Upon entering Memorial Stadium on a warm fall Saturday, a certain madness begins to unfold.
A wild frenzy of activity fills the air as the Marching Jayhawks strut onto the field and play the traditional Kansas University songs. Meanwhile, the cheerleaders flip and tumble all before the football team comes running out of the tunnel.
What would a KU sporting event be without the cheerleaders, the band and the mascots?
More than 250 students and KU staff members are responsible for keeping the crowd going at home games, and smaller groups do the same for many away games.
On Sept. 1, the KU Marching Jayhawks will kick off the first home football game against Southwest Missouri State University by marching down Campanile Hill and onto the field.
"I always thought the marching band can and does provide a powerful aspect to the game," said Tim Oliver, director of the Marching Jayhawks. "Part of the game is about the fight songs and the cheers that go with it, and the band is a part of all that."
As a band member for seven years, Devin Burr, a senior majoring in music education, said his favorite part of the game is seeing the reaction of the crowd after playing a good selection.
This fall, he will serve as the band's staff manager after previously playing the drums and tuba.
"It's all about the entertainment aspect of it," he said. "During pre-game and half-time, no one wants to sit there and stare at a green field. It's our responsibility to play the fight songs and keep them into the game."
The pre-game is filled with tradition. The band plays, in order, the state song "Home on the Range," "I'm a Jayhawk," "Fighting Jayhawk," "Sunflower," "Stand Up and Cheer," the national anthem, KU's alma mater "Crimson and Blue," Rock Chalk Chant and then ends with a bit of "I'm a Jayhawk."
"The pre-game show has stayed the same for a number of years," Oliver said. "It's the portion that's our own and our own signature music. It's a real special time."
But Oliver said the football halftime shows vary every time and include performances by the Crimson Girls, who also dance at men's and women's basketball games.
Beyond the band
The athletic tradition doesn't end with the band.
A squad of 28 cheerleaders perform stunts, tumbles and air acrobatics at every basketball, football and volleyball game. The group's most well-known cheer is the Rock Chalk Chant, said Cat Jarzemkoski, KU's spirit squad coordinator and Crimson Girl coach.
"Some of the standard cheers and chants go back years and years, and we really try to maintain that tradition," she said. "It maintains school pride, and alumni and new students know the cheers."
And it's not difficult to catch the Jayhawk fever.
Chris Barnes, a senior majoring in elementary and middle school education, has been following KU basketball since he was a young child. For the past three years, he said he's had a blast as a cheerleader as well as captain of the spirit squad for two years.
"I think my favorite thing is running the flag out, and I love hearing the crowd yell," he said.
Another KU icon, the notorious Big Jay, pumps up the crowds with his faithful companion Baby Jay.
The KU mascots are played by six students. One of the students, sophomore Paul Bammel, first stepped inside Big Jay in 2000.
He said playing the part of a large, crimson-and-blue bird isn't easy. Because of the heat, he said several students must take turns filling the mascot role each game day.
"You couldn't do a whole football game because it gets really hot inside like 130 degrees," he said. "You're basically wrapping yourself in fur."
But, Bammel said, the heat and sweat are worth it.
"It's so much fun because you get to hang out with the kids, except some of the littler kids are scared of Big Jay," he said.