"The St. Andrews of college basketball"
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“The game’s history comes through Lawrence. Every road in the game leads here — every single road,” Jay Bilas said. “Rupp played here. Dean Smith played here. Phog Allen coached here. Naismith was the first coach; he invented the game.”
Calling Allen "the St. Andrews of college basketball, Bilas goes on to say this:
"That building has a soul. You can feel the aura of the building even when it’s empty. That’s one of my favorite times to be there. Before or after practice, when nobody’s there and you’re just kind of looking around, it’s understated but beautiful. It’s been updated, but it’s still old-school."
Duke Basketball Report
History practically seeps from the walls – they literally rolled out Naismith’s original rules of the game at halftime – and the 16,000-plus people who packed inside this terror dome known as “The Phog” roared from tip to buzzer.
ESPN's Reese Davis on Allen Fieldhouse, "It's the best place to see a game on the planet." #kubball #KSUvsKU
Kentucky and Kansas played a classic regular season college basketball game, people, a down-to-the-wire battle between the two winningest programs in the sport. The atmosphere inside the packed Allen Fieldhouse was tremendous and ridiculous, and at times comparable to the inside of a jet engine.
The Kansas fans brought their zealotry A-game. They turned The Phog into a Phurnace, with piped-in sound system and human screams both turned to 11. This was an immersion in oppressive noise.
For all of us, it was 40 minutes — nope, sorry, 45 — of uncommonly entertaining basketball between two of the greatest programs in NCAA history in the finest venue the college game has to offer.
"Saturday night was another reminder that Phog Allen, not Cameron, is the best, loudest and most intimidating basketball arena in the country. The alma mater sound, the Rock Chalk Jayhawk chant, the swaying of the crowd, and the deafening noise at times, make The Phog a true treasure in the sport."
—Andy Katz, ESPN reporter
"I thought the atmosphere was unbelievable. I've been here before, but it's just such an unbelievable place. It has such character. I can't say I've ever been in a better arena."
—Jay Bilas, ESPN announcer
"I tell everybody there's not a place around—I know Chapel Hill, Pauley Pavilion, Cameron, you name it. They are pretty special, but there's nothing like this. All the guys who scout, I always tell them, 'You'll never have an experience like Allen Fieldhouse.' This is how a college fieldhouse is supposed to be."
—Larry Brown, former KU, UNC, UCLA, and NBA coach and Hall of Famer
"Best arena: Allen Fieldhouse, Kansas. Do you really have to ask? Few sports venues anywhere can match the tradition of Allen Fieldhouse."
—Jim Caple, ESPN, Journey to the Heart of Hoop
"Best Arena: Phog Allen Fieldhouse, Kansas. A simply awesome basketball barn that never fails to inspire a bit of awe, especially when the sun is shining in through the end zone windows."
—Dan Wetzel, Yahoo! Sports
"Allen Fieldhouse, with its windows up on the walls and cozy size, is my favorite venue in college basketball. It has all the great atmosphere of Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium, with none of the pretentiousness."
—J.A. Adande, LA Times
ESPN.com Poll (at 110,000 votes)
- What is the toughest venue for visitors in college basketball?
39% Allen Fieldhouse (Kansas)
27% Cameron Indoor Stadium (Duke)
11% Kohl Center (Wisconsin)
5% Rupp Arena (Kentucky)
- Where would you most want to watch a game?
42% Allen Fieldhouse (Kansas)
29% Cameron Indoor Stadium (Duke)
8% Rupp Arena (Kentucky)
It doesn't feel like a palace and it doesn't feel like a relic. Allen Fieldhouse is cozily tucked right on the edge of campus, but unless you're a fan of the game you wouldn't even know what's there unless you actually got to step through the doors. When you do you're not stepping into a time machine, and I think that's an important distinction. Butler's Hinkle Fieldhouse, The Palestra in Philadelphia and Rose Hill Gymnasium (home to Fordham and the longest active D-I gym in the sport) have this power of instantly transporting you and holding ghosts in the room. Allen Fieldhouse feels effortlessly timeless in a modern way.
There's a contemporary, clean, simple feel to the surrounding hallways and foyers that bumper the arena. Students "camp" out by way of a sophisticated grouping system with sporadic roll calls throughout the week to ensure they keep their place in line (a lottery drawn earlier in the week determines which group gets first dibs, second, third, etc. to enter). Only one group rep needs to be in the main concourse when roll is randomly called, so instead of 4,000 students camping outside of Allen Fieldhouse, you've got 300 or so students posted up inside on their phones, tablets or laptops. It looks like they're all waiting on a delayed flight at the airport.
…The arena is basically filled -- no exaggeration here; maybe 5 percent of the seats weren't occupied -- with 30 minutes still to go before tip-off. This is obviously uncommon for most other places, which struggle to get everyone in the bowl in time for the national anthem. The student section soon after begins to yell "Rock chalk!" to one side of the arena, and a response of "Jay! Hawk!" is reciprocated. This lays the foundation for the audience's crescendo that will rise over the next 18 minutes. A woman is holding a sign that says she came from Alaska to watch this game in person. There are a few other signs with interesting slogans, brought in by students, that I can't share on this site. Long live college creativity.
…The game -- which was remarkably fun and entirely unpredictable -- gets to overtime after Frank Mason almost buries a 48-footer at the end of regulation. If Mason makes that shot, I'm probably unconscious five seconds later.
Before the bonus session starts, the decibel level hits 118. Someone is saying something to me, but I can't even pretend to hear a damn thing because it's so loud. It's right there in that moment that I know I'm experiencing something so special to the job and vital to the sport. I can't believe it -- and I sort of told myself I wouldn't let it happen -- but the ethos of the building has lived up to the enormous amounts of hype that comes with it. I want everyone who loves college basketball -- OK, basketball -- to venture to Lawrence and get to live through something like this.
…The Phog is a spectacle and experience to itself, unmatched in college basketball but also in all of sports. The best part is it's made possible not by any tricky architecture of the building or any acoustic quirks that enhance the environment. Allen Fieldhouse is so distinctive and intimidating because of the beloved vehemence and unrelenting passion of the fan base. The indelible house can live forever because Kansas fans will always bring it to life. I can still hear the noise, and I assume I'll hear it for the rest of my life.
Allen Fieldhouse is as special as advertised. I know because I went to a game there the other night for the first time. From the intimate feel to the "Beware of the Phog" banners to "Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk" to the Jayhawk logo that consumes half of the playing court, the place is unique. From the time you walk inside, it just feels different.
