HOME ~ College Football History
The University of Kansas colors, crimson and blue, used since the early
1890s, are not the colors originally adopted by the university Board of
Regents in the 1860s. The regents had decided to adopt the Michigan
colors, maize and sky blue.
Maize and blue were used at early oratorical meets, and they may have
been used when Kansas competed in rowing in the middle 1880s. However,
when football came upon the scene in 1890, the student backers wanted to
use Harvard crimson
as the athletic color in honor of Col. John J.
McCook, a Harvard man, who had given money for an athletic field at KU.
That field ran east and west in the proximity of where the north bowl of
Memorial Stadium stands on the Kansas campus today.
Until that time, Kansas football games were played at Central Park on
Massachusetts Street in downtown Lawrence. Some Yale men were on the
faculty, and they demanded that Yale blue be included. The rooters
rallied forth to follow crimson and blue on their team. No one fought to
retain the original colors, and the vivid deeper tone crimson and blue
became generally used. Finally, in May 1896, the KU Athletic Board
adopted crimson and blue as the official team colors for the university.
The History of the Jayhawk
Each spring, as the University of Kansas graduates a new class of
Jayhawks, the origin of its name comes into question. It's known that
the term, "Jayhawk", was used as early as 1849. In that year, a party of
pioneers crossing what is today Nebraska, called themselves "The
Jayhawkers of '49." They are believed to have taken the name from a
combination of two birds which are familiar in the West -- the hawk and
the blue jay. Whether these pioneers were the first to call themselves
Jayhawkers is not known. (later they did discover Death Valley in
One member of the party, John B. Colton, later remembered first hearing
the word in Platte River in 1849, long before the Kansas Territory was
established. Colton said when the Argonauts returned to the East, the
word continued to be used.
The word "Jayhawk" first was used in present day Kansas about 1858. It
was associated with robbing, looting and general lawlessness. During the
Civil War, however, it took a new meaning.
Dr. Charles R. (Doc) Jennison, a surgeon, used it in 1861 when he was
commissioned as a colonel by Kansas Gov. Charles Robinson and charged
with raising a regiment of calvary. Jennison called his regiment the
"Independent Mounted Kansas Jayhawkers," although it was officially the
First Kansas Cavalry and later the Seventh Kansas Regiment.
During the Civil War, the word Jayhawk became associated with the spirit
of comradeship and the courageous fighting qualities associated with the
efforts to keep Kansas a free state. Following the war, most Kansans
were proud to be called Jayhawkers.
By 1866, the University of Kansas at Lawrence had adopted the mythical
bird as a part of the KU yell. By the mid 1890s, birds of one sort or
another were used to represent KU on postcards and wall posters - even
the university yearbook became known as the Jayhawker Yearbook.
But it was not until 1912 that Henry Maloy, a student from Eureka, Kan.,
created a cartoon Jayhawk. The image has evolved through six changes to
the modern day bird, symbolic of the University of Kansas. In fact, the
current Jayhawk logo celebrated its 50th anniversary this past year.
The Fight Song
George "Dumpy" Bowles, a student with the class of 1912, longed to make
a great contribution to KU spirit, but wasn't big enough to do historic
deeds on the athletic field. He turned to music and produced some
outstanding student musical shows.
A song in one of these shows was "I'm a Jayhawk." Written in 1912, it
was dormant until 1920 when a growth in school spirit brought out "I'm a
Jayhawk" once more. The song contributed to the raising of funds to
build both the stadium and union as World War I memorials. The 1926 glee
club made it known nationally.
"I'm A Jayhawk"
Talk about the Sooners, the Cowboys and the Buffs,
Talk about the Tiger and his tail,
Talk about the Wildcat, and those Cornhuskin' boys,
But I'm the bird to make 'em weep and wail.
'Cause I'm a Jay, Jay, Jay, Jay Jayhawk
Up at Lawrence on the Kaw
'Cause I'm a Jay, Jay, Jay, Jay Jayhawk
With a sis-boom, hip hoorah.
Got a bill that's big enough to twist the Tiger's tail,
Husk some corn and listen to the Cornhusker's wail,
'Cause I'm a Jay, Jay, Jay, Jay Jayhawk,
Riding on a Kansas gale.