Posted on Mar 22, 2017
The mentality of March Madness is ‘survive and advance’ or your season will become a casualty of the tournament. Along with defeat, the hopes and dreams of fans and alumni can die in pursuit of that one shining moment, and that loss can be tough to take. Now imagine how it must feel when the symbol of your team, your school’s mascot, literally passes away.
Like losing a family member
The University of Colorado announced this week that Ralphie IV, also known as “Rowdy,” was laid to rest near Boulder as fans mourned the passing of their beloved buffalo mascot. This has been a tough year for live mascots, as LSU’s Mike the Tiger VI succumbed to cancer last October and had to be humanely euthanized. Texas’ Bevo XV sent flowers, as did Reveille from Texas A&M. Bevo XIV had passed just a year prior.
When a school’s mascot passes on, fans and alumni mourn the same as if they’d lost a member of the family or a cherished pet.
“Losing ‘Rowdy’ is like losing a family member,” said former associate athletic director Gail Pederson who oversaw the Ralphie program at CU for 20 years. “I know all Buff fans, and especially the Handlers that had the honor to run with her, will always have her in their hearts, especially when Ralphie V and all the future Ralphie’s take the field each fall.”
While they’ve been in the news more lately, the practice of having live mascots to represent university athletic teams dates back more than a century. KU alumni may not know that some of the university’s earliest mascots required feeding, and we’re not talking about birdseed.
Before Big Jay
KU teams have been called Jayhawkers or Jayhawks since around 1886, when Professor E.H.S. Baily first coined the famous Rock Chalk chant, but the sidelines of KU’s first football games were guarded by a bulldog, common at many schools around that time. The bulldog even made its way onto pennants and postcards symbolizing the KU team (Frank Mason would be proud).
Then for a brief time in 1909, KU’s gridders were pictured with a pig. According to KUhistory.com, the proud porker–a gift from an assistant coach–was known as Don Carlos, and the sow only appeared for one year.
KU’s history with live mascots was short-lived, as the mythical Jayhawk came to life only in the illustrations of Henry Malloy in 1912, leading off a parade of cartoon variations of Kansas’ beloved bird. Today, the famous symbol of KU pride appears court side in the costumed form of Big Jay and Baby Jay.
Animal rights activists abhor mascots kept in captivity, but age-old college traditions die hard. At LSU, officials made sure the next Mike the Tiger would have an accredited tiger sanctuary. According to a January 2017 news release, “Becoming an accredited sanctuary means that LSU has met high standards of excellence in animal care and is operating ethically and responsibly.” Doing so, however, means Mike will never again run onto the field at Tiger Stadium, ending a tradition that dated back to 1936. Killing the tradition was the trade-off for keeping–and caring for–a live mascot on campus.
Meantime, Ralphie V, Rowdy’s successor, remains in good health as fans witnessed when he ran onto the field at last weekend’s spring game. The fan-funded program lives on at Colorado, even while alumni mourn the loss of Ralphie IV. And the loss feels very real.
Jayhawks send condolences to our former Big 8 brethren in Boulder.
Posted on Mar 16, 2017
Open-practice shootarounds are usually mundane, forgettable affairs, with players practicing three-point shots, testing a few free throws and moving through light drills without breaking a sweat. Thursday afternoon, the top-seeded Jayhawks closed out their half-hour session in downtown Tulsa’s BOK Center with a thrilling sequence that brought raucous cheers from a blue-clad crowd of about 1,000 fans.
As the “practice” neared its conclusion, senior Frank Mason III, a leading candidate for national player of the year, planted himself in the corner of the court directly in front of the men’s basketball band and began drilling a succession of swishes from beyond the arc.
As his streak gained momentum, the festive musicians began shouting out a running count of swished three-pointers. When Mason missed on No. 16, a broad smile flashed across his usually stoic face and cheers turned to a quick roar.
The Jayhawks (28-4) closed out the practice with half-court shots, and, unusually, none were even close—until sophomore guard Lagerald Vick nailed a nothing-but-net swish that looked as effortless as a mid-ranger jumper.
That’s when coach Bill Self called for the team to huddle at midcourt. Once assembled in a tight pack, the players began chanting something unintelligible from a half-court away. The meaning of their words became clear as injured freshman center Udoka Azubuike grinned, shook his head, grinned again, and finally grabbed a ball handed to him by a teammate and thundered toward the goal.
