OK fine, I’ll confess. Real talk.
I didn’t believe.
Don’t get me wrong, I always had hope, but never really, truthfully, whole-heartedly believed. Well, until Saturday, that is. Allow me to explain.
First, one thing I do still believe is that players, coaches, administrators - they shouldn’t be asking “where are the fans.” I understand the last 13 years aren’t their fault. Hell, the administration hasn’t given a damn about football since it opted out of the facilities arms race back in the 1970s.
Maybe I just felt jilted or ignored. After all, I HAVE been there. In the stadium, I mean. 107 times, to be exact. So pandering for tickets and sellouts just irks me.
Where were you when KU played KState and Memorial Stadium was covered in a quarter-inch of ice? Were you there when Baylor beat KU 66-7? Or 61-6? Or 59-14? Did you see the Nigel King vs TCU catch in person?
Well, maybe YOU were there. I was there. Maybe 15-20,000 of our closest friends were there (on a good day, anyway.) But most fans weren’t. By the time mid-October rolled around, the stadium was, well, let’s just say tickets were not hard to get.
So don’t tell me now that I’m a bad fan because I was still stuck in wait-and-see mode coming into this season. Don’t tell me to get on board or don’t come back five games into Year 3 of yet another rebuild. I’m a nobody, but that doesn’t mean you know who you’re dealing with. I’ve been on board. I’ve been through multiple athletic directors and I’ve been through five head coaches in a 10 year span.
We’ve been promised progress. We’ve been promised hard work. We’ve been promised all the things. And nothing ever changed. NO ONE should be roasted for being slow to embrace the Goff/Leipold era.
I didn’t believe things would change when Sheahon Zenger was removed. I didn’t think Les Miles would do anything significant here. And I definitely thought it would take Lance Leipold longer to establish his program.
After all, this was a college football program in absolute disarray. Insane losing streaks. Games that looked like progress but weren’t. Losing to FCS schools. Getting blown out by G5 teams. The running clock in the fourth quarter of a nationally televised conference game. Just a complete laughingstock.
Things were absolutely PATHETIC.
How was Leipold going to be any different than any of the guys that came before him? After all, it was the same coaching platitudes. Work hard. Get better every day. Recruit. Yadda yadda yadda.
I didn’t believe after we beat Texas (again). I didn’t believe after the overtime win at West Virginia, or even after getting a top-25 win against Oklahoma State to become bowl eligible. I didn’t believe after they announced stadium renovations - after all, we’ve seen stuff like that before too.
And I sure didn’t believe as of Friday, Oct 27. You know how sometimes you just know something is going to go right? Nebraska in 2007. Missouri in 2003. You just KNOW.
I did not have that feeling going into Saturday. I guess I’ve just seen too much since 2010. It’s been almost exactly two and a half years since Kansas hired Travis Goff. The entire culture of the athletic department needed to change, and that’s tough. I mean, it’s real tough. It takes real work. It takes time. I would say it even typically takes longer than two and a half years.
But I’m here to admit - change it has. How many times this season could we have just said, yup, typical Kansas - here we go again - and watch the Jayhawks blow it? Nevada for sure. BYU too. And there were multiple times during the game this past week against Oklahoma where that could have happened.
But it didn’t.
The players and coaches in this program no longer get that “well here we go again, yup, we’re Kansas football” feeling.
And it’s awesome to see.
With the win on Saturday, KU’s all-time record against OU moved to 28-80-6. The win was KU’s 10th ever, in the entire program’s history, against a foe with an AP Top-10 ranking. Oh, and Oklahoma had defeated KU 18-straight times, with an average margin of 115-6.
OK so I made that last stat up. So sue me. The point is, this is not a program KU has ever been competitive with, at least, not since the 1960s. (OK fine. From 2000-2020, in 16 games, the average margin was 44-13. Kansas scored over 20 points twice, and less than 10 points seven times.)
But in Year 1 of Lance Leipold, KU was immediately competitive with OU. In Year 2, the Jayhawks won two road games, came within a touchdown of National Championship participant TCU, and went bowling for the first time since 2008. Oh, and, the Jayhawks had the ball late in the fourth quarter with a chance to beat OU in Norman.
And this year - Year 3 of what is, quite frankly, an almost unbelievable turnaround - all the Jayhawks have done is get bowl eligible before Halloween (!!!). In hindsight, KU could easily be 7-1 and a favorite to land in Arlington in December, and I dare say, if Jalon Daniels were fully healthy I think they’d have a fair chance to be 8-0 at this point.
Kansas with Jalon Daniels is a Big 12 contender - and Kansas without Jalon Daniels still has an outside shot. That statement is something that anyone should have been rightly mocked for three years ago.
Because again, changing a culture takes time. For decades now, KU fans have been conditioned to forget about football after Halloween. On top of that, Saturday was cold, rainy, and windy. Boy was it cold. Out of the “sellout” 47,233, not all of them showed up for kickoff, and, I would estimate maybe just 25-30,000 stuck around after the second quarter weather delay. More left at halftime, again, just as they have been conditioned to do over the last 50 years.
Hell, the guy sitting behind me left with 2:29 to play in the fourth quarter, right after Jason Bean threw an interception giving Oklahoma the ball with the lead in plus territory.
That kind of culture will take time to change. But it will change. The new stadium will help, of course. But as long as Goff and Leipold are here, they will continue to win games. KU will have a chance every time it takes the field. They have finally given fans a reason to come.
And THAT is something I now whole-heartedly believe.
Still, I’m not going to tell you to contribute to the Williams Fund or the Mass Street Collective (NIL Fund). I’m not going to ask you to buy tickets or complain if the building isn’t sold out. I still don’t think players or coaches or administrators should either. Because I get it. It’s a huge ask.
Maybe you’re still on the fence for any or all of the reasons listed above, or maybe some that aren’t listed. All I’m gonna say is - if you aren’t there, you’re gonna miss a helluva fun time.
I believe it.