...But what makes the place special is not so much the setting, which certainly lives up to DeCourcy's story. What makes a game at Allen so different are the fans, who were as into a game as much as any I've ever seen -- and believe me, I'm old and have been to a ton of games.
What I'll remember is not the final score (the Jayhawks won by a bunch) or individual performances, but the atmosphere created at the soldout gym:
• I do not take Mike's advice and arrive hours early to stake a place in line for a decent seat in one of the four GA sections. Instead, we arrive at 6:30 for the 8 p.m. (central time) Big Monday tipoff. The GA sections already are packed and ushers already are asking those seated to squeeze together to make way for more. But it's not happening. Standing outside an upper-level entry there are at least a dozen of us holding GA tickets who appear to be out of luck. But the ushers assure us, "We'll take care of you." About 10 minutes before tipoff, one of them does just that. We show him our GA tickets and he trades us a set of tickets that apparently weren't going to be used. We make our way to the other side of the building where another usher leads us to section 9, row 11. I am smiling. We are at the top of the first level behind the basket. This is going to work out fine.
• Early in the game, Mario Chalmers is leading a fast break, speeding toward the basket on the left side. Brandon Rush has set up behind the 3-point line beyond the right elbow. Every fan on our end of the court seems to anticipate the same thing: Chalmers is going to leave his feet like he's going in for a layup, but instead he's going to pass to an open Rush. As Chalmers leaves his feet, so do the fans. By the time Rush releases, the crowd already is ready to erupt. The shot goes in. The crowd goes nuts. It's almost as if we are part of the play.
• About halfway into the first half, Kansas is applying some serious pressure to Oklahoma in the half-court defense. The shot clock is ticking down. Oklahoma can't find a passing lane. A Sooner trapped with the ball at the hash mark near half court has to pass away from the basket. The crowd goes crazy, showing its appreciation for a defensive stand that does not result in a blocked shot or a turnover, but "just" a bad shot.
• A couple of grandmotherly types are sitting in front of me, and from the way they are talking and watching, you know they are serious. Now it's halftime and the Jayhawks are up 40-20, partly because Sooners star big man Blake Griffin played only a few minutes before leaving with what apparently is a knee injury. Both grandmoms are texting away. I'm thinking, if they're texting at a basketball game, they can't be that devoted. When I turn my head just so, I have a clear view of one of their cell phones so I decide to sneak a peak and see just how into this game they are. The message, obviously being sent to someone at home watching on TV: "What happened to the big guy?"
Now that's a fan, the kind that makes a trip to Allen Fieldhouse an experience to remember.
“It’s just not a place you go down there and win very often,” said ISU coach Fred Hoiberg of the historic arena in Lawrence, Kan., home of the No. 6 Jayhawks. “If you win one there, obviously it’s huge.”
Huge, and, in recent memory, unprecedented.
In the 11 seasons since Bill Self arrived at Kansas in 2003, his Jayhawks have gone 169-9 in front of the home crowd. The Allen Fieldhouse sellout streak goes beyond that, with fans packing every available seat for 206 consecutive games dating back to the 2001-02 season.
All-time, Kansas has gone 48-9 against Iowa State at Allen Fieldhouse since it opened in 1955.
“It’s a fun place to play at, there’s a lot of energy in that building,” said sophomore Georges Niang, who experienced it for the first time last season.
The definition of fun depends on who is being asked.
“It’s fun for a lot of people; it’s not fun for the coaches,” Hoiberg said with a laugh. “It’s a cool place, it’s a great atmosphere and obviously they have a lot of history. I think the two loudest arenas, if you asked anybody in our league, would be Kansas and Iowa State. I think we’ve got the two best atmospheres.”
The low ceiling and one block of wooden bleacher seats that circle the arena have created an electric atmosphere and one of the strongest home court advantages in college basketball. Kansas doesn’t often lose at home, especially in Big 12 play.
...“We either got beat by 30 or 40. I can’t remember the exact final score,” Hoiberg said of playing at Allen Fieldhouse his freshman season. “You can’t simulate [the atmosphere]. It’s an unbelievable place to play, I’ll say that.”
The Cyclones found that out first hand last season as 16,300 fans in attendance erupted as McLemore’s shot sent the Jayhawks to overtime.
“I don’t think any KU fan likes any opposing team that comes in and plays their Jayhawks,” Niang said. “There’s a lot of anger and it’s very loud in there.”
…“If you beat them down there in front of that crowd, that’s one of the games you remember and tell your kids about,” said senior DeAndre Kane.
Iowa State Daily
3/4/13, 8:29 PM
Deshaun Thomas said Assembly Hall was second loudest building he's been in besides Allen Fieldhouse at Kansas.
Allen Fieldhouse one of college basketball’s must-see venues
Was it crazy?
Cramming five friends in a car, driving 2,000 miles and nearly 30 hours over the course of four days doesn’t exactly sound appealing.
But after opening the front doors of Allen Fieldhouse and taking a step inside, I knew it was worth every mile.
For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s some background information:
Thursday night, myself and four other media members decided to drive to Lawrence, Kan., to watch West Virginia take on No. 6 Kansas Saturday afternoon.
The Jayhawks are housed inside the most storied arena in college basketball, and it was a venue on all of our bucket lists.
We arrived in Lawrence Friday afternoon and made our first trek through the concourse of Allen Fieldhouse. We toured the arena home to Wilt Chamberlain’s jersey, the 2008 national championship trophy and a hall displaying information on the program’s 55 conference championships and 14 Final Four appearances.
Behind a glass display, there were the 13 original rules of basketball written by former Kansas head coach James Naismith – the inventor of the sport.
Only a couple hours had passed, and I was already blown away by the history and rich tradition of the 58-year-old arena.
When Saturday morning and gameday arrived, the experience became even more impressive.
After walking by the thousands of fans lined up outside more than two and a half hours before tipoff, I took a seat at midcourt and marveled at my surroundings.
I looked up at the banners decorating the rafters of the arena.
I walked out onto the court from the perspective of a visiting team, passing under the sign "Pay heed, all who enter: Beware of ‘The Phog’" (The Phog referencing former KU head coach Phog Allen, for whom the venue is named).
Then the students, who were let in two hours before the game, sprinted in an attempt to secure seats as close to the action as possible. The general public followed, though at a much slower pace, and Allen Fieldhouse was filled by 16,300 screaming Kansas fans for the 196th consecutive game.
Before the Jayhawks starting lineup was introduced, a pregame video was shown.
And not to take a poke a WVU, but it wasn’t exactly centered around the musical stylings of Sean Kingston.
Clips of Naismith, Danny Manning, Wilt Chamberlain, Paul Pierce and many other storied alumni were shown.