Guarding his injured left wrist, Azubuike slammed home a thunderous right-handed dunk, which was quickly followed by Mason bouncing a ball off the backboard and grabbing it for a one-handed slam of his own.
As freshman sensation Josh Jackson began to follow suit, a look of panic shot across Self’s face and the veteran coach, a Naismith Coach of the Year finalist, shouted “Josh, don’t! Josh, don’t!” Jackson grudgingly obeyed orders and trotted toward the stands to join his teammates in an impromptu autograph session for eager fans.
The practice was so spirited that it might have served a purpose far beyond the typical bit of public relations splash: The Jayhawks seemingly generated a jump-start on rebuilding the momentum they lost after losing their first game of the Big 12 Tournament one week ago.
“I think it’s real important for all of us to get going,” junior guard Devonte’ Graham said of KU’s NCAA Tournament opener, 5:50 p.m. Friday against UC Davis. “We all gotta come out and be aggressive, especially on the defensive end, to get the jitters out and stuff like that. Everybody just needs to be aggressive.”
Fans are invited to a pregame event at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, March 17, at the Cox Business Center. The event, hosted by the KU Alumni Association, Kansas Athletics and the Williams Education Fund, will include a pep rally at 3:30 featuring the spirit squad and the basketball band. More information is available at the alumni association’s postseason site.
Check out photos from today’s open practice in the slideshow below, or click here to see the pictures on Flickr. All photos by Steve Puppe.
Posted on Mar 16, 2017
Flying South to Tulsa
Follow the ‘Hawks as they fly through the postseason on our ‘Hawks and Hoops page, where alumni can find the latest updates on tournament games, pep rallies, shoot arounds and alumni watch parties around the country. And watch out for our KU Alumni Association staff on the road. They’ll be hard to miss.
Once again, thanks to Miles Schnaer’s Crown Automotive in Lawrence, your KU Alumni Association staff will be driving to Tulsa in style on the ‘Road to the Final Four.’ Be sure to wave at them in this one-of-a-kind Jayhawk Car.
Our postseaon partners at Crown tell us the Jayhawk car has been a favorite among fans and auto enthusiasts young and old, so if you spot us during March Madness, don’t forget to post a pic and tag #kualumni.
See you on the road!
Posted on Feb 27, 2017
Senior night is always memorable for Jayhawks, and this one will be no different as KU bids farewell to starters and fan favorites Frank Mason and Landon Lucas, along with a third senior named Self. The only son of Head Coach Bill Self, fifth-year senior Tyler Self will thank his coach and father in what will surely be an emotional night for the Jayhawk family.
Get ready with our curated round up of senior night coverage below, and tune in tonight for the 8 p.m. CST tip off versus Oklahoma. Rock Chalk!
Dzwierzynski: Senior Night is a reminder of the greatness of college sports | University Daily Kansan
Senior Night at Kansas special for underclassmen too | KUSports.com
Gameday: No. 1 Kansas vs. Oklahoma | University Daily Kansan
KU basketball coach Bill Self expecting ‘one of the best senior nights we’ve ever had’ | CJOnline.com
Brought up on Kansas basketball, walk-on Tyler Self prepares for only start | KUSports.com
KU’s Tyler Self looks forward to first career start, Senior Night festivities | KUHoops.com
Senior Night came quickly for Kansas trio | KUSports.com
Posted on Feb 13, 2017
in Alumni News
This is somebody who’s special
“Out of the 16 or 17 years I’ve been doing this, I’ve never seen so many people in the waiting room waiting to hear a word about how the patient was doing,” said Dr. Emmanuel Daon, thoracic and cardiac surgeon with the University of Kansas Health System. “Not even close.”
Dr. Daon was talking about the friends and supporters of Dr. Scott Ward, d’91, g’94, g’96, better known as “Scooter” to those he counts as friends, and if you’ve ever met him, you’re a friend.
“What it tells me is that this is somebody who’s special.”
In October, Ward suffered an aortic dissection requiring emergency heart surgery. The procedure was needed to repair a partial rupture in Ward’s aorta, the largest blood vessel in the human body. Ward, who was already paralyzed from neck down since breaking his neck in 1986, faced long odds, including a survival rate under 10%. But he had something else working in his favor: an army of supporters, led by his superhero wife, Robin, g’03.
“They can tell you what the odds are,” she said. “They can tell you how bad this is. They don’t know Scooter.”
