May 26, 2017

These are dark times for Kansas football fans

I’m a fan of Kansas Jayhawk football – and it sucks.

Sometimes people tease me about my favorite college football team: “Brace yourself for another 1-11 year!”

I can’t blame anyone for not knowing this offhand, but… 1-11 would be an improvement. I’m a fan of Kansas Jayhawk football — and it sucks.

Kansas has won a BCS bowl game more recently than Nebraska or Miami. More recently than Kansas State or Texas A&M.

When I was in college, Kansas was ranked No. 2 in the nation. In football.

Kansas football’s fall from grace was swift and without mercy. The Jayhawks went 0-12 in 2015 and head coach David Beaty kept his job because, honestly, who the hell would replace him? Kansas could bring in Nick Saban or Urban Meyer and still only get three wins out of this roster. That’s how bad the program is right now.

My hopes for this season are simultaneously modest and ambitious. A 2-10 record would be enough to satisfy me. Rhode Island seems vulnerable enough, and Ohio’s a maybe — but the last few seasons have taught me that it’s hard to predict exactly how bad Kansas will be. Kansas’s best shot at a Big 12 win is against Iowa State, but while the Cyclones are decidedly not good, their program seems to be improving faster than KU’s.

People who like to watch good football and don’t hate themselves always ask: Why bother watching Kansas football at all?

I watch because Kansas is home. KU, specifically, is home to me. Those players go to my school, walk around my campus, order from my Pizza Shuttle. Those athletes dedicate their time and risk catastrophic injury to play football at Kansas. As someone who cares about the success of this university and its athletic program, I ought to at least cheer them on.

If you’re not personally invested in Kansas the way I’m personally invested in Kansas, you might still find a good reason to keep an eye on the Jayhawks this year: This team comes awfully close to matching the naive vision we once had about the purity and selflessness of college sports.

Most of these players will never come close to playing in the NFL. They don’t enjoy the same social status that a winning football team would (and even a winning football team at Kansas plays second fiddle to men’s basketball). They’re here to play football and go to school. It’s kinda sweet, really.

If this Kansas team manages to upset any of the objectively better teams on its not-exactly-easy schedule, it will be a BFD, and you’ll want to see it. The possibility of witnessing a football miracle keeps me watching this trainwreck week after week.

Kansas won’t be good at football again for a while. Like, maybe a really long while. For alumni, students, and people who consider themselves Jayhawks, it’s time to make a choice: Are you part of this community or not? Lawrence remains a gorgeous place to tailgate on Saturdays. KU football tickets are easy to come by and extremely affordable (not always the case in my day). And basketball season is a long way off. Would it kill you to go support the Jayhawks once or twice this year? (Homecoming is Oct. 22, and I better see you there.)

For the rest of the world: Well, you might just want to keep an eye on things. Rock bottom is the perfect place to begin a remarkable comeback.

Sarah Kelly Shannon
Sarah Kelly Shannon 10 Articles
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Sarah Kelly Shannon has three first names, but is always looking for a few more. A native of Lawrence, Kansas, Sarah has lived a total of 24 years in college towns. Her brief journalism career took her to College Station and Iowa City, where she became one of the foremost authorities on late-night junk food and quality beer specials. Sarah's bulldog, Red, is the greatest dog in the world. That may sound like a subjective statement, but it really isn't. You're just wrong.

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