The University of Kansas will celebrate its 107th Homecoming Oct. 19-26, culminating in the KU football game against Texas Tech Oct. 26 in David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.
The KU Alumni Association and the Student Alumni Leadership Board will coordinate the week of Homecoming activities. Association staff members leading the effort are Ally Stanton, director of student programs, and Keon Stowers, assistant director of student programs. KU’s Homecoming tradition began in 1912.
Homecoming leaders will meet throughout the spring semester to select a theme and finalize the schedule of activities, which will include competitions for student organizations, community service activities, reunions, the Homecoming parade and pep rally, and the selection of 10 student finalists for the Excellence in Community, Education and Leadership (Ex.C.E.L.) Awards. The winners will be announced during halftime of the football game Oct. 26.
Money was tight for Joanie DeGraw Jones and her family in the late 1960s, so she was only able to spend her freshman year at KU before returning home and completing her nursing studies in Kansas City, Kansas.
Jones, ’72, made the most of her limited time on the Hill, however, joining the Frosh Hawks pep club and cheering on the football ’Hawks as they stormed through a one-loss 1968 season on their way to a Big Eight championship and a trip to the Jan. 1, 1969, Orange Bowl in Miami.
While watching classmates pile into southbound cars, buses and trains for a trip she could not afford, Jones consoled herself by purchasing two keepsakes: a short-sleeved KU Orange Bowl sweatshirt and the custom-pressed single “Hawk it to ’Em,” by The Tips.
“I am really sad that I didn’t get to finish all four years,” says Jones, now retired from a long nursing career at Providence Medical Center, “but I treasure my things from there.”
She recently pulled the mint-condition sweatshirt and red-vinyl record from a sealed bag tucked safely in the back of her closet, where they’d been stored for 50 years, and asked her children what they might do with the mementos if they inherited them.
“They really couldn’t give me an answer,” Jones says, “and I thought, you know what? I’m just going to call [University Archives, in Spencer Research Library], and the lady said, ‘We don’t have anything like that. We’d love to have it.’ I wanted it be somewhere where it will be taken care of and treasured.”
Jones’ sweatshirt and record recently joined University Archives’ student life collection, significantly boosting KU’s holdings of 1969 Orange Bowl items, including photographs, negatives and color slides donated by the Alumni Association (which can be viewed with an “Orange Bowl” search here); a media guide and game program; and an as-new carry-on bag given to travelers by Maupintour.
“This is one of the best collections that we have that reflects student life at the time,” says Archivist Becky Schulte, c’76. “We don’t really have this much for any other athletic event that I know of. This is really exceptional. These photos of players with fans, signing autographs, lounging by the pool, we just don’t get that kind of stuff.”
As for her own keepsakes, Jones says she “treasured them all this time,” but she’s glad she decided to donate them to University Archives while she’s still here to savor the satisfaction of her decision to pass them along for sharing and safekeeping.
“I’m glad I’m alive to enjoy what I’ve done,” Jones says, “rather than donating after somebody passes away. I wanted to see that they benefited somebody else.”
The University of Kansas released the following statement on Sunday, Nov. 18.
Les Miles, a national championship-winning former coach at Louisiana State and Oklahoma State, has been named the new head football coach at the University of Kansas, Kansas Athletics Director Jeff Long announced Sunday.
Miles will be formally introduced at a press conference today at 5 p.m. The press conference will be streamed live and may be viewed by clicking here. He will then do a special “Hawk Talk” radio show at 7 p.m. from Johnny’s West restaurant in West Lawrence.
With Miles’ hiring, Kansas becomes the only university in the country that can boast a current men’s basketball coach with an NCAA Division I Championship and a football coach with an FBS Championship.
Miles will receive a five-year contract that will pay him $2,775,000 annually, with additional retention bonuses due in Nov. 2020 and Nov. 2022.
“Since the beginning of our search, we focused on identifying and recruiting an experienced head coach with a strong track record of success on and off the field,” Long said. “Les Miles is exactly what we need for our program right now. His national reputation as a great recruiter and as a coach who student-athletes love playing for will enable us to break the cycle and return a winning tradition to the Kansas Jayhawks. We are thrilled to have Les and his family as Jayhawks.”