As an avid consumer of college basketball, goosebumps covered my arms and neck for the duration of the video.
The game began shortly after, and the capacity crowd was the loudest of any basketball crowd I’ve ever heard.
The Jayhawks blew out the Mountaineers on the court, and all in attendance stayed until the end, while the echoes of the "Rock Chalk, Jayhawk ... KU" chant reverberated off the ceiling of the Phog.
It is more than just basketball in Lawrence, Kan.; it’s a way of life.
For Jayhawk fans, a Saturday is completely centered around Kansas basketball.
You go early, you stay late and you stand and cheer on your hometown team for an entire 40 minutes ... No matter the score.
Driving halfway across the country to see a basketball team run away with a 91-65 win may not sound like something you have to experience.
But if that drive takes you to Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, it will be worth every second.
Add a Kansas home basketball game to your bucket list if you haven’t already.
WVU Daily Athenaeum 3/5/13
If you kept up with either of the Kansas City Royals’ back-to-back trips to the World Series, surely you’re aware of “Marlins Man,” the fan in the orange visor and Florida Marlins jersey that inevitably showed up in some choice box seats to watch Major League Baseball’s championship.
Well, the super fan, whose real name is Laurence Leavy, made his way to Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday for some college basketball. Marlins Man might not have constantly appeared on TV for Kansas vs. Kentucky, but he sat courtside and apparently left blown away by the KU experience.
Here is the video Marlins Man posted on his Facebook page:
I need to tell everyone that last Saturday night was probably the best basketball experience I have ever been to.I have been to a LOT of basketball games. 70 NBA Finals games and over 200 NBA playoff games. This was non stop energy, passion, excitement. And throughout the game the fans acted like fans might do at the end of a classic game.These fans acted that way the ENTIRE night. Never ever seen that before.Plus it's an old school stadium. No chair back seats. Simply bench seats throughout.I was so excited that I forgot to make a Marlins Man Media Moment. Never happened before.Just watch this small video clip. No imagine it was like this for 3 solid hours. Plus the game went into overtime. ALLEN FIELD HOUSE ROCKS. I can't wait to back again.Btw, I never knew that basketball was invented in Mass., and then the inventor became the coach of Kansas, and he wrote the Rules of Basketball, and that someone paid over 4 million dollars for them. They were returned to Kansas that night at a ceremony. AMAZING
Posted by Laurence Leavy Marlins Man on Saturday, January 30, 2016
Our trip began early Saturday morning.
At around 6:30 am, we pulled out of Stillwater, a city and university known for its rich history in basketball and Gallagher-Iba Arena, "The rowdiest arena in the country."
As we pulled away from the town recently nicknamed "Lob Stilly", we headed for north for Oklahoma State's matchup with the KansasJayhawks.
Their arena, known as Phog Allen Fieldhouse or "The Phog", is very similar to the Cowboys' home court of the past.
But there's only one difference between the past deafening GIA crowds and the ruthless Fieldhouse— Only one seems to still consistently exist.
I had heard stories of the legendary court growing up, and my mind raced with anticipation and eagerness as I prepared myself for the experience I was about to have.
After a four-hour drive that seemed to last forty years, we arrived in Lawrence, Kansas, located in the heart of the Sunflower State
We took a quick tour of the campus, but our minds were elsewhere. Eventually we headed into the arena to find something that seemed less like a 57 year old basketball gym and more like a scene from a movie.
We saw red stairs that seemed to stretch up from the court into forever, almost as if former Jayhawks Phog Allen, Wilt Chamberlain, Danny Manning and many others had literally climbed the worn, wooden steps until they reached the college basketball heavens.
Blue benches shaped the grandstands that would eventually hold a standing room only crowd, a crowd that showed up more than two hours early.
All of the old-timey pieces of the arena were complimented by new touches. A few plasma screen's above the exits here, a four sided LCD scoreboard there, and eventually the 16,300 fans that had packed Allen Fieldhouse to the rafters rose to their feet to welcome their Jayhawks onto the floor.
Every member of press row cast a nervous glance at each other as we felt our eardrums vibrate at a nervous pace.
"This is the kind of atmosphere you want to play in," senior Keiton Page said. "It's the type of games you dream of as a little kid, coming into Lawrence to a packed gym as rowdy as it was."
For forty minutes, Allen Fieldhouse unleashed hell on the ears of everyone in the arena, living and dying by every call made on the floor.
They acted as if nothing else in the world mattered. Not one fan seemed worried about upcoming elections or blizzards barreling their way towards the middle of the United States.
All that mattered was basketball.
"Allen Fieldhouse is one of the most energetic places on earth," said Vince Gerstner, a mechanical engineering student at Kansas. "Even the older people who sit in the expensive seats are standing and screaming for most of the game. There's nothing like it."
Instead of going hoarse as the game carried on, the crowd's voices grew stronger.
Their Jayhawks scored, rebounded and blocked shots, and each time they did so the crowd exploded into a louder than the previous, crazed celebration of a small victory.
"We've talked about this place," Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said. "You try to embrace it as much as you can, but it always gets to you a little bit. This is obviously one of the best arenas in the country."
Just as I began expecting blood to start dripping down my earlobes, the clock read 1:00. The Pokes were trailing 79-62, and the fans knew what to do.
Page, Markel Brown and Le'Bryan Nash tried to desperately to somehow fill the 17 point void, but it didn't matter.
The fans, as if they had practice for hours the night before, began singing.
"Rock Chalk… Jay-hawk… K-U…"
Over and over again the chant rang out as if the masses were singing out to every former player who sat on their throne in college basketball heaven.
But it didn't just serve as a reminder of the crowd's overwhelming school spirit. It also served another purpose.
The hymn was a eulogy, escorting the Cowboys to the grave as they quietly accepted the day's defeat.
The final buzzer rang as fans celebrated and alumni hugged. The Jayhawks had recorded another chapter in the friendly rivalry between the two schools.
Blue and red filed out of the exits, sticking around for over an hour after the game for autographs and pictures by their team's locker room.
While this went on, I found a corner in the work room to go over what I had just experienced.
As I frantically tried to figure out how I was going to explain it, a memory popped into my head.
High above the five national championship banners displayed at the top of the arena was a sign, nestled among the rafters as if it were hiding from the chilling wind on the other side of the walls.
The sign, though small, perfectly explained the exposure I had just had to this phenomenon of a basketball game.
It read "Pay heed, all who enter. Beware of The Phog."
Well said, Allen Fieldhouse. I now understand.
What is the toughest place you have played in your career?
