Hey everyone! My name is Taia Johnson and I am a sophomore at the University of Kansas. Here at KU, this past weekend was full of some of our student’s most favorite traditions. On Friday night, we kicked off the official start to basketball season with “Late Night in the Phog” aka Midnight Madness. Then Saturday, we cheered on our football team as they played Oklahoma State University.
Early Friday morning, students, parents, alumni, and Jayhawk fans began lining up outside of Allen Fieldhouse, awaiting the 6:30 pm start of Late Night in the Phog. Midnight Madness takes place in universities all over the country, but as the cradle of basketball, Kansas puts a lot of emphasis and pride into our basketball program.
This years’ Late Night was exceptionally anticipated because ESPN was there filming to get footage for the next “30 for 30” documentary. As cheerleaders, we start off Late Night by performing a routine that we have been preparing for the past few weeks.
After meeting up in our locker room, and adding last minute touches, like our Jayhawk face tattoos and red lipstick, we went into Allen Fieldhouse to warm up our routine before all the fans entered. As Late Night began, we took the floor and performed in front of 16,300 fans. The best part was hearing the crowd roar when we throw our traditional “K-A-N-S-A-S” basket tosses. You can watch the video on our Facebook page at http://facebook.com/kucheer
For the rest of Late Night, some of our the squad members stayed on the court to cheer on the men’s and women’s basketball teams as they scrimmaged. Late Night truly captures all of the pride I have when cheering for the University of Kansas, and the basketball videos that show our amazing basketball tradition always give me goosebumps!
The next morning, we all woke up early to get ready for the KU vs. OSU football game. This game was unlike most games for a few different reasons. First, we supported Breast Cancer Awareness by wearing pink bows and pink tall socks, and using pink and white poms. Our boys also got to wear pink sweat bands to support the cause. In addition, the unpredictable Kansas weather brought a very rainy day with scattered thunder storms, which threw a few loops in our game day traditions.
We started off the day by meeting two and a half hours before the game at our tailgate. Many of our friends and family joined us here for food and fun. Next, we all split up to go around to mingle with alumni and fans around Memorial Stadium. This is when I had the opportunity to meet some of the OSU cheerleaders and dancers! After this, we met to warm up for the game.
Soon, we started pre-game, all bundled up in our rain gear. Usually, we tumble out in front of the players as they run on the field, but because of the slick conditions and heavy rain gear, the girls just ran out in front of them and took our places on the track. Some of our boys followed us and ran in front of the team with the traditional “K-A-N-S-A-S” flag run.
As the game began, we tried to cheer it as normal as possible, even with the weather conditions, but were unable to do many of our normal stunts, any pyramids, or tumbling. The game was shortly interrupted during the first quarter due to a thunder storm, so the whole spirit squad had to go under cover, where we sat down and ate some of our leftover food from the tailgate. When the game resumed an hour later, we ran back out to cheer on the team. Our normal traditions include getting up in ‘shoulders’ for every kick-off, putting up ‘NOISE’ signs in stunts for every 1st and 3rd down on defense, and going out onto the field and doing pyramids and baskets during timeouts. After touchdowns, the girls go into ‘hands’ and lead the crowd as they ‘Wave the Wheat’. This is when fans wave their arms back-and-forth, just like they’re mimicking wheat fields in Kansas. Then, we do the most traditional KU fight song, “I’m a Jayhawk”.
The team ended up playing their hearts out and scoring two touch downs in the fourth quarter, but unfortunately it was not enough and the game ended 20-14, OSU.
Regardless of the loss, we ended the game with our fight song, the Alma Mater, and the famous Rock Chalk chant. The football team even started a new tradition this year by going in front of the student section and singing the Alma Mater along with us.
And as always, I had so much fun cheering the game and am so proud to be a Jayhawk.