A brief, vulgar history of the ‘KU chant’

Fans during the football game between K-State and Baylor at Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Sept. 30, 2017. (Photo by George Walker | Collegian Media Group)

The rivalry between the University of Kansas and Kansas State is nothing if not legendary. It has existed for as long as the two schools have existed, and it has been a source of enjoyment, one-upmanship and jokes for years.

“Football was ranked very low when I was there,” said Brad Cobler, 1982 K-State graduate in mechanical engineering. “I think we won four games in four years.”

The rivalry between KU and K-State was still around in the 1980s, but it was centered around basketball back when K-State was “actually good,” Cobler said.

School spirit was as strong as ever. Fraternity members turned to creative expressions of the rivalry by sneaking chickens that had been colored red and blue into KU games and throwing them onto the court when KU players were announced.

“They had an agriculture orientation class at the time I was in school,” said Gregg Plank, 1987 K-State graduate in agricultural economics and former offensive guard for the K-State football team under coach Jim Dickey. “It went over the beginning of K-State, school history and how the school was chartered — and how our rival is KU.”

When asked about the historical presence of sporting chants, Pat Bosco, vice president for student life, said chants were used in the ’60s when he was an undergraduate.

However, things have shifted. The prevalence and intensity of sporting chants has changed from “normal” college student talk to something more vulgar.

Plank explained how in 2008, things changed from friendly to nasty. It was at one of the KU versus K-State basketball games, where a song called “Sandstorm” was played on the loudspeakers. From then on, it didn’t seem to matter who K-State was playing: students chanted “F*** KU.”

The question now becomes: why have the chants grown in frequency?

Perhaps K-State fans have gotten more rowdy as the school’s athletic teams got better.

“K-State fans haven’t been humble when the success grew,” Cobler said.

K-State may be a serious competitor in athletics, but the chants take away from the atmosphere of the school. While the chants seem to be fueled by strong school spirit for the most part, the effects are anything but positive.

“I think it’s a common misconception that the chant is a K-State tradition,” said Nick Edwards, senior in marketing and athletics liaison on the student body president’s cabinet. “There is nothing ‘K-State’ about chanting that towards another university.”

Plank said that the chants are a “bad look” and “not really who we are.”

“We need a better standard,” Plank said.

Even the staunchest, purplest cat-backers are calling for a change. After speaking with several season ticket holders, Plank said they were in agreement: it’s gotten out of hand and become too carried away.

“There’s a bigger picture here,” Plank said. “It’s kind of classless.”

Head football coach Bill Snyder is credited with shaping much of K-State’s “family” atmosphere, and many of his personal principles and leadership lessons have carried over into the student body.

“Everything starts off the field,” Snyder said in a Players’ Tribune article. “Treat people well, go to class, do what’s assigned. If you strive for that, all the other stuff isn’t that complicated.”

Part of what makes K-State special and recognizable is the “family” atmosphere that Coach Snyder has strived to create, and the chants don’t reflect what actually goes on at K-State.

Several current students hold the same view.

“I think that it needs to stop, especially if the band and Bill Snyder say it needs to stop,” Morgan Zupan, sophomore in mass communications, said.

Members of the Student Governing Association also hold this view.

“I can go on about how wrong it is, but everyone knows that by now,” Edwards said. “I hope that alumni don’t define the student body based on the actions of a few.”

Edwards formed a sportsmanship committee in the SGA that will combat the KU chant.

“It consists of various student leaders from all years in school, faculty from leadership studies and athletic representation,” Edwards said. “We are working together to plan ways to productively end the chant. It will be student-driven, and it is a problem that we have to solve ourselves.”

Efforts to combat the KU chant include a video statement by Coach Snyder at last week’s home football game, multiple statements from university president Richard Myers and behind-the-scenes work from all areas of the university. There have been positive steps forward, but it will take each one of us to make a difference.

“[It’s] not just one person or band or athletic director and coach,” Frank Tracz, director of bands at K-State, said. “Everyone needs to get involved. Get out of your comfort zone and tell people to knock it off.”

The administration has made it clear that K-State students can and should be held to a higher standard.

“People understand our values: respect for others,” President Richard Myers said. “I hope we can rally and try to correct that and change our behaviors, all of us.”

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly listed a source as Nick Long. The source’s name is Nick Edwards.

I’m Olivia Rogers. I graduated with dual degrees in philosophy and political science in May 2020. After I graduated, I went on to attend law school at Notre Dame. While at the Collegian, I served as the community editor for several semesters, working to share the opinions of the K-State student body. I write because: “Stories make us more alive, more human, more courageous, more loving.”― Madeleine L'Engle