Family, friends and former student-athletes descended on KU Med from all over the country and took over the waiting room. There they held vigil for Scooter, sharing updates via text, Twitter and Facebook, and soon after a movement was born. With KU volleyball still in season, and men’s basketball getting underway, the rallying cry #rootforscoot took over social media.
“That initial support was so amazing that I don’t think there was any other choice than to survive,” Ward remembers.
So we have a chance
Incredibly, Ward survived the initial surgery and was on his way to recovery when he suffered another aortic tear and a more perilous prognosis. A second surgery would be needed, and the success rate, according to Dr. Daon, was more like one-in-a-million. Scooter remembered taking a deep breath before adding his trademark lighthearted humor and hopeful optimism.
“Quoting a bad movie, I said ‘so we have a chance,'” he recalled in a recent interview, just months after surviving a second, life-saving heart surgery.
A heartfelt tribute
February is heart health awareness month, and our friends at Charlie Hustle are helping raise awareness and funds to support the American Heart Association in Kansas City. Charlie Hustle’s chief marketing officer, Katie Martincich, b’10, d’10, g’13, also played volleyball for KU and worked alongside Scooter as an academic and career counselor for Kansas Athletics, so she helped the Kansas City company connect with the Wards to share their story.
Scooter’s journey, told in this video below and posted on the Charlie Hustle Facebook page, is a touching tribute to a Jayhawk so beloved, you can’t help but root for him.
Posted on Feb 3, 2017
in Alumni News
Justin Law is the first to admit that his spouse is much better at compromising than he is—especially when it comes to watching college sports. But he’s no stranger to compromise either.
Justin, b’99, g’04, a diehard Jayhawk, lives in Manhattan with his wife, Kelly, a K-State graduate. They met in Kansas City in 2004, thanks to a friend who played matchmaker. An engagement soon followed, and the young couple decided to ditch the big city and move to a smaller town.
“Manhattan wasn’t necessarily on the list at the time,” Justin recalls wryly.
That changed when Kelly accepted a job at the K-State Alumni Association. The Laws have been in the Little Apple ever since.
Despite the fact that Justin bleeds crimson and blue, and Kelly’s pride is purple, the two make it work. “She’s come to KU basketball games with me but not against K-State,” says Justin. “I’ve been to K-State football games when they’re not playing KU. I’m a little more competitive and more interested in the outcome of sporting events, especially against K-State—especially living in Manhattan.”
Kelly, who now works at USI Insurance Services and counts the KU Alumni Association as one of her clients, has softened her stance against her intrastate rival. “I will willingly go to KU games when they’re not playing K-State, and I’ll cheer for KU,” she says. “But I typically wear pretty neutral colors.”
Justin gets a little support from their daughter, Kherington, who’s almost 7. The young girl, who at first favored the Wildcats over the Jayhawks, has been singing a different tune lately. The future Jayhawk, who is a big fan of Baby Jay and can easily recite KU’s alma mater, proudly sports her Jayhawk cheerleading outfit to school and willingly endures teasing from her teachers and classmates.
“She actually started out a K-State fan,” says Justin. “Around the age of 4, she switched allegiances. I’m honestly not sure how that happened. I wish I knew how, so if she started wavering I could bring her back.”
The Laws keep the family rivalry fun by placing wagers, which include dinner duty or a household chore for the losing fan, on KU vs. K-State games. “We have a lot of family bets,” says Kelly. “It’s always Kherington and Justin against me.”
Although Justin and his daughter often don’t fare well during football season, they look forward to basketball season and rely on their ’Hawks to outplay the Wildcats—if for no other reason than to dodge dinner duty. Here’s hoping they get their win.
Posted on Jan 26, 2017
There’s a big basketball game this Saturday, Jayhawks.
The KU men’s basketball team takes on the Kentucky Wildcats in the Sonic SEC-Big 12 Challenge. The game tips off at 5:15 p.m. CT at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky.
It’s the perfect opportunity to gather with fellow alumni, fans and friends!
Hang out with staff members from the KU Alumni Association, Kansas Athletics and the Williams Fund before the game at the Magnolia Room in the Hilton Lexington Downtown.
We’ll have light snacks, a cash bar and TVs showing other games.
2:30 p.m. ET
Saturday, January 28
Magnolia Room, Hilton Lexington Downtown
369 W. Vine St.
Lexington, KY 40507
More than 50 watch parties are scheduled around the country, from Albany to Wichita—it’s close to a record number.