Miles brings to Lawrence 142 victories, a BCS national championship and two SEC titles in 15-plus seasons as a head coach, the most career wins of anyone who has coached football at Kansas in the modern era.
Most recently, Miles served as the head coach at LSU (2005-16), where his teams averaged 10 wins per year in his 11 full seasons. He led LSU to bowl games in each of those 11 seasons (winning seven), and won 42 games against Top-25 teams and 16 over Top-10 teams. Miles’ teams won 10 or more games seven times, reached the SEC title game three times (winning twice) and led LSU to five Top-10 and three Top-5 finishes.
“I am humbled by the opportunity to lead the KU football program and I am grateful to Chancellor Girod and Jeff Long for the opportunity,” said Miles. “We will bring Jayhawk Football back and we will do it with outstanding coaches, tremendous student-athletes of character and ability and an unrelenting drive for excellence. My family and I cannot wait to be a part of the KU family!”
During his tenure at LSU, Miles coached an SEC-leading 69 NFL draft picks, 13 of them first-round selections. He coached 22 first-team All-Americans and 11 players who won national awards. He is the second-winningest coach in LSU history in overall wins (112) and SEC regular-season wins (63).
In the classroom, more than 240 players earned degrees under Miles and during his tenure, LSU Football’s graduation rate ranked as high as No. 2 in the SEC multiple times. As part of LSU’s Project Graduation established in 2010, more than 30 players who had left school without a degree returned to earn their college diploma before Miles left in 2016. Nearly 190 LSU players were named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll during Miles’ time there.
“I want to thank Jeff Long for his outstanding work and leadership of our Athletics’ program. I also want to thank the student-athletes in our football program for the mature way in which they have handled this challenging circumstance. I have no doubt that Coach Miles will have an immediate impact on our football program, and on our university,” Chancellor Girod said. “Together as Jayhawks, we will rebuild our football program the right way, winning championships and continuing to graduate young men of character. Today is an exciting day for the KU Family.”
Miles went to LSU after a four-year tenure as head coach at Oklahoma State. The OSU program he took over in 2001 had registered only one winning season since 1988. The Cowboys went 4-7 his first year, then had three-straight winning seasons (8-5, 9-4, 7-5). He led OSU to three-straight bowl games, a first for the program since 1983-85.
Miles’ four-year winning percentage of 57 percent is the best career winning percentage for an OSU coach since 1949. OSU was the only team in the nation to beat Oklahoma twice during Miles’ four-year tenure there.
Prior to OSU, Miles spent three years as tight-ends coach with the Dallas Cowboys (one divisional title, two playoff appearances). He went to Dallas after serving as offensive coordinator at OSU for three seasons (8-3, Alamo Bowl berth in 1997).
Miles served two stints (total of 10 seasons) as an assistant coach at Michigan, several of them under legendary head coach Bo Schembechler. During Miles’ second tenure there, from 1987-94, Michigan won 71 games, made eight-straight bowl appearances, including four Rose Bowls, and finished no lower than No. 21 in the final Associate Press national rankings.
Between tenures at Michigan, Miles spent four seasons as an assistant coach at the University of Colorado.
Miles graduated from Michigan in 1976 with a degree in economics. He was a two-year football letterman, playing on two Big Ten championship teams. He earned all-state honors in football at Elyria High School in Ohio, where he also earned letters in baseball and wrestling.
Miles’ wife, Kathy, was a point guard at Central Michigan University and later an assistant basketball coach at Michigan. They have two daughters, Kathryn (nickname “Smacker”), a former swimmer at Texas and currently a TV sports personality who hosts Les’ podcast), and Macy, a youth softball pitching standout. They also have two sons, Manny, a quarterback at North Carolina, and Ben, who won a high-school football state title in 2015 and is currently a fullback at Texas A&M.
The following announcement was shared by KU Athletics today regarding the future of KU Football Head Coach David Beaty.
David Beaty will not be retained as Head Football Coach at the University of Kansas at the conclusion of the season, KU Athletics Director Jeff Long announced today.
