Pay Heed, All Who Enter
In 1988, a couple of KU students hatched an idea, created a banner and left a legacy that has come to define KU’s storied Allen Fieldhouse, known to many simply as “the Phog.” Thirty years later, the friends and KU alumni reunited to reminisce about the banner and how it all came to be.
“I was in class one day and had been thinking about it for a while,” Todd Gilmore revealed in a recent article in the Kansas City Star. “Then we started talking about building it.”
Gilmore, a’88, and classmate Michael Gentemann, a’88, went on the record in a short documentary aired by ESPN this week, sharing the story of how their partner in crime, Tom Kippenberger, a’88, managed to secure ten shower curtains from McCollum Hall, pinning them together to form one massive banner.
Gentemann did the honors by sketching out the now-famous phrase while a group of friends painted the sacred text on the banner sprawled across the floor of a hallway in Marvin Hall.
The banner was first hoisted into the rafters of the fieldhouse on Feb. 20, 1988.
“I’d never ever heard the words ‘the Phog,’ and he coined it,” Gentemann said of Gilmore’s reference to Forrest Allen’s nickname, now synonymous with the fieldhouse that bears his name. “It took off from there. Now it’s on T-shirts, coffee mugs, credit cards… it’s on everything.”
The short documentary can be watched in its entirety here, with comments from Coach Bill Self, ESPN College Game Day Analyst Jay Bilas and Allen’s own granddaughter, Judy Morris, c’60.
“What it has done is not only give the opposing team a little shudder maybe as they come through the doors,” Morris reflects in the mini-documentary, “but it also puts my grandfather’s name, “Phog,” out there and makes people remember him.”
Phog Allen’s legacy, and the phrase inspired by his name, live on inside Allen Fieldhouse where a vinyl version of the banner has replaced the original. It hangs in the Booth Hall of Athletics, enshrined behind glass, where Gilmore can admire their handiwork and marvel at that magical time in 1988.
“To win the national championship our senior year, Danny’s last year, we had this banner put up, what a perfect way to end a college career,” he said. “Can’t get any better than that.”
ABOUT THE VIDEO:
Curtis Marsh, director of the DeBruce Center, shared some behind-the-scenes information about the making of the video.
“We hosted the film crew in the DeBruce Center, along with a sizable group of the guys who created the banner. It was great to see a collection of alumni who still remain close and connect regularly. They were a treat to have in the building, and we did all the interviews on the DeBruce Center third floor, just steps away from where the men’s and women’s basketball teams eat their evening meals.”
So, about the footage of the students creating the banner…
“The following day, a group of current students were filmed painting a replica of the Banner, pretending to hang it in the Fieldhouse and even pretending to steal the shower curtains. The film crew did such a great job with the video reenactment that many viewers think it’s the real footage from the 80s! Some clips came from a video from that time period, but the banner footage is from 2018.”
The creators of the famous “Beware of the Phog” banner, hanging at Allen Fieldhouse, home of the Jayhawks, tell you how they did it in this interview with Jesse Newell for the Kansas City Star.
The new home of Naismith’s original rules of basketball hosted a housewarming party when the DeBruce Center held its official grand opening celebration on Saturday, July 23. Hundreds of loyal fans and alumni made the pilgrimage to Lawrence to pay tribute to the game’s inventor and tour the new building connected to Allen Fieldhouse.
Visitors took in exhibit panels telling the story of Naismith and the influence he and Phog Allen, the “father of basketball coaching,” had on the world. Two of Phog’s former players, Bill Hougland, b’52, and Jerry Waugh, d’51 g’59, were among the first through the doors, eager to view the rules and relive their glory days playing basketball for KU.
“We only had one set of rules when we played, and those were Doc Allen’s rules,” Hougland shared. “You didn’t break those.”
Families enjoyed games and attractions for kids, including face painting, balloon animals, and book signings. Fans were able to view the star attraction, Naismith’s original rules, with a recording of a radio broadcast of Naismith being interviewed. The recording, in which Naismith talks about his invention, was recently discovered by a KU researcher and is the only known recording of Naismith.
Some of the fun and attractions were chronicled on social media by those who took time to visit the DeBruce Center, which you can check out below.
For those who visit, more sights and sounds abound, including a short movie presentation (in a small theater in Allen Fieldhouse), plus shopping and dining options at the Original Rules Gift Shop and the Courtside Cafe. The DeBruce Center is operated by the KU Memorial Unions and is open Monday through Thursday from 7am to 6pm, Friday from 7am to 5pm and Saturdays 10am – 5pm. It is closed on Sundays.
Just in time for the 87th edition of the Kansas Relays, a KU alumnus has published a complete history of the meet all the way back to its origins. In The Kansas Relays: Track and Field Tradition in the Heartland, Joe D. Schrag, g’68, chronicles this history of the meet, which along with the Drake, Texas and Penn Relays, is one of the most storied collegiate track and field meets in the country.
This year, the Kansas Relays will relocate to Rock Chalk Park, vacating Memorial Stadium where the meet first took place in 1923 and has resided since on the third weekend in April, giving thousands of high school students (and future Jayhawks) from across the Midwest their first glimpse of the University of Kansas.
Alumni and fans who attended the Relays will recall history-making performances from legends like Jim Ryun, Al Oerter and Wes Santee, each of whom are featured among many others. Look for the book to arrive late April from Adina Publishing. Here, the author provides an exclusive excerpt from the first chapter describing the origins of the Kansas Relays.