Kansas. Obviously, it’s sold out every single night, and the fans are diehard and would do anything for the team to win. Last year, before the jump ball, I was trying to talk to Kimmie (English) and tell him what defense we were in and he couldn’t even hear me. The game hadn’t even started yet. It was crazy. All he could see was my mouth moving.
Athlon Sports: Phil Pressey
For visiting teams, Allen Fieldhouse is as tough a place to play as any venue in college basketball. Note these comments from visitors to Allen this season:
"I’ve been to Duke and I’ve been to New Mexico and played in The Pit. And I’ve been to Ohio State. I’m from North Carolina...and this place is unbelievable"
-Luke Boythe, UNC Greensboro Senior center
"All of our players on the plane ride back home talked about how loud Allen Fieldhouse was. The crowd simply overwhelmed us. It's the loudest building I've ever been in."
-UCLA coach Steve Lavin
"I think we were intimidated by the crowd in this building. It’s a special place."
- Holy Cross Coach Ralph Willard
"Allen Fieldhouse is Cameron Indoor Stadium with 8,000 more people"
-ESPN analyst Bill Raftery
TRADITION FOR the modern college basketball player is the uniform his team wore last season. History is the last game, if not the last possession.
So how exactly do you account for the University of Kansas?
Smack in the middle of the country, hard by I-70, with its throwback gym right in the middle of campus on Naismith Drive, KU is as much a feeling as it is a place. But it is a place that has a longstanding love affair with its basketball team that shows no signs of abating.
Temple will be in Allen Fieldhouse on Sunday (4:30 p.m., CBS3). The Owls will be greeted by a respectful and reverential fan base. They will know that Temple just won its 1,800th game. They will know that Fran Dunphy is a terrific coach. They will know the Owls beat then-No. 3 Syracuse 3 weeks ago. In fact, they probably watched the tape before coming to the game.
And they will be there, 16,300 strong, just as they always are; filling the three-story building that looks so much like a classroom from the outside and feels so much like a museum on the inside.
…If you are looking for college basketball history, Lawrence is your town. There really is no place quite like it.
"I haven't been everywhere," Self said. "But it wouldn't take long to call roll because there are other places [with great histories]. It is different here . . . It is a way of life here."
Come inside Allen, which opened March 1, 1955, on a cold, winter night and you have no choice but to feel, smell and see the living history.
Wilt played there. So did Danny Manning.
There's a banner in the stands that reads: "Pay Heed, All Who Enter, Beware Of The Phog."
Three of Allen's players - Rupp, Smith and Ralph Miller (who won 674 games at three schools) - are in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. So is Allen and so is John McLendon, who was the first black man to graduate from Kansas with a degree in physical education and went on to win 523 games at three of the South's traditionally black colleges. Williams is enshrined in Springfield as well. Self may be on the way.
Self gave up a great job at Illinois to come to Kansas. He left a team he recruited that played for the 2005 national championship. He was only leaving there for Kansas where he had already worked because he just knew what it was.
"I'd been here," Self said. "I'd seen firsthand how good it is. It was closer to family and I was a Big 8 guy . . . A guy from the Philly area who had a chance to go back to coach at Temple or Villanova . . . More importantly, I'm just the eighth head coach ever in 115 years. I've always been kind of an historian of the game."
You could make a strong case that KU has the best fans in college basketball. Not the most; that is Kentucky. Not the most inventive; that is Duke. Definitely not the meanest; a title shared by many. Just the best.
"They will get after officials every now and then," Self said. "When Missouri rolled into town or K-State or something, there is a little more of a bitter feeling. When Kevin Durant [of Texas] sprained his ankle and had to leave the game to get it retaped, they gave him a standing ovation when he came back. I don't know how many places that would happen."
The answer is none, or nearly none.
…And there are those 16,300 at every game. And those 14 Final Fours. And those three national championships (1952, 1988 and 2008). Whatever KU has done on the court or is about to do, the fans come early and stay late, close game or rout. They love their state. They love their team. They love the game.
Philadelphia Daily News (1/4/13)
You can’t walk into Allen Fieldhouse without being a little blown away that an arena like this even exists anymore. The windows at the top of the gym make you feel like you’re in the 1970s. The wooden bleachers make you feel like it’s the 1950s. Then you look up, and the championship banners go back to the 1920s.
I was walking around Pauley Pavilion at UCLA a few weeks ago, and it was great — the food trucks lining the outdoor concourse were particularly awesome — but it wasn’t 100 years of basketball history crammed into one sturdy old basketball church of a building.
I’d wanted to go to Kansas to see a game for a while now. It’s been on my bucket list since college, and maybe even high school. Too many people have raved about the entire experience — the fans, the stadium, the town of Lawrence — for me to not make it there. Saturday it finally happened for a game between no. 15 KU and no. 9 Oklahoma State.
The gym was half-full with students 90 minutes before tipoff, and the crowd was buzzing. Or booing, technically. After quick bursts of cheers for Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid when they came out for warm-ups, there were much louder boos for Marcus Smart when he emerged from the tunnel. College hoops is so much more fun in person. When you’re surrounded by college kids with painted chests harassing someone like Smart at the top of their lungs — while Smart bobs up and down loving every second of it — it’s impossible not to love this sport.
…After about an hour of players warming up and the stadium slowly filling to capacity, it was time for the pregame rituals. A chorus of the alma mater had the student section locking arms and swaying as they all sang. That gave way to the whole stadium chanting “Rooooooooock Chaaaaaaaalk Jayyyyyyyhaaaaaaawk, K-UUUUUUUUUUU” in a way that would make any outsider think they’d stumbled into some sort of sacred religious gathering. Which isn’t really wrong. (Click here to listen.)
Next, Paul Pierce was on the Jumbotron welcoming us to “Witness the nation’s biggest home-court advantage” and warning us to “Beware of the Phog,” kicking off a highlight video that spanned at least six decades of Kansas basketball being awesome. From Clyde Lovellette to Wilt to Danny Manning to Mario Chalmers. (“Mario’s Miracle” got the loudest cheer of any highlight, by far. Kansas is the one place on earth where Mario Chalmers is every bit as big a name as LeBron James.)
Then it was time for 16,000 people to lose their mind. The PA blared some sort of techno anthem, the Jumbotron panned the crowd displaying a decibel meter that eventually hit 115, and the whole building vibrated for a solid two minutes before tipoff. When the game got started and the stadium finally calmed down for a minute, the 12-year-old sitting next to me said, “Holy COW, that was loud.”
He turned to his mom behind him: “I think my ears are bleeding.”
Swaying student sections. Creepy religious chants. Minds being lost. Ears bleeding. That’s how you start a basketball game. This is why I’d always wanted to come to Kansas.
