Evolution of the Kansas Jayhawks


Basketball at the University of Kansas has been around since, well, practically the beginning of the sport itself, and the program has since made great strides toward becoming an NCAA powerhouse and perennial tournament participant. Here’s where this esteemed basketball program got its start, and how its unique logo has changed over time.


Rock Chalk Jayhawk History

Dr. James Naismith is often credited with inventing basketball when he was a YMCA instructor in Massachusetts in 1891. After leaving his Y post, he got a medical degree in Denver, and then got a job at the University of Kansas. There, he founded its basketball program in 1898 and served as its first coach for nine seasons. He was succeeded as coach by a former player, Forrest “Phog” Allen, whose legendary coaching and efforts to lead the team to the university’s first NCAA title led to a permanent tribute on campus – today’s team plays in Allen Fieldhouse (also known as the Phog).

Kansas plays in the Big 12 Conference and has made an appearance in 14 Final Four and won three NCAA championships. Since Allen’s departure, the team has had a bevy of great b-ball coaches, including Dick Harp, Ted Owens, Larry Brown (who won KU’s second national championship in 1988), Roy Williams, and current head coach, Bill Self (who won their third championship in 2008).


Logo Evolution

KU’s mascot is the Jayhawk, which stems from early Kansas struggles between those who were in favor of slavery and those who wanted the territory to remain free. The “free” people, especially those from Lawrence, were known as Jayhawkers, and the image began to take on a patriotic feel. The bird first appeared in a KU cheer in 1886, and when the sports team got its start, it was naturally called the Jayhawks.