Check out our online calendar to find a watch party near you. And if you haven’t connected with a local alumni network, you can find a list of all networks plus links to their websites and Facebook groups here.
Share your photos
We’d love to see your photos from the pregame party, the game or your watch parties! Share them on social media using the #KUalumni hashtag, or post them to our Facebook page. We’ll share the best ones with our followers!
If you don’t have an alumni network or watch site in your area, and would like to start one, contact Nick Kallail, assistant vice president of alumni and career programs, at email@example.com.
Posted on Dec 21, 2016
Men’s basketball coach Bill Self on Wednesday was announced as a first-time nominee for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
“I certainly didn’t expect this,” Self said during preparations for Thursday’s game at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “I’m proud, mainly because of the teams’ successes we’ve had in the various stops that put me in a position to be considered.”
Self, a Life Joint member of the KU Alumni Association, is 395-84 in his 14 seasons at KU, and his 82.5 KU winning percentage is the best in school history. Including his coaching stints at Oral Roberts, Tulsa and Illinois, Self is 602-189 in 24 years as a head coach. At KU, where he has taken his Jayhawks to 18-straight NCAA Tournament appearances, Self has recorded more conference titles (12) than home losses (9).
Finalists will be announced during NBA All-Star festivities Feb. 18 in New Orleans, and the hall of fame’s Class of 2017 will be unveiled April 3 at the NCAA Tournament’s championship game in Glendale, Arizona.
Posted on Dec 21, 2016
in Alumni News
The Best of KU
2016 was an eventful year that marked major milestones and gave cause for celebration. From our Jayhawks in Rio to our 27th Rhodes Scholar, KU alumni had plenty of reasons to be proud of their alma mater in 2016, so we’re recounting the most memorable moments and biggest KU stories of the past year. With help from our crack team of KU experts, a.k.a. your hard-working KU Alumni Association staff, we’ve assembled and ranked the top stories of 2016. So without further ado, we present the best of KU:
24. National discount program for members
23. Food, glorious food
22. SAA free for freshmen in 2016
21. April Fool’s Day 2016: Fooled again
20. Junior Naismith steals the show
19. Student and Alumni apps
18. The Power of Sport: A Conversation on Business, Race and Sports
17. Ellsworth honorees commit time, talent and resources to KU
16. Spencer Museum’s big reveal
…How are we doing so far? Can you guess the biggest stories of 2016? Our final 15 feature some beloved KU buildings–both new and old–a few famous Jayhawks and some fond farewells. Keep reading while we reveal the rest of the best…
14. Bob Davis hands the mic to Brian Hanni
13. Central District celebrated at topping out ceremony
12. Goodbye, Burge
11. Fabulous Freshmen: Incoming class sets record for academic talent
>>> CONTINUE TO REVEAL TOP TEN >>>
Posted on Nov 21, 2016
“What a great day to be a Jayhawk!” coach David Beaty shouted, his raspy voice barely audible amid the chaos that swarmed across Memorial Stadium’s field after KU upset Texas, 24-21, in an overtime thriller that gave Beaty his first Big 12 victory and the Jayhawks’ first in the conference since 2014.
Beaty of course was spot-on with the sentiment, but the time element was off. While football’s first victory over Texas since 1938 scored the national headlines, it was more than a great day to be a Jayhawk: From Sunday to Sunday, it was a week for the athletics ages.
Soccer sets the tone
Soccer set the tone on Sunday, Nov. 13, at Rock Chalk Park, when junior Lois Heuchan scored 40 seconds into double overtime to give the Jayhawks a 1-0 victory over Missouri in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. (The Jayhawks’ second-round loss, 2-0 Nov. 18 at North Carolina, was only their third loss since mid-September.)
Men’s basketball was up next, as the Jayhawks avoided their first 0-2 start since 1972 by beating top-ranked Duke, 77-75, Tuesday in New York City’s Madison Square Garden. Frank Mason’s game-winning field goal with 1.8 seconds remaining was one of KU’s most thrilling shots since Mario Chalmers nailed a three-pointer to send the 2008 national championship game into overtime.
“That was quite a play we called: ‘Just get out of his way,’” coach Bill Self said afterward. “He’s a stud.”