“After a thorough evaluation of the program, I believe that new leadership is necessary for our football team to move forward and compete at the highest level of the Big 12 Conference,” Long said. “I know that Coach Beaty cares deeply about his players, and I respect that. The student-athletes on this team have continued to play hard – and I am confident they will do that for the rest of the season.”
Beaty has coached the Jayhawks for three-plus seasons, amassing a 6-39 record, 2-31 in Big 12 Conference play. He will continue to coach the team until the regular season concludes against Texas on Friday, November 23. He signed a five-year contract in December 2014, which was extended two years (through 2021) in December 2016.
Long informed Beaty of his decision Sunday and met with the football team directly afterwards. “The search for a new head coach will begin immediately,” he said.
Beaty’s contract calls for him to be paid $3 million (payable in six equal payments) in the event of termination without cause; Long said Kansas will fulfill the terms of that contract.
Jeff Long will conduct a press conference at 6 p.m. this evening in Hadl Auditorium in the Wagnon Student-Athlete Center, adjacent to the Allen Fieldhouse Parking Garage. The press conference will be streamed and is available here:
If you’ve been on social media at all this past week, you’ve surely seen the highlight of the year in college football. If you haven’t, enjoy:
North Texas’ Keegan Brewer faked out the entire Arkansas team by standing around after catching the ball, without ever signaling for a fair catch. After a couple of Arkansas players started walking to their sideline, Brewer took off for a touchdown.
Brewer started his football career at the University of Kansas, where he caught 15 passes as a true freshmen. After his freshman year, Brewer transferred to North Texas to be closer to home.
Brewer’s heroics got us thinking about other trick plays that Kansas has run throughout the years.
2016: Downed in the end zone
When the Jayhawks wore all blue against Iowa State in 2016, wide receiver LaQuvionte Gonzalez took the opportunity to camouflage himself in the blue turf of the end zone. Wide receiver Steven Sims returned the kick, then turned and threw across the field to Gonzalez, who scampered down the sideline for a 34 yard gain.
2016: Razzle-dazzle to hook the Horns
After driving the length of the field to cut the deficit to 21-16, the Jayhawks needed to go for 2 to cut the deficit to a field goal. Head Coach David Beaty called for misdirection, with running back Ke’aun Kinner taking a direct snap and pitching the ball to Steven Sims, who ran his way into the end zone to close the deficit.
2008: Orange Bowl heroics
Faced with a 4th and 10 at midfield, Head Coach Mark Mangino took a big gamble to keep the drive going. A direct snap to running back Brandon McAnderson, who threw to Micah Brown to keep the drive alive. While the drive didn’t end with points, we promise you’ll like the ending if you stick around.
2004: Randle ends the streak
With Kansas State in town holding an 11-game winning streak over KU, Mangino pulled out all the stops to bring the Jayhawks a victory. Quarterback Adam Barmann threw a screen to wide receiver Brandon Rideau, who pitched it to running back John Randle, who dove for the end zone to send the Memorial Stadium crowd into a frenzy.
1996: Hidden Henley
Throwing it way back here, to when Glen Mason’s Jayhawks traveled to Salt Lake City to play the #20 Utes. Down 38-35, KU lined up for a field goal, with running back June Henley jogging towards the sideline. Quarterback Matt Johner, serving as the holder on the play, threw the ball to a wide-open Henley near the sideline for a touchdown.
1995: No punt in Norman
Head Coach Glen Mason had more than one trick up his sleeve. When the Jayhawk offense stalled out in Norman against the #15 Sooners, punter Darrin Simmons kept the ball and ran it himself for a nearly 50 yard gain. KU would go on to win 38-17.
We probably missed a crazy play from back in the day, so let us know if we need to add your favorite one!
University of Kansas Director of Athletics Jeff Long sent the following message to KU fans and season ticket holders Thursday, August 30.
Greetings Jayhawks and Rock Chalk!
I am thrilled to address you for the first time as the Director of Athletics at the University of Kansas. Over these first few weeks I have experienced firsthand the tremendous spirit and passion KU alumni, faculty, staff and students have for this great University. Our history and tradition truly make this institution special.
