More than 1,000 alumni and fans filled a downtown St. Louis ballroom to supercharge their crimson-and-blue spirit in the hours before KU men’s basketball began its 2014 NCAA Tournament title quest against Eastern Kentucky at the nearby Scottrade Center.
The already festive atmosphere had an unexpected ghoulish tinge, as Jayhawks found themselves as neighbors in the sprawling America’s Center to a fun-loving bunch of Halloween entrepreneurs who gathered on the sunny St. Louis morning to share tricks of their haunted house trade. Good-natured Halloween boos turned to cheers as the KU pep band, cheerleaders and Big Jay rallied the crowd at the pregame rally co-sponsored by the KU Alumni Association and Kansas Athletics.
Among the celebrants was Gov. Sam Brownback, l’82, and his wife, Mary Stauffer Brownback, b’80, l’83, who are joint Life Members of the Alumni Association. The first couple of Kansas had a busy morning, as all three of the state’s Division I men’s basketball programs—KU, Kansas State and undefeated Wichita State—not only made the NCAA Tournament field, but opened on the same day on the same court.
“It’s an awesome day that really helps tell the story of Kansas being the cradle of basketball,” Brownback told Kansas Alumni magazine moments before the rally began. “And this time we have the opportunity to tell that story on a national stage. It’s a fabulous day for all Kansans.”
“Hopefully our league will pull for each other and our state will pull for each other,” coach Bill Self said shortly after KU’s Thursday practice. “It will be interesting.”
Should KU advance to Sunday’s Round of 32, the Association and Kansas Athletics will again sponsor a rally at the America’s Center, adjacent to the Edward Jones Dome, about a 15-minute walk from the Scottrade Center. Doors will open 4 hours prior to the session’s start, again with no door charge, and cash bars, concessions and a KU Store stand offering Jayhawk gear. As with Friday, television screens will be available for fans without tickets to stay and watch the game with fellow Jayhawks.
See pictures from the pep rally in the slideshow below, or click here to view the photos on Flickr.
All photos by Steve Puppe.