Dr. Outland’s Dream Fulfilled: The Tradition Begins
“From the sun-kissed slopes of Mount Oread, on the banks of the majestic Kaw, there was sent in the spring of 1923 a call to athletes of America inviting them to meet on the Kansas memorial stadium field in a major outdoor relay classic.”
— 1926 Kansas Relays meet program
When a University of Kansas multi-sport athlete named John Outland made the decision to attend medical school at the University of Pennsylvania, the Kansas Relays was conceived. Outland gained fame for his exploits on the gridiron as he was named the first football player to be named All-American at two different positions. Most sports fans who know of him today don’t think of track and field. They know Outland by the trophy he brainstormed that now bears his name. He believed tackles and guards deserved more credit, so the Outland Trophy was established in 1946 and awarded to the best interior lineman in college football.
Outland starred in baseball and football at Kansas in 1895 and 1896, after which he went to Philadelphia to pursue a medical degree at the University of Pennsylvania, where he continued to play football. Here he became enamored of the Penn Relays, which was established in 1895 and almost immediately was reputed to be the largest track and field meet in the world in terms of participation.
In 1900, Outland returned to Lawrence as Dr. Outland, established his medical practice, and coached football at KU for a year. He then moved his practice to Topeka, Kan., and coached football there at Washburn University for two years before joining the Trinity-Lutheran Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., as a surgeon. While practicing in Kansas City, he served on the KU athletic board with such notables as Dr. James Naismith and Dr. Forrest C. “Phog” Allen. Especially with Allen, Outland shared his vision of a large-scale track and field meet similar to the “carnival” at Penn. It would be, Outland said, a way to promote the university. As he said in a Relays “pep” convocation prior to the 1924 Relays, “The name of Kansas can go further through the Relays than any other form of athletics because of the numbers competing” (University Daily Kansan, April 15, 1924).
While KU’s geographical location in the heartland of American was an advantage, there were no facilities adequate to hold such an extravaganza. That all changed in 1921 when construction of Memorial Stadium, built to honor KU students who served and died in World War I, was completed. The venue is recognized as the first stadium built on a college campus west of the Mississippi, and claimed to be the eighth oldest collegiate stadium in the nation. Allen, football coach for one year in 1920, coached in the last football game at old McCook Field. On Monday after that game, a 20-20 come-from-behind tie with Nebraska, exuberant students and faculty pledged over $200,000 toward the building of a new stadium. Construction of the facility began, under the watchful eye of Allen, who was also director of athletics. Allen envisioned a horseshoe-shaped, concrete stadium and insisted that a track be built inside. A “Stadium Day” on May 10, 1921 brought more than 4,000 students to demolish McCook Field in what is considered the groundbreaking date for the new stadium. It was ready for football on Oct. 3, 1921, a 21-7 victory over the rival Kansas Aggies (Kansas State), which the Jayhawks won 21-7 in front of 5,160 fans.
With this edifice, Outland’s dream of a large-scale track meet could become a reality (although the horseshoe didn’t connect the east and west bleachers until 1927). The university’s athletic board gave the go-ahead. Head coach Karl Schlademan, who in his first four years had built KU into something of a regional track power, was given the responsibility of putting it all together in time for the 1923 season. This job of directing the Relays became the responsibility of the head coach in the formative years of the Relays.
Once the decision was made to hold a relays carnival, the next order of business was to find a suitable date. Already in place was the State Inter-Scholastic Track Meet, which Chancellor Frank Strong established in 1904 as a ploy to get students on campus at a time when recruiting by athletic teams was illegal (see Chapter 4 for more on the origins of the high school meet). This one-day meet had been held successfully for 19 years on an April weekend at McCook Field, so it seemed logical to put the university relays, also conceived as a one-day meet, on the same weekend. Thus the two separate events were permanently linked as the Kansas Relays.
In the inaugural Kansas Relays, the Saturday schedule of collegiate and university events included two Kansas high school championship relays and three high school open relays, which made it possible to get non-Kansas students on campus. After the first year, the two Kansas relays were dropped and four open high school relays were contested on Saturday.
On April 21, 1923, people arrived by Model T, bus and train to attend the first Kansas Relays. Stadium capacity at this stage of construction was 22,000. Entered in the event were over 1,000 competitors (about 400 from high schools alone) from 23 universities, 19 colleges, four military academies and 35 high schools. The program consisted of 18 relay events and nine individual events. Almost every event was run in steady rain, and a downpour the day before left the track a muddy mess. Still, an estimated 7,000 fans endured the windy and cloudy conditions, paying 75 cents to $1.50 for the privilege of doing so.
The visions of Outland, the “Father of the Kansas Relays,” and Allen, “The Founder of the Kansas Relays,” had come to fruition. The Kansas Relays, which skeptics called “Phog’s Folly,” became, and continues to be, one of the premier track and field carnivals, not only in the Midwest but also in the nation.
Presaging future years, the inaugural KU Relays featured notable performances and star athletes. Despite a soggy track, the Kansas quarter-mile relay team ran 43.0 and missed the world record by one-fifth of a second.
Two Kansas athletes would become Olympians for the 1924 Games in Paris, France. All-American Tom Poor won the high jump at 6 feet, 1 ¼ inches and defended that title the next two years. He placed fourth in the 1924 Olympics. Merwin “Marvin” Graham jumped 22 feet, 1 ½ inches in the broad jump. Graham placed ninth in the hop-step-jump in Paris.
For more information about The Kansas Relays: Track and Field Tradition in the Heartland, by Joe Schrag, go to www.adinapublishing.com.
– David Johnston