As we enter the academic and competitive year, our coaches, student-athletes and staff are focused on competition – competition in the classroom, competition in their athletic pursuits and competition to engage in and make a positive impact in our communities. It is our expectation that we will continue to represent the flagship institution of KANSAS in a manner in which Jayhawks around the world will be even more proud.
Our number one priority will be the well-being of our 460-plus student-athletes and their individual student-athlete experience. We have the privilege and duty to educate these young minds, assist in their maturity, sharpen their athletic skills and produce proud University of Kansas graduates.
We have begun the process of identifying any and all obstacles that may exist that would prevent us from providing an amazing student-athlete experience. Two areas that directly impact this experience are revenue production and facility enhancements. Over the next few months we will engage in deep conversations about growing our membership in the Williams Education Fund and establishing a clear vision for our capital improvements, including David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium, Allen Fieldhouse and Hoglund Ballpark.
You can make an immediate impact on the student-athlete experience by coming to David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium this fall to cheer on the crimson and blue. The young men on this team are dedicated to competing for KANSAS. Like you, they are Jayhawks; they love representing KANSAS and they need your support.
For those who have purchased season tickets, thank you. For those who haven’t, please consider helping us break the cycle and join us this Saturday and all season long.
The University of Kansas boasts some 350,000 alumni worldwide. As we tour the state and travel nationally I hope to meet many of you. Over the last month I have learned what you already know: This is a very special place, and I am grateful for the opportunity to represent you as the Director of Athletics at the University of Kansas!
At 6-feet-2, 250 pounds, former KU defensive lineman and part-time fullback TJ Semke knew he was just about the perfect size and body type to play fullback in the NFL. He also knew that NFL offenses no longer feature fullbacks, so career prospects were slim at best.
“That dream kind of died out,” Semke, d’16, says from the North Carolina headquarters of Hendrick Motorsports. “But I still wanted to do something that would keep me competitive and have that locker room feel, be around the guys, and NASCAR ended up being a good fit for that.”
Thrill of victory
Now in his second season with Hendrick Motorsports and his first on the pit crew team for Chase Elliott’s No. 9 Napa Auto Parts Chevrolet, Semke on Aug. 5 got to experience the thrill of victory when Elliott held off the determined Martin Truex Jr. on the Watkins Glen International road course.
It was win No. 1 for Elliott, a third-year driver and son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, and the 250th in the illustrious racing history of Hendrick Motorsports, and nobody celebrated more enthusiastically in victory lane than a jackman from Kansas City who just a few years earlier knew next to nothing about auto racing.
“It was pretty special for Chase to get his first win, and it was the 250th for the company, which is a big deal,” Semke says. “All the pieces fell together and it ended up being a big deal. It was definitely good vibes coming back to work on Monday.”
An unusual path
Even before he became a professional athlete in NASCAR, Semke’s route through athletics was unusual and his story unique.
Semke fractured a vertebra during his junior season at Lee’s Summit North High School; he made it through his senior season while constantly fighting through “a lot of issues with my discs.” When his doctors finally told him to stop playing football, Semke complied and turned down offers to play at Division II colleges.
He grew up a “big MU guy,” and shocked his family when he came to Lawrence and enrolled at KU as a full-time student.
“Something drew me there,” Semke says. “I liked the school when I went on a visit, so I just went there.”
Ripe for recruitment
An energetic and successful student in high school, Semke likewise threw himself into his studies on the Hill, and even worked part-time for his mother’s boyfriend’s bail bond business, tracking down absconders who skipped court dates.
Although work as a bounty hunter provided the occasional adrenaline rush he still craved, it wasn’t the same as football. After two years away from the sport, Semke was ripe for recruitment when he noticed a University Daily Kansan advertisement announcing open tryouts for football walk-ons.
He tried out during the spring of his sophomore year, made the team, and entered his junior year with sophomore standing in football. A natural fullback in a pro-style offense with little need for fullbacks, Semke fashioned himself a high-energy playmaker on special teams; during practice, though, he moved to the scout team’s defensive line.
Putting in the work
“I was a little bit undersized for that,” he says, “but I was just out there every day, working hard, making plays, and I kind of got noticed. So they thought, why don’t we give this a shot? That whole next spring, my redshirt junior year, they put in a lot of time with me, getting me ready to play, and I ended up starting the first six games of my junior year on the defensive line.”