…Really, nobody in the country has a deeper connection to basketball’s black-and-white past than Kansas does. The first team at KU was literally organized by James Naismith in 1898, for God’s sake. He gave way to Phog Allen, who would go on to coach Dean Smith and Adolph Rupp, who started dynasties of their own at Kentucky and UNC. The college game grew so quickly it became an Olympic sport in the 1930s. Then there were professional leagues, then the NBA, and then both the NBA and NCAA spent the next 50 years slowly taking over America. You can trace it all back to Kansas.
If Allen Fieldhouse on Naismith Drive in Lawrence, Kansas, feels like it’s sacred ground, it really kind of is.
Grantland Andrew Sharp
Aaron Rodgers sat just behind the Kansas bench on Saturday. The Green Bay Packer quarterback said he long had a trip to Allen Fieldhouse on his bucket list.
“I’ve been able to go to Fenway Park in baseball, I play at probably the most famous stadium (Lambeau Field) in the (NFL), and I thought it’d be fun to go to an arena like this that has so much history, a great coach and great support,” Rodgers said.
The truth is, Phog Allen Fieldhouse should be on the bucket list of every sports fan.
I made it back to the Phog on Saturday for the first time in nine years. Hadn’t been since that great 2005 OSU-Kansas game, won by the Jayhawks, and I saw another classic this time, KU’s 80-78 survival of the Cowboys, who stormed back from a 19-point deficit.
My first trip to Allen Fieldhouse came in 1992, and after my trip there for the 1993 OSU-Kansas game, I wrote a tribute column, which you can read here. Allen Fieldhouse was 38 years old in 1993; now it’s 59 years old and better than ever.
Newsok videographer Damon Fontenot, one of my frequent travel partners, had never seen a game at Allen Fieldhouse. So I hit him up with a proposal: drive to Lawrence on Saturday morning, catch the game, do a little work in the press room and hit the road home, with one of us driving and the other working. Makes for an incredibly long day but completely worth it.
We both were covering the Friday night Thunder-Warriors game, and I like to be home Sunday morning, so an all-dayer was the only option. That’s too hard of a day for most events and venues. But Allen Fieldhouse is not most venues.
Allen Fieldhouse is a 16,300-seat coliseum with all bleacher seats. It’s got the old fieldhouse feel, complete with windows at the top on each end, which makes for a great setting on day games. It’s got the court named after James Naismith, who invented the game in 1891 and brought it to KU in 1898. It’s got the great sign, “Pay Heed, All Who Enter: Beware of the Phog.” It’s got the jerseys of Kansas greats hanging from the rafters. Names like Chamberlain and Lovellette and (JoJo) White and Valentine and Manning and Pierce and Hinrich and Collison.
The exterior of Allen Fieldhouse looks the same as always, but the bowels have been modernized. The KU athletics museum on the east side is much more extensive, though at a cost of some color. Doesn’t seem quite as quaint. But the old midcourt circle remains, the original wood with the K in a circle. When Roy Williams became KU’s coach 25 years ago, he had an outline of the state of Kansas, with a star where Lawrence is located, placed at Allen Fieldhouse’s midcourt. When Bill Self became coach 10 years ago, he replaced the map with the big Jayhawk bird you see now. But I’d love to see Allen Fieldhouse go back to that big K.
A Kansas basketball game is where you run into all kinds of dignitaries. In the press room, I chatted with Philadelphia 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie, the pride of Marlow, who introduced me to Utah Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey. And in the press room before the game was the legendary Max Falkenstien, who retired in 2006 after 60 years as the radio voice of KU basketball.
I chatted with Bob Davis, who was Falkenstien’s radio partner for 22 years and has been calling the Jayhawks for 30 years, if he still gets a thrill every time he walks into the arena. “Every time,” Davis said.
But the real source of Allen Fieldhouse’s magic is the passion of the fans. Just driving around campus 2-3 hours before the game, you get the sense of a gameday. Like we experience with football in Norman and Stillwater and like most of America experiences. But in a few enclaves, basketball reigns supreme. Lawrence, Bloomington, Lexington, Durham, Chapel Hill. That’s about it.
I don’t know how else to describe it, but Damon felt it, too. Just the understanding that basketball matters. From the Rock Chalk Jayhawk chant to the ensemble of long trumpets that played the KU alma mater pregame and stayed to play the national anthem to the pregame video showing great moments in KU basketball history, you quickly remember that in Lawrence, basketball is more than a game. It’s in the culture. In Norman and Stillwater, basketball is a game and football is a way of life. It’s the opposite at KU, which has a living, breathing monument of a building that celebrates the sport.
Back when Ken Trickey still had a future as the Oral Roberts basketball coach - four weeks ago - he took his team to Kansas for a sound thrashing.
But the 140-72 verdict did not sour the Trickster's trip. "This is basketball," he said. "A hundred years of tradition. " Then Trickey, a man who made his name working for a prophet of God, turned visionary himself. Perhaps thinking of KU's eight coaching changes in 95 years and ORU's impending eighth in 24 years, Trickey said: "You take all the schools in Oklahoma and put them together, and it still doesn't compare with Kansas. This is a classy place. " Ouch!, says Oklahoma. Hey!, says Oklahoma State. But Trickey wasn't knocking his neighbors. It's just that Allen Fieldhouse is a very special place.
It is college basketball's Fenway Park. Its Rose Bowl, its Augusta National.
North Carolina abandoned Carmichael Auditorium. Pauley Pavillion's magic hit the road with John Wooden. Rupp Arena is annexed to a hotel and shopping mall, for goodness sakes!
But stately Allen Fieldhouse, 38 years young, still sits on Naismith Drive, hosting the greats and housing the ghosts of college basketball.
"I have been to every great basketball arena in this country," says KU coach Roy Williams. "There is no place that surpasses Allen Fieldhouse. " Opened in 1955, Allen Fieldhouse is college basketball's grand temple. As the Hebrews trace their lineage back to Adam, KU's roots go back to Dr. James Naismith.
Naismith invented the game in Massachusetts in 1891, brought it to Kansas in 1898 and passed it on to Dr. Phog Allen, who won 590 games in 39 seasons as the KU coach before retiring a year after they put his name on the new gym.
The ghosts of Naismith and Allen are properly preserved at Allen Fieldhouse, from the museum in the front lobby to the "Beware of The Phog" sign hanging from the ceiling beams.
In the museum is the arena's original center circle, the same floor where a giant freshman Wilt Chamberlain scored 42 points against the KU varsity in 1955, where Oscar Robertson exploded for 56 points in a 1958 game, where stars like Bill Bridges and JoJo White blossomed.
