From the moment I arrived at the Quality Inn in Lawrence, Kan., I knew that the Jacks had a shot.
I believed this both because I have undying pride in my team and because there were Jayhawk fans at my hotel who thought the same thing.
Before this trip, when I thought of Kansas, I thought of a flat, desolate place punctuated by cities and towns.
Or in other words: South Dakota.
Interestingly, Lawrence is quite hilly, and I have the blisters on my feet to prove it. They were created both by the hills and by Lawrence’s apparent phobia of sidewalks, forcing me to go off road often.
We made our way through the hills to tailgating at the stadium, finding the speck of yellow among a sea of blue and red. I noticed some of the KU cheerleaders in a tent nearby and decided that for the sake of fair and balanced journalism, I should go talk to them. They were surprisingly friendly and Instagram pictures were had by all. Since I already had my phone out, I worked up the courage to ask President David Chicoine for a picture as well, which was probably the highlight of my entire trip. Speaking of Instagram, I was sufficiently bummed out that I was able to get pictures with the Jayhawk mascot and KU cheerleaders, while the Jacks cheer squad and mascot were nowhere to be found. Looks like some people and a rabbit are too cool to hang out with the tailgaters. Whatever, I’m not mad. (Actually, I’m pretty mad.)
Another goal of my day became to find out what “Rock Chalk Jayhawk” meant. The quintessential Kansas cheer, it was interesting to find that the KU fans were far from reaching a consensus on the matter. One man explained to me that the campus was built on a hill of limestone that can be used as chalk, another said that the original phrase was “RA RA Jayhawk,” and somehow through a game of telephone it changed into rock chalk. I was awestruck that diehard Jayhawk fans were ill-informed about such an important piece of local culture. I know that any KU fans reading this article who know the real meaning are probably shouting at the newspaper right now. Please stop yelling, you are in public, people are watching. To appease you, I have ventured to the magical database of Wikipedia in search of the answer.
Turns out that in 1886 a chemistry professor at KU realized that the school needed a “rousing yell” and came up with “Rah Rah Jayhawk.” By 1889 it had been changed to Rock Chalk, no one is sure who changed the chant. ‘Rock Chalk’ refers to the type of limestone that exists in some parts of Kansas and on Mount Oread, the hill on which the campus was built. So that’s that, have fun sounding smart now.
I found the fans of Kansas to be quite friendly and hospitable to me and my small clan of fellow Jackrabbits. Even when the Jacks scored the first touchdown, only two or three Jayhawk fans shouted “Sit down ‘ya Rabbits!” The best word to describe the opposing fans would be smug. They treated us much in the same way that a parent would treat a child who says he wants to be Superman when he grows up; the fact that we thought SDSU had a chance was very cute to them. Apparently, it was also cute to the camera operator who put my friends and me on the Jumbotron at least three times.
Why shouldn’t they be confident? They are a Division I FBS school after all, coached by three-time Super Bowl champion and former Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis. They play in a 50,000 seat stadium for goodness sakes.
Kansas did win by two touchdowns, but what was important is that we struck serious concern into the hearts of every Kansas fan when we drew within a touchdown with eight minutes left in the game.
South Dakota State took another step closer to national recognition and respect on Saturday. That makes me proud to be a Jackrabbit.