Athletes need support

Saturday’s game between Oklahoma and Kansas involves a suspense factor. It’s located in the stands. KU students who hold season tickets can bring another student free of charge for the 8:15 p.m. kickoff televised on ESPN2.

How many students will take advantage? If the answer is not many, the empty seats will add to the negative vibe of this football season. If it’s plenty, one day after Late Night, count that as a loud statement the students want their school to be known as more than a basketball powerhouse.

Senior tight end Tim Biere, the team’s most experienced player and its best, has started for four years.

“You never really know what the students are going to do around here, but, I mean, hopefully, they’ll show up and be loud,” Biere said. “When they’re into the game, it does make a difference. So hopefully, they show up and yell really loud on Saturday.”

Sophomore cornerback Tyler Patmon, an Academic All-Big 12 selection a year ago, also didn’t know what to expect.

“It’s prime time on ESPN. I expect people to come out and support us,” he said. “But I really haven’t played an 8 o’clock game, so I don’t know if that’s better than an 11 o’clock game or a 2 o’clock game.”

From the outside, it seems a shame that KU’s rare chance at this sort of national exposure comes in a game that on paper looks so lopsided.

“We don’t go into it looking at it like that at all,” Biere said. “We look at it as an opportunity to play the best team in the nation and compete with them. We’re going into it trying to win. We expect to win. Playing a game like that on ESPN will be great. There are a lot of young guys who haven’t gotten to be on ESPN yet. It’ll be a fun atmosphere Saturday night.”

Said Patmon: “I’m glad it’s this one. It’s a challenge. It’s one of the top three teams in the nation coming to play us at our home.”

It takes a freshman student body to change a fan culture at a university. If a freshman class is wooed into making attending each football game as automatic as ambling ever-so-slowly on campus crosswalks to keep cars waiting for an extra long time, it then passes that culture down to the next freshman class, which in turn does the same to the next one.

Kansas plays more freshmen than most schools, so this would seem a decent year for the freshman student body to begin to establish a serious football culture.

Running backs Tony Pierson, Darrian Miller and Brandon Bourbon are in the first of four years of eligibility, as is receiver JaCorey Shepherd. Defensive end Javonte Daniel needs to pack on some pounds, but has the makings of a speed rusher. Outside linebacker Michael Reynolds has speed built for blitzing and for dropping into pass coverage. Speedy safety Victor Simmons will get more time Saturday.

“We have a great freshman class,” Reynolds said. “Hopefully, the students will come out to the game. We’ll need their fan support. I just hope they can stay with us through the year.”

If freshmen students turn out in big numbers Saturday, nobody ever can accuse them of front-running.