Allen Fieldhouse is pure basketball. They should have filmed "Hoosiers" there. Walking in its hallways brings the same musty-smell feeling you get going through your grandmother's attic.
And during each KU home game, the ghosts are visited by 15,000 shrieking - but well-behaved - fans who make the Jayhawks a routine sellout.
Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium, built in 1940, may be Allen Fieldhouse's only competitor as college basketball's finest cathedral.
OSU's Gallagher-Iba Arena, built in 1939, is a grand old place, but Allen Fieldhouse is twice as big, hasn't been renovated and didn't take a 25-year hiatus from its proud tradition like OSU did between Henry Iba and Eddie Sutton.
Kansas' 400th victory at Allen Fieldhouse came Wednesday night, 84-72 over OSU. Sutton, who has won 495 games as a collegiate coach, is just 2-4 at The Phog. The last game he ever played, as an OSU senior in 1958, was a loss at KU in the NCAA Midwest Regional.
Sutton's success at Allen Fieldhouse may be modest, but his memories are not: "It's a marvelous place to play. I would hope they never build another place. " Amen.
The Oklahoman Trammel 1993
The banner counters at UCLA won't like this.
Nor will the legions in the commonwealth of Kentucky who've sworn by Adolph "Baron'' Rupp, and Rick Pitino, too.
Complainers in Carolina blue, line up here. In royal Duke blue, over there. Right next
to those Hoosiers in the crimson sweaters.
We're here to identify college basketball's premier program-- not just for this season,
but for all time.
We're taking everything from sustained excellence and impact to game-day ambience to
decorum into account; and we're not stopping at Westwood, Lexington or anywhere
along Tobacco Road or Bloomington.
The call is: Kansas.
"Right in that building,'' Kansas coach Roy Williams says, pointing from his
office to adjoining Allen Fieldhouse," is the best place to play and coach in college
basketball. I truly believe that.''
Of course, you'd expect him to. His name's on the door. He'd like every hotshot recruit
in the nation to buy into the belief Kansas (KU) is hoops heaven on earth.
Williams, however, also might be expected to hedge. He was born in Asheville, N.C., and
graduated from North Carolina, where he played a season of basketball and later sat for 10
years at the right hand of Tar Heels coach Dean Smith. As Smith approaches retirement,
it's Williams who's almost universally speculated as his successor.
But he emphasizes: "I said best. I didn't say second-best.''
This is the program founded by James Naismith in 1898, seven years after he tacked a
couple of peach baskets to the walls and invented the game of basket ball in Springfield,
This is where F.C. "Phog'' Allen, who succeeded Naismith as coach, helped build
the game, selling it as an Olympic sport and helping get the NCAA tournament off the
This is the school with 13 Hall of Famers; a nation-high 12 Olympians; 10 Final Four
teams; two NCAA tournament champions; and two more teams recognized as national champions.
It's where the No. 1 ranking in the USA TODAY/CNN Top 25 Coaches' Poll rests at the
start of this season, where the winningest program of the 1990s (record: 194-44) is
expected to launch another run at a title Nov. 22 against Santa Clara at San Jose, Calif.
It's where Jacque Vaughn, the star point guard, is a devotee of poet Maya Angelou and
quotes Robert Frost at news conferences.
"To me,'' says Vaughn, one of six current players who migrated from California to
play in the Land of Oz, "it's the perfect place to be.''
Says a less biased observer, CBS' Billy Packer, "If you're talking about the total
history of the intercollegiate game, 100 years of basketball . . . the premise is pretty
Contenders' credentials fall short
UCLA has more national championships than anybody, 11. But that addresses just one of
the many factors in determining the nation's pre-eminent program. The Bruins are too
schizophrenic now, with as many coaches (seven) since John Wooden's retirement in 1975 as
Kansas has had in its 99-year history.
Keep in mind, too, that UCLA was a losing program (256-263) in its first 27 seasons,
not pulling above .500 until 1946-47. Wooden got there two years later.
Kentucky? There's simply too much uncomfortable history, from the racism of Rupp to the
point-shaving scandal that brought a one-season suspension of competition in the early
'50s to the more recent infractions case that barred the Wildcats from the NCAA tournament
in 1990 and '91.
Duke? Its history is backloaded, with 11 Final Four appearances and two national
championships since 1963 but nothing before that.
Indiana? The Hoosiers have ebbed. They last won a national championship in 1987, a year
before Kansas' last title, but have been back to the Final Four once. And they've lost in
the NCAA tournament's first round the last two years. Their 33 losses the past three
seasons are the most in that length of time in Bob Knight's tenure as coach.
North Carolina? Michael Jordan's alma mater comes closest to Kansas in all pertinent
categories. But by the time the school discovered the sport in 1910, KU had played 12
seasons and won three conference championships.
Moreover, where did Dean Smith come from?
Uh-huh. Kansas. Class of '53.
There's Naismith, who's buried in Lawrence. (Ironically, he's the only
KU coach to post a losing record.) There's Allen, who in 1927 successfully led opposition
to a pending rule change that might have altered the course of the game, limiting
dribbling to a single bounce. There are three graduates among the six winningest college
coaches of all time: Rupp, North Carolina's Smith and Allen, and Ralph Miller ranks 16th.
Has any program left a more lasting imprint on the game?
"I've never been able to sell a recruit on tradition,'' Williams says. "But
if you can get him here, either for a visit or you get him to come here (to play), it's a
feeling you have that you're playing in an awful special place.''
The setting. Allen Fieldhouse is 41 years old and "isn't shiny, pretty and
new like some places we've been to and played in,'' Vaughn says.
But therein lies a charm that doesn't exist at North Carolina's
beautiful-but-too-pristine Smith Center, among other newer arenas. The game-time noise
level and electricity match that of Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium without the
Listen to the unique "Rock, Chalk'' chant. Note the faded banner draped on the
upper north wall, cautioning, "Pay Heed, All Who Enter: BEWARE OF 'THE PHOG.' ''
As long as it meets fire standards and security standards,'' Vaughn says, "I
wouldn't change it for the world.''
We rest our case.
Steve Weiberg, USA TODAY
Anticipation is always great at KU.
Inside, the air is heavy with an eerie calm. This is always the strangest time of the college basketball season, just before it all starts, the noise and the color and the craziness that bubbles all across the nation for five months.
Nowhere does it bubble better than here.
We're walking along the baseline at Allen Fieldhouse, looking into the stands, amazed - as always - at what will happen here in the coming months. It seems smaller this way, when it's empty. Almost looks like a bloated high school gymnasium. Can they really cram 16,000 people in here? Can it really get so loud in here you can't hear yourself cough?