Recruit chooses Kansas
Billy Preston, a 6-foot-10, 240-pound forward from Los Angeles kept the buzz going Friday afternoon when he released a video announcing his college selection. Dressed in uniforms from his four finalists—KU, Indiana, USC and Syracuse—Preston played a magic-of-film one-on-one game against himself, at the end of which he turns to the camera and announces, “Rock Chalk, Jayhawks.”
Just a few hours later, Preston’s future team beat Siena, 86-65, running Self’s home record to 207-9 and passing Ted Owens on the list of all-time victories in Allen Field House.
“He’s a special coach and this is a special place,” sophomore forward Carlton Bragg Jr. said afterward. “You put those two things together and special things happen.”
Volleyball clinches championship
About 13 hours later, at 11 a.m. Saturday morning, volleyball began its final regular-season home match. Although they played without junior All-American Kelsie Payne, who injured an ankle in KU’s five-set victory Nov. 16 at West Virginia, the Jayhawks fought through another tough five-setter to defeat Iowa State and clinch at least a share of their first Big 12 championship.
“It could have been a disaster, or it could have been the best day ever, and they decided to make it the best day ever,” said coach Ray Bechard. “Our seniors weren’t going to let us lose.”
Swimmer hits career-best mark
Saturday’s action was not limited to Lawrence: freshman Jenny Nusbaum won the 200-yard freestyle at the Kansas Classic swim meet in Topeka’s Capitol Federal Natatorium with a career-best mark of 1 minute, 48.97 seconds, and she helped her team to a 7.34-second victory in the 800-yard freestyle relay.
Cross-country makes history
On a wintry morning in Terre Haute, Indiana, sophomore Sharon Lokedi ran fifth at the NCAA cross-country championships, the best NCAA finish in the history of KU women’s cross-country and the best by any Jayhawk since John Lawson won the men’s meet in 1965.
“When it’s cold and windy like it was today, you never know what might happen in a race like this,” Lokedi said. “So my plan was just to stay up at the front, stay with the leaders and be ready for anything.”
Football upsets Texas
On a chilly afternoon and evening in Memorial Stadium, the football ’Hawks offered the first hint of a possible upset by taking a 10-7 lead into halftime against Texas. But, KU came out flat in the third quarter, and when D’Onta Foreman scored his second touchdown of the second half with 13:34 remaining in the fourth quarter to give the Longhorns a 21-10 lead.
The game looked hopelessly out of reach to fans and commentators, but players never saw it that way.
“They are some resilient tough dudes,” Beaty said. “They kept believing. They kept working.”
With 10 minutes remaining in regulation, redshirt freshman quarterback Carter Stanley jolted the KU offense to life with a 20-yard run, which was immediately followed by a 15-yard run by freshman running back Khalil Herbert that set the Jayhawks up at the Texas 45 yard line. Herbert scored seven plays later on a 1-yard run, and sophomore receiver Steven Sims Jr. converted a two-point conversion to push KU to within three, 21-18, with 7:48 remaining.
Freshman safety Mike Lee halted a Texas scoring threat on the ensuing drive when he forced Foreman to fumble at the KU 13-yard-line. Senior defensive end Cameron Rosser pounced on the loose ball, the Longhorns’ fifth turnover of the game. KU then gave the ball back on downs, but when Texas tried to close the game out by converting on fourth and 5 from the KU 32, sophomore linebacker Keith Loneker Jr. scored the biggest of his game-high 16 tackles by stopping Foreman 2 yards short.
The Jayhawks took over on their own 29 with 58 seconds remaining. Three receptions by senior running back Ke’aun Kinner and a 15-yard penalty against Texas set KU up at the Longhorns’ 19, where, with seven seconds left in regulation, senior Matthew Wyman tied the game with a 36-yard field goal.
On the second play of overtime Lee again stepped up big, intercepting a Texas pass. Needing only a field goal to win, KU pushed forward behind five Kinner rushes, allowing Wyman to win the game with a 25-yard field goal.
The season finale awaits Saturday at Kansas State, but that rivalry’s renewal was on nobody’s mind as the Jayhawks celebrated madly.
Well, almost nobody’s.
“We have a huge, huge mountain to climb to get ready to play those guys,” Beaty said. “But it’s going to be a lot easier and a lot more fun preparing tomorrow with the result we got today.”
Women’s basketball team closes week with a win
And still more was yet to come: Women’s basketball closed out the remarkable week that was with a 68-58 victory at Memphis, the Jayhawks’ first win of the season and the first regular-season road victory for second-year coach Brandon Schneider.
What a great week to be a Jayhawk.