After being featured in Sports Illustrated thanks to his bounty-hunter background, Semke played defensive end as a senior, along with fullback when necessary—like Turner Gill before him, coach Charlie Weis rarely featured fullbacks—and when his KU playing days were done Semke began focusing on the NFL. He performed well at his Pro Day workouts, earning a workout with the Kansas City Chiefs and a minicamp invitation from the New Orleans Saints.
Leaving football behind
Realistic about his chances, Semke left football behind for good when he was invited to join more than 100 other candidates for pit-crew tryouts at Hendrick headquarters.
Hendrick, it turns out, sends a pit-crew coach out on the road with its race teams, and he spends race weeks visiting collegiate football program near every track, searching for potential recruits. At Kansas Speedway, KU coaches put in a good word for Semke, touting his speed, strength, attitude and energy.
Semke lived up the billing he received from his former football coaches, and in spring 2016 he was introduced as one of five new pit crew recruits at Hendrick’s second Signing Day event.
He spent his first full season learning the jackman’s job on a variety of teams and racing series, and this year was named a full-time member on Elliott’s No. 9 Camaro.
Steep learning curve
“TJ is a pretty special guy,” says veteran crew chief Alan Gustafson. “He’s physically gifted, to say the least, to be that big and that fast and strong. He’s a really competitive guy and a fun guy to have on our team. We’ve been really impressed with him and his ability with relatively no experience pitting the car. His learning curve has been amazing. We expect really big things from him in the future.”
Semke’s learning curve got steeper this season when NASCAR announced new pit-lane regulations that allowed for only five crew members over the wall during races, rather than the previous limit of six. That meant double-duty for someone on each crew, and Hendrick’s solution was to make the jackman also responsible for putting on tires, all within the 13-second timeframe of a high-pressure pit stop.
“You have double the work and you’re still trying to be fast,” Semke says. “It presented a lot of challenges, but that’s kind of what’s fun about it. We have a bunch of athletic guys who know how to adapt and change, so it worked out in our favor.”
Brains and brawn
As expected, Semke relishes the vigorous physical environment at Hendrick, where pit crews lift weights under the supervision of a team of trainers, go through full-speed pit training and even spend Mondays doing yoga to improve flexibility.
Perhaps not as expected, though, is the intelligence Semke brings to the team, which pays off in the team’s constant film study. He was named Academic All-Big 12 and graduated with at 3.1 GPA.
“A lot of people might look at me—the tattoos, and I’m a big, strong guy—and they might think, ‘Oh, this guy’s just a meathead, a cave-man type of guy, eats a bunch of meat.’ At a glance you might just think that’s what I am.
“But anything I do I want to be really good at it. I can hit the books and I can hit the weights, both. It definitely feels good to have a degree from the University of Kansas, that’s for sure.”
TJ Semke, No. 9 team jackman, gives fans a closer look inside the Hendrick Motorsports heat training program.
The inaugural KU Kickoff event in downtown Topeka took place Aug. 9 outside the Celtic Fox at 8th Street and Kansas Avenue. The celebration featured food, music, promotional items and the opportunity to win tickets and more.
Brian Hanni, the Voice of the Jayhawks, hosted the event. Featured speakers included Chancellor Doug Girod, football head coach David Beaty and women’s soccer head coach Mark Francis.
Check out some of the event’s highlights below in our compilation of social media posts! Future events will be held in Wichita, Prairie Village and Lawrence.
Jenni Carlson returned to her alma mater for J-School Generations, an annual reunion during Homecoming weekend. The event invites alumni back to the William Allen White School of Journalism to reconnect with students and faculty. Carlson, j’97, was a speaker for J-Talk, a TED-style lecture event where she and other alumni shared their stories.
Carlson has served as sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, but she might be most well-known for a column that led Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy to one of the most famous rants in sports history. Carlson shared her story of that experience, the aftermath, and how it shaped the rest of her career. Watch her J-Talk or read the transcript below.
Ten years ago last month, Mike Gundy, the football coach at Oklahoma State, turned a post-game press conference on its head.