And it all starts tonight, a few heartbeats past midnight, when America greets the coming of a new season, a new chapter. College basketball will rise like a phoenix from the shadows of summer.
Baseball folks get goose bumps at the idea of pitchers and catchers reporting for spring training. For the hoops junkie, it's Midnight Madness.
Nowhere will this arrival, this homecoming, be greeted more warmly than here, where basketball shortens the Midwestern winter, where it kisses the coldest nights with the warmth of a hundred suns.
College basketball can do that. Especially here.
Here, anything is possible.
Roy Williams knows that, even if he still seems to be mourning a beloved senior class. He oversees what happens here, a marvelous communion of fanaticism and excellence. He has delivered to the truest believers what they always wanted: a program that is the equal of their passion, one that begins each year the way every other program in America does. Dreaming of March, of the final weekend, in this instance, of San Antonio.
There is one noticeable difference.
At Kansas, those dreams aren't far-fetched. They may not always come true, but they are surely worth the effort. Because it can happen here. You always have a shot.
And yet Williams sits, looking rather melancholy, as he greets reporters. It doesn't take much to jar his memory, to get him talking about Jacque Vaughn and Jerod Haase and the other members of the star-crossed Class of '97 that fell short of a championship.
``I still can't talk to them without knowing what they missed out on,'' Williams said. ``It's different for me. I'll have other chances. They won't. '' The lasting image of 1996-97 is Williams' emotional reflex to the season's sudden end. He had grown so fond of the team and the players that when it all vanished amid a hailstorm of Mike Bibby jump shots at the NCAA Southeast Regional in Birmingham, Ala., it hit Williams as hard as it did his seniors. Harder, maybe.
So Williams did a bit of soul-searching this summer. He talked to colleagues. He looked inward. He is too much the professional to wallow too long. But Thursday, just more than a day before it would all begin again, Williams seemed reluctant to cleanse his mind of the past. Not entirely. Not yet.
But he will. He should. These Jayhawks may not jump from the starting gate as the obvious championship favorite, the way last year's team did. But there are still plenty of reasons to await the start of practice the way a kid waits for Santa Claus. Raef LaFrentz and Paul Pierce are still here, after all. The Jayhawks still have more toys than all but a handful of programs in America.
``I want these guys to enjoy the journey,'' Williams said. ``You should enjoy college life. There isn't one coach I know that wouldn't trade spots with a player today. That includes me, and I know the kind of paycheck I'd be giving up to do that. '' He smiled then. He should smile. Soon, Williams would walk down to the bottom of Allen Fieldhouse and take a good look around, the crown prince admiring the vast expanse of his kingdom. It may not look like much now. Williams knows better. It will. It always does.
Published on August 27, 1997, Page D11, The Kansas City Star
Even the most ruthlessly competitive, refuse-to-lose basketball person can be reduced to sentimental sweetheart. The same is true of the cynical newshound on alert for sanctimony and expedience. Ditto the rabid fan who sees only good and evil on the court.
Just mention Allen Fieldhouse.
The home arena at Kansas, where Kentucky will play Saturday, inspires poetic tribute in a sports world filled with hidden agendas and obsession with $ucce$$. ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla, nobody’s fool when it comes to college basketball’s dark secrets, used words like “magical” and “mystical” to describe Allen Fieldhouse.
“It is a spiritual journey into that building, if you love the game of basketball,” he said.
…Fraschilla likes to call Allen Fieldhouse “the St. Patrick’s Cathedral of college basketball.” He is hardly the only parishioner who has worshiped there.
For Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated and CBS Sports, Allen Fieldhouse is a time machine.
“You feel like you are walking into the 1930s,” he said in an email message. “I mean, James ‘Freaking’ Naismith’s name is on the court!”
…Dave Dorr, a retired Hall of Fame sportswriter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, said Allen Fieldhouse “is the closest thing to a college basketball cathedral there is.”
ESPN analyst Jay Bilas reached back to another sport’s touchstone.
“It has the same meaning to basketball that St. Andrews has to golf,” Bilas said in an email message. “When people visit AFH, they get it.”
Opposing coaches also pay homage.
TCU Coach Trent Johnson, who played against Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse in 1976, wants his players to be aware of the history. It helps that KU has built a Hall of Fame nearby and plans another new structure that will house the original rules of basketball as devised by Naismith, who, of course, invented the game and then happened to be Kansas’ first coach.
“Every time I take my team back there, we go to the Hall of Fame,” said Johnson, who formerly coached at LSU. “It’s a history lesson for them.”
For Texas Coach Shaka Smart, whose team lost at Kansas last weekend, his thoughts about Allen Fieldhouse are fresh.
“There’s just a really, really special feeling there,” he said. “You can tell the connectivity between the fans and the students and the players. At any home court, that’s probably the most important thing. That everyone is really feeling the same thing and on the same page in helping the team win.”
…Kansas Coach Bill Self has a cartoonish win-loss record of 200-9 in Allen Fieldhouse. His Jayhawks teams have won more Big 12 Conference championships (11) than lost home games (nine). Yet, he, too, set aside mere winning and losing in trying to capture the essence of Allen Fieldhouse.
“I have heard other people say and I believe it,” he said. “The building has soul, and the walls still sweat.”
…Like Raquel Welch and Cliff Hagan, Allen Fieldhouse has aged well. In 2014, Athlon Sports asked 12 well-known media people to vote on the top 10 college basketball arenas. Nine voted Allen Fieldhouse No. 1, two others put Kansas’ arena second on their ballots. Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium was a distant second as no other arena received more than one first-place vote. (Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse and UK’s Rupp Arena finished third and fourth.)
“I consider Allen Fieldhouse to be the single best place in America to watch a college basketball game,” said one of the voters, Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News.
DeCourcy recalled attending the final Kansas-Missouri game in 2012.
“As we approached tip-off, the fans were so ear-splittingly noisy that I laughed out loud at the absurdity of it,” he said. “And I literally could not hear my own laugh. I’ve never had that happen anywhere.”
“Anytime you get to step up in Allen Fieldhouse, it’s just a great feeling,” said Forte, who made several late free throws down the stretch of that contest before hitting the game-sealing layup. “There really is no arena like it. There’s no arena with the culture and tradition that Allen Fieldhouse has. Just the presence (it) can give a team is something no other team by far comes close to.”
TCJ: 10/25/16 Phil Forte at Big 12 Media Day
If you follow college basketball, you may well hate the University of Kansas. Jeremy Stahl certainly does. Writing in Slate's annual NCAA tournament "Teams We Hate" feature, Stahl called the Jayhawks "odious" and "contemptible."
