Originally established in 1866, the University of Kansas is widely revered as one of the finest collegiate sports institutions in the country, thanks in no small part to the most celebrated cheer in college history. “Rock Chalk, Jayhawk” was originally penned to be used by the school’s science club, but it took on a larger meaning once it was adopted by the university in 1887. While their exploits with beakers and burners are equally notable in some circles, it’s what Kansas does on the basketball court that has created legions of diehard supporters.
The storied men’s basketball program can trace its roots all the way back to the sport’s beginning. The inventor of the game, Dr. James Naismith, joined the phys ed department at Kansas in 1898 and introduced students to “basket ball.” Contrary to popular belief, Jayhawks hoops didn’t begin with them battling their border rivals, the Missouri Tigers. Actually, most schools didn’t have teams then, so Kansas was squaring off against squads from the YMCA. In 1907, one of Naismith’s former players, Forrest “Phog” Allen, was selected to serve as the school’s next head coach. Allen would guide the team for the next two seasons before leaving to further his academic pursuits. He’d return 10 years later and go on to lead the crimson and blue for the next 37 years. As a lasting tribute, the Jayhawks coliseum was named Allen Fieldhouse in 1955.
A national championship would come to Lawrence in 1952, and four years later, a seven-foot tall titan would arrive and change everything. Wilt Chamberlain never won an NCAA title, but in his time wearing a Jayhawks uniform, he made Kansas a national attraction. During his very first game, Chamberlain scored an incredible 52 points and grabbed an astonishing 31 rebounds. He’d depart for the NBA after just two seasons, but he still left an indelible mark on Jayhawks history. The excitement that Wilt conjured up would return to Allen Fieldhouse 26 years later when another giant joined the squad, hometown hero Danny Manning.
Over the course of his four-year career, Manning would be named to the All-American team three times and lead Kansas to their second national championship in 1988. By this point, the Jayhawks were an absolute dynasty; they’d reach the NCAA tournament in 25 of the 26 seasons that followed and capture yet another title in 2008.
With more than 40 postseason appearances and numerous Final Four finishes, the Jayhawks intimidate foes wherever they go, but they may be at their most menacing when playing at Allen Fieldhouse. From February 2007 to January 2011, Kansas won a remarkable 69 home games in a row.
While their team mascot is a fictitious creature, the Kansas Jayhawks are very much a real thing. The crimson and blue have hung tough for more than 100 years, and in that time, opponents such as Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor, and Missouri have all come to learn that “Rock Chalk” really only means one thing: they’re going down, because Kansas and their fans mean business.