Not just any school, University of Kansas Athletics Director Sheahon Zenger told the assembled masses at Friday’s KU Kickoff, can bring thousands of fans to a “shopping center parking lot.”
But some Jayhawks fans did, crowding around the south end of Corinth Square on a muggy Friday evening for the 11th annual installment of the university’s football pep rally in Prairie Village. The turnout and enthusiasm were all the more impressive given the woeful state of the football program in recent years. The Jayhawks enter the 2016 coming off a winless year under first year head coach Dave Beaty in 2015, and a 3-9 2014 season that saw the departure of Charlie Weis.
While this year’s lineup of speakers was thinner than usual — basketball coach Bill Self, frequently a major draw to the event, was absent for the second year in a row — Beaty used the opportunity to thank fans for their support, encourage them to pack the Memorial Stadium stands, and introduce them to some of the team’s key player leaders, LaQuvionte Gonzalez, Fish Smithson, Daylon Charlot and Dorance Armstrong Jr.
“I just wanted to say how excited we are to get started with a new season and give you something you can be proud of as we move forward,” Beaty said. “This thing is going to be done in the way that we raise children: you got to do it with a village. It’s going to take a great fanbase like all of you Jayhawks to get that done.”
KU opens its season this coming Saturday at home against Rhode Island.