No big shock. Kansas—along with North Carolina, Kentucky, and Duke—is one of those teams that fans love to hate, like the Yankees, the Lakers, or Dallas Cowboys. KU is a high-dollar, high-pressure program, perennially in the top 20, usually in the top five, and always a threat to make the Final Four. Of course people root against the Jayhawks. Tonight, for example. Unless, like President Obama, you picked KU to win the National Championship, you will probably cheer against the Jayhawks tonight as they take on 12th-seeded Richmond. That's only natural. As Kansas alum Wilt Chamberlain once famously said, "Nobody roots for Goliath."
In this case though, that's a real shame. It's shame because hating on the Jayhawks means you hate the United States of America. Yes, you read that right.
The Jayhawk, a mythical mix of a blue jay's cunning with the ferocity of a hawk, was born in pre-Civil war era "Bleeding Kansas," when the strange bird was adopted as the mascot of abolitionist forces fighting for Kansas to enter the Union as free state. The Jayhawkers battled with Border Ruffians, many from Missouri, who wanted to bring slavery into the new territory, and who ultimately sparked a horrific, bloody war of secession. Surely, it's more than mere coincidence that the pro-Union Jayhawks must face a team from the old capital of the Confederacy tonight, and could face another on Sunday.
If you root against KU basketball, then, you are actually rooting for slavery. You're supporting the Confederacy over United States, cheering for racism, oppression, and war, and, not for nothing, you want President Obama to fail—all of which are certainly "odious" and "contemptible" by any reasonable definitions.
Or maybe Stahl just hates sports history.
Kansas basketball, certainly, has a history as rich as any team in the country, no matter what the sport, at any level of college or the pros. The first coach of KU basketball, after all, was the first coach of any basketball team, anywhere, ever. James A. Naismith brought his newly-invented sport to Lawrence in 1898, coaching for seven years before handing the reins to his heir and greatest pupil, Forrest C. "Phog" Allen.
Allen essentially created the game of basketball as we know it. He streamlined Naismith's invention, creating a sleeker, faster sport, and he founded, through sheer force of his will, many of the college basketball institutions and traditions people like Jeremy Stahl enjoy today. For just a hint of Allen's enormous influence, consider the history of two other college programs, North Carolina and Kentucky.
Both schools, as Stahl probably knows, play in buildings named for their greatest coaches. Just as KU plays in Allen Field House, the Kentucky Wildcats plays in Rupp Area, named after Adolph Rupp, while North Carolina's Tarheels play in a dome named for the legendary Dean Smith.
Does Jeremy Stahl also know, however, that Rupp and Smith both played college ball, and learned coaching, under Phog Allen at Kansas? Because they did.
Allen also was the driving force behind basketball being made an Olympic event. Without that 1936 milestone, the game would never have gone global, there would never have been any Dream Teams, and today there wouldn't be dozens of international players spicing up the NBA. If, Lord forbid, Phog Allen had never lived, Tony Parker and Pau Gasol would be playing soccer right now. While Yao Ming, meanwhile, would just be some very tall poor guy in China.
Really, if you think about it, it's very cruel of Jeremy Stahl to hope that Yao Ming lives in poverty.
Oh, and this whole March Madness/Big Dance/Bracketology thing? The tournament of thrills the whole country goes mad for each spring? That was Phog's idea, too. Allen founded the postseason tournament in 1939, through his National Association of Basketball Coaches, and handed off its management to the NCAA the following year.
Yep. As it turns out, Jeremy Stahl even hates the NCAA tournament. Can you believe this guy?
Stahl, however, is right about one thing. He was right to criticize some of the players on this year's Jayhawk roster.
Like Mario Little, for instance, suspended earlier this season after his arrest in a late-night domestic disturbance. Or the twins, Marcus and Markieff Morris, who may be perfectly friendly young men off the court, but had to break an unfortunate habit of throwing elbows on it. Or what about point guard Tyshawn Taylor? He was suspended during conference play for being a self-described "bad kid," which rumormongers claim was a dalliance with his girlfriend under the seats at Allen Field House.
Funny? Sure. But very, very against the rules, detrimental to the team, and really not the kind of thing you look for in a leader.
That kind of junk just isn't what Kansas Basketball is supposed to represent. KU may not be all snooty like Duke, with delusions of Ivy grandeur, but Jayhawk fans do expect better than tawdry sexcapades and low-rent thuggery. The Jayhawk Faithful expect more than that—from any player who accepts the challenge of wearing the crimson and blue.
Like Tyrel Reed, for instance. A senior from little Burlington, Kansas, Reed is not only living a childhood dream of playing for Kansas, he will graduate early, in three and a half years, and was named as a first-team Academic All-American.
Surely Jeremy Stahl doesn't root against kids who get good grades? Surely he also wouldn't root against sophomore Thomas Robinson.
Robinson, at just 19 years old, endured more loss this season than most people could stand in a decade. In late December, his grandmother died. Less than two weeks later, his grandfather followed. Just days after that, in mid-January, Robinson's mother Lisa passed away from an apparent heart attack at age 43—a brutal stretch for the young man. At least, though, he has had his teammates, coaches, and the whole KU community around him, and it's been inspiring to see the support Robinson and his younger sister Jayla have received.
With due respect to Richmond Spider fans—some of whom, unlike Jeremy Stahl, may not actually be pro-slavery—basketball in Kansas isn't a casual thing. For most fans around the country, of the average college hoops team, basketball is something that happens a couple of times a week, a few months a year, after football season is over.
Not for the Jayhawk Faithful, insanely committed and knowledgeable, who critique every shot, even in exhibition games, and follow every off-season recruiting rumor like national security is at stake. Show up on a game night at Allen sometime. A bad pass, a double-dribble, or silly foul will elicit genuine gasps of shock from the crowd—even if the 'Hawks are up by 30. To grow up a Jayhawk is to grow up indoctrinated. It's like being raised in a strict fundamentalist church—but the only fundamentals that matter are footwork, hustle, shot selection, and knowing how to guard the pick-and-roll.
So, go ahead, casual hoops fans. Root against the Jayhawks, if you must. Sure, it means that you show no love for passionate basketball fans, and have no respect for the history of the game. Sure, rooting against KU also means that you support slavery, hate America, and want the President of the United States to fail. Oh, well. At least you'll have Jeremy Stahl on your side.
HAMPTON STEVENS - Hampton Stevens writes for ESPN.com's Page 2 and ESPN the Magazine, as well as The Atlantic and TheAtlantic.com.