Even though his team had just won a big game, he was angry. So angry that he raised his voice. And pointed. And ranted. He was fuming about a column that ran that morning in a local newspaper. He said it was false. He said it was garbage.
His rant became one of the most memorable tirades in sports history. You can Google it right now and find it. Well, maybe not right now. Maybe wait until Kameron gets up here for his J-Talk!
But you’ve no doubt heard the most memorable line of the rant — “I’m a man, I’m 40.”
The rant was long. The rant was personal.
And the rant was directed at me.
Now, there are a lot of things that I could tell you about that day. Truth be told, a lot has been written and said about The Rant here recently because this is the 10th anniversary of it. Also, Mike celebrated his 50th birthday here recently, so while he may very well be a man, he certainly isn’t 40 anymore.
At my newspaper, The Oklahoman – which was my employer when The Rant happened, and yes, by the way, it is STILL my employer! – we did some things on Mike Gundy’s birthday and on the anniversary of The Rant. But really, it’s been interesting for me to watch what OTHERS have done. Their storylines. Their takes. Their analysis.
And one of the things that I’ve noticed is this – I am not central to the story.
Sometimes, my name isn’t even used. Many stories refer to a reporter or maybe even a columnist. But even if my name is used, there’s not a ton written or said about me.
And that is magnificent.
It warms my heart.
Now, don’t misunderstand – I’m not saying that because I want to distance myself from what I wrote. The column that sparked The Rant was about a change that Oklahoma State made at quarterback. That position is a pretty big deal in football, and it was made even bigger at OSU by the fact that the Cowboys had decided to bench a guy who had been – and still is – one of the most high-profile recruits in program history.
But when OSU’s coaches were asked publicly about why the change was being made from one starter to another, their explanations weren’t jiving with what our reporters knew to be true. They said the original starter was hurt, but there was more to it than they were saying.
I believe with every fiber in my being that what I wrote was not only accurate but also necessary for our coverage. OSU’s fans wanted to know why their team was going from a ballyhooed quarterback to a guy who had largely been under the radar, and with the help of our beat writers, that column provided some answers.
The original starter just wasn’t the leader that the coaches wanted. The new guy was, and in retrospect, the change was a great move. The new guy became one of the most successful quarterbacks and most beloved players of all time at OSU.
But no one knew how things would go at the time. Instead, our readers were trying to figure out why the change had been made. My column helped put the pieces of the puzzle together.
So, again, the reason that I’m happy about my name and my role in The Rant fading is not because I want to disassociate myself from what I wrote. Rather, I’m happy about that because I believe it’s a reflection of how I handled the whole situation.
Now, I’m not going to lie to you and say that handling the fallout was easy.
It was very, very difficult.
In the days that followed, all sorts of local and national media wanted to talk to me. When The Rant happened, YouTube was only a couple years old. I’m gonna guess that The Rant might’ve been one of the first videos to truly go viral on YouTube. It was everywhere, and weirdly for me, so was I. SportsCenter. Good Morning America. USA Today. On and on.
I only did a couple interviews because after a few days, my editors decided that we weren’t going to discuss The Rant anymore. Again, it wasn’t because we didn’t stand behind what had been written; I actually asked Mike, Coach Gundy, at his weekly press conference a few days after The Rant to outline any factual errors in the column. He’d said that the column was false, and we have a policy of correcting errors that appear in our newspaper, I gave him the chance to provide me a list of errors so that I might correct them.
He offered none.
So, after writing about that, I didn’t write another word about The Rant until last month. TEN YEARS. I can’t say I didn’t casually throw in a catchphrase from The Rant from time to time – “That ain’t true!” is a favorite that appeared in a few of my columns – but I stayed true to the decision that my editors made.
What we did – and I say we because I felt very much part of a team, very much supported by the newsroom in the days after The Rant – we did because we had work to do. We had some really good teams and really big things going on in our sports world that fall. We had to get on about the business of covering the teams, the sports, the games. We had to write stories and columns. We had to do videos and blogs. We had to edit and design.
And that’s what we did.
But even though we stopped talking and writing about The Rant, that doesn’t mean everyone else did. For weeks, maybe even longer, I received emails about the whole thing. I have to admit that while I believe reader feedback is an extremely important part of what I do, I didn’t read all those emails. To this day, I haven’t read all those emails.
