This last weekend I was able to attend my first University of Kansas football game. It seems like my whole life I have been going to college football games, because my grandfather had season tickets to University of Michigan football for several decades. When I think of late summer or fall, I get so nostalgic over football, especially college football. This is my favorite time of year.
I was pretty pumped about my first experience with KU football. I had not attended a college football game since 2005, when I witnessed a Florida v. Florida State contest in the “Swamp” of Gainesville, Florida. The intensity of that game was every bit as awesome as the intensity I felt watching Ohio State, Michigan State, or Notre Dame in the “Big House.”
As I was watching Kansas pummel poor Duke, I was thinking of whether the Kansas field, Memorial Stadium, had its own nickname, much like the “Big House” or the “Swamp.” I looked it up after I returned home, and did not see one out there. I decided I would try to propose a few suggestions, and then throw it out to some KU grads to see if any of them have traction.
Way back in the 1860’s, when KU was in its infancy, the people running the school decided they wanted to copy the University of Michigan colors or Maize and Blue for their athletic department. This stuck until the 1880’s, when they changed to Crimson and Blue (for Harvard and Yale). My first thought of a nickname comes as a nod to the University of Michigan – “The Little House.” I thought of this for 2 reasons – 1) Memorial Stadium has only 50,071 in capacity (less than half of the “Big House”), and 2) the Little House on the Prairie is located in Independence, KS, which gives it a bit of a geographical and historical connection. The problem with this name is it doesn’t strike fear into any opponents. It conjures up images of pre-teen girls running around fields of tallgrass.
Next I thought of the shape of the stadium, which is a horseshoe. Ohio Stadium, where Ohio State plays, is nicknamed the “Horseshoe” or the “Shoe.” It wouldn’t be very creative to simply copy that, so I thought what about the “Slipper?” This, again comes from the movie most associated with Kansas, The Wizard of Oz. I kind of liked that name, because it brings to mind the underdog persona that KU football represents. The problem is, the stadium is shaped like a horseshoe, not a slipper.
On the same note with The Wizard of Oz, why not just nickname the stadium “Oz.” This would be kind of like “Death Valley,” which you hear from Clemson and LSU. It has the chance to strike fear in opponents who will see it as a place of flying monkeys and other oddities, which might just be enough to throw them off their game. I could see fans in the student section really getting creative with that one, too. My concern for that is Kansas State University has just as much claim on the name as KU. It might work, though. We just need somebody to take the name.
I also thought of just keeping it simple. The Kansas City Royals play at Kauffman Stadium, which has been nicknamed the “K.” It works. Why not call Memorial Stadium the “M?” It doesn’t work.
Next I was thinking of something that would invoke images of the “Swamp” in Gainesville. Since the mascot is a bird, although a mythical one, why not call the stadium the “Coop?” This would invoke images of a cage and chicken wire (which may remind people of professional wrestling and road houses), and it may also bring to mind rabid fans and a hostile atmosphere. This one as well has potential, but Jayhawks and chickens are not at all alike.
The last name I came up with brings to mind what is most prevalent about the stadium – the track which surrounds the field. In addition to this, Kansas has historically been a track & field powerhouse (not so much these days, but it has produced some legendary runners in the past), and the field currently hosts the Kansas relays each year. Because of this, I came up with the name the “Track.” It’s simple, and it would mean something to the people of Kansas more so than other areas, but it definitely has a local feel to it which would invoke pride.
There are my ideas. I wonder what others think. Let’s hear your ideas. I will also run this by some KU grads, who may pass it on, and maybe something will get started. I do think that a nickname would help strike fear in opponents who come to play at the stadium, and help this program get back to respectability for the long term.