Opinion: Jayhawk fans can take over at Rice

The Coors Events Center on the Colorado campus became known as Allen Fieldhouse West once a year because when Kansas University came to town half the noise from the stands was made in support of the visiting team.

Saturday represents a rare opportunity for KU alumni to turn Rice Stadium into Memorial Stadium South.

“It wouldn’t surprise me at all, especially with it being in Texas with half our team being from there,” senior running back James Sims said of the possibility of a strong showing from KU fans. “I know there are going to be a lot of people’s families that are going to be there.”

It takes more than players’ family members to make a Jayhawks presence felt in a significant way. Kevin Corbett, president and CEO of the KU Alumni Association, generally is quite good at smelling a big road turnout and he already can catch a strong whiff of KU sausages wafting through the humid Houston air. Forking over the dough to buy tickets for Big 12 road games can be a lot to swallow, but with so many unsold seats at 47,000-capacity Rice Stadium, that’s not an issue for this one.

“We have a Houston chapter that’s really, really strong,” Corbett said. “It’s one of our best chapters, really.”

Corbett said his department has sent three email blasts to all 15,000 KU graduates living in Texas, including 5,500 in the Dallas Metroplex, 3,500 in Houston, 2,000 in Austin, 1,000 in San Antonio.

Advance sales to the KUAA pregame tailgate, which starts at 3 p.m. for Saturday’s 6:30 kickoff, is one indicator Corbett uses to try to project a KU turnout for road games.

“We’ve 300 pregame-event tickets,” Corbett said. “That’s usually pretty good. Usually you can times that by 10 to figure out what the average crowd would be. I would guess somewhere between 3,000 and 3,500 KU fans will be there. And it’s hard to tell how many people who live there just got their tickets from Rice.”

At his weekly Tuesday news conference, head coach Charlie Weis urged KU fans from Texas to turn out for the game, one in which their voices can be heard.

“From what I understand, and I’m not that familiar with the home crowds at Rice, personally, but supposedly the crowds are not that big,” Weis said. “And that’s actually good when you go on the road, especially with it being our first time. Going on the road and not have it be 80,000 people going absolutely bonkers, walking in the door in your first one out of the box is probably a good way to ease into it. Because we know several times this year that will be the case.”

The Owls are loaded with fifth-year seniors on both sides of the line of scrimmage, so hollering in support of KU will be needed to counter all the hooting.