There were times when they were hitting my inbox so fast that it was like a Tweetdeck newsfeed during the Super Bowl. One right after the other.
And even though I didn’t read every word of every email, I know that many of them were critical. Some were angry. Some were furious. Some were vile.
There were funny ones. Or at least I thought they were funny! People told me that I needed to go back into the kitchen and bake some cookies. (Joke’s on them – because in our house, it’s my husband who does the cooking. Or at least the cooking that’s edible!) But there were also emails that degraded me, threatened me.
Things I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
Those sorts of things are, unfortunately, something that I have to deal with from time to time. Even though this is 2017 – or maybe it’s BECAUSE this is 2017 and the media is under attack these days from the highest elected positions to the lowest common denominators – the media has become a big target.
Big picture – I believe it’s because, right now, people in our country are fearful. Mad. Scared. And lots of times, they take that out on reporters.
Then in my situation, you add in the fact that I’m a woman telling people how they should feel about sports? It only adds to some people’s fears. I truly believe that a lot of the vitriol leveled at women in sports media comes from men who are scared. Scared that one more of “their areas” is being taken away from them. Scared that women writing and talking and pontificating about sports is a sign that “their control” is slipping away.
Listen, I’m all for people disagreeing with me. If they have a different opinion than I do, great. If they see something another way than I do, OK. Let’s talk about it. But when people see a difference of opinion as an opportunity to attack me personally, that isn’t OK.
But here’s the thing – I get to choose how those things affect me.
(The “mute” button on Twitter is a wonderful, beautiful function, by the way!)
There was a time when ugly comments and hurtful emails did affect me. They made me wonder, “Am I any good at my job? Am I qualified?” Or worse, “Am I in this position just because I’m a woman?”
But then I realized that I have a lot of co-workers who like what I do. Same for a good number of respected folks in sports media. They like my writing. They like my ideas. So, why would I allow the words of a reader to carry more weight than their words? Why would the criticism carry more weight than the praise?
It’s human nature, I suppose. How many times have we heard athletes and coaches say they remember the losses way more than the wins? I suppose it’s the same with criticism and praise.
Which brings us back to The Rant.
That criticism was tough. The criticism in the moment. The criticism that followed. But I got to decide how it was going to affect me and how I was going to react.
I didn’t lambast Gundy. I didn’t crucify OSU. I didn’t take a flamethrower to everyone and everything who came after me.
That approach isn’t the way most people want to do business these days. Most people want to fight fire with fire. And hey, I believe that there are times to do that – to fight. You can Google my name and Baylor, and since news of their sexual assault cover-up broke, you’ll see that I’m not opposed to fighting for what I think is right.
But in the aftermath of The Rant, I thought that the right thing to do was to get on about the business of doing my job. I had games to cover. I had columns to write.
Wallowing in what had happened wasn’t going to do anyone any good. Not our readers. Not our newspaper. And certainly not me.
One of my good friends who just happens to be one of my editors tells me regularly that I have the thickest skin of anyone he’s ever known. I don’t know about thick skin, but here’s what I do know – my job comes with pressure and stress, but there’s the pressure and stress that I have and then there’s real, hard-core pressure and stress. Try being a Kansas farmer in the 1980s when prices were taking a nose dive and family farms were drying up. That’s what I saw my parents go through.
I know what pressure and stress really is.
I’m just a sports columnist.
Perspective is crucial.
I always remember that there are way bigger issues in the world than the ones I’m facing. Finding ways to continually get that perspective is vital to me. Tutoring at an inner-city school. Driving a van for an after-school program. Teaching a kids’ Sunday school class.
I can’t tell you how to handle tough situations that come your way, but I can tell you that if you’re in the media business very long, tough situations will come your way. I know it’s difficult right now for a lot of you who are in college to think about anything other than your career. You want to get started. You want to sell out to the job.
I was you once upon a time.
But I have found that being able to handle those critical emails, those mean tweets and yes, even the occasional post-game rant that goes viral, knowing who you are and what matters to you is crucial.
It’s not about thick skin – it’s about being comfortable in the skin you have.
