can't honestly say that I know what it is.''

The term Jayhawk was first used around 1848. The name is a combination of two birds, the blue jay and the sparrow hawk. Blue jays were known for being quarrelsome and robbing other nests. The sparrow hawk was a stealthy hunter. The message: Do not turn your back on this bird.

During the 1850s the term Jayhawkers referred to abolitionists. Lawrence was a Free State stronghold. Then in 1886 the bird appeared in the Rock Chalk chant, and when the KU football players tooall them Jayhawkers.

The image of the Jayhawk has changed throughout the years but the basic form has stayed the same: a bird with a beak and shoes. The shoes were drawn for kicking opponents. Talons protruding from the shoes were added later so that the Jayhawk could now maim its opponents.

``Once I found out what a Jayhawk was and how it came to be, the bird took on a different look,'' said Jason Brunk, Manhattan junior. ``I used to think that it was neat, and I liked it, but I never looked at it as a rowdy bird that could kill its opponents with its talons. That image fits it better.''

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