—Transcript of Jenni Carlson’s remarks at J-School Generations. The University of Kansas football team takes on Oklahoma State, coached by Mike Gundy, at Memorial Stadium this weekend in its final football game of the season.
You’re already in your seat. You’re still in line at the snack bar. Or maybe you are enjoying one last beverage before heading into Memorial Stadium. Be anywhere else but under the east side stands about 40 minutes before kickoff, and you will miss a Marching Jayhawks tradition that’s a little more obscure than most.
For 40 years, the Marching Jayhawks have used one song to pump them up before running onto the field at Memorial Stadium to play the songs that get everyone else ready for the game.
“When it’s hog calling time in Nebraska When it’s hog calling time in Nebraska When it’s hog calling time in Nebraska When it’s hog calling time in Nebraska A-a-men!”
If it sounds bizarre and unofficial, that’s because it is. Unlike other KU traditions that date back to the late 19th century, “Hog Calling” began 40 years ago when a group of Marching Jayhawks were bored.
From the top
Lee Whitman, d’82, from Kearney, Nebraska, learned the song while working on staff at a Boy Scout camp. “It was a silly song the staff would sing to the Boy Scout troops, kind of like a comedy skit,” Whitman said.
“It was started my freshman year in 1977 when three friends and I were trying to kill time before run-in by singing classic barbershop quartet songs. Fellow tubas John Clyatt & Gordon Lankenau, drum major Steve Gordon, and I ran through a few songs to scattered applause and had time to do one more. I pulled Hog Calling out and said to just follow my lead. The people listening laughed and next week we were asked to do it again. And so it started. By the time I marched my last game as a student, it had elevated to most of the band gathering around to join in,” Whitman said.
“Don’t ask me what made me suggest the four of us sing it that first time in 1977, or why such a nonsensical song would catch on in Jayhawk nation. It just happened. It was just a time-killer until everyone yelled ‘drums on the field’ meaning we were getting ready to run down the steps and start pregame.”
Surprised that the song is still going strong, 40 years later?
“I thought it would die a swift death after I graduated in 1982.”
Hog Calling today
Bennett Johnson, a Lenexa senior studying music education, is a drum major for the Marching Jayhawks. As a four-year member, Johnson has gone from wide-eyed freshman to a leader for more than 250 students in the band.
“The freshmen in the band aren’t told about it beforehand, and the surprise is pretty amazing,” Johnson said. “I thought it was one of the coolest experiences I’d had at KU so far.”
Like most traditions, the Hog Calling has changed over time. The entire band gathers arm-in-arm in circles and sings the verse two times. In between verses, a band member gives a short speech while everyone hums along to the melody. Afterwards, everyone huddles up for a ‘What time is it? Game time!’ call and response.
Since the sousaphone section started the tradition 40 years ago, it’s only appropriate that they get their time to shine during each rendition today.
“Each game, a different sousaphone member gives the speech and leads the chant at the end,” Johnson said. “The last game of the season is usually taken by the most senior member of the section.”
Despite the changes, don’t expect to hear complaining from those who were there first.
“I love how it has morphed over the years,” Whitman said. “I like that Hog Calling is our band’s private tradition, and the members are free to modify as they see fit. When we started, it was four guys singing at a single run-in line and believe me, even after we graduated we had no idea that the younger students would keep it up!”
The other KU team
As a group of students that commit their free time three days a week to practice—plus gamedays, which are often all-day affairs— the Marching Jayhawks share a bond in their passion for the University, the music, and each other: the other KU team that plays on Saturdays on the hill.
“The band is a family, often as close-knit as any greek house or other similar organization,” Whitman said. “We aren’t all music majors, in fact I think a majority are not. But we love playing, being part of the game day experience, and being a part of one of the best marching band programs around.”
KU’s 105th Homecoming celebration, Jayhawks of the Galaxy, takes place Oct. 1-7, 2017. All alumni are invited to return to their alma mater, including Marching Jayhawks. Band alumni return to Memorial Stadium every Homecoming to march on the field— and join in the hog calling! For a full list of activities and events during Homecoming week, visit the Homecoming website. Homecoming is sponsored by Crown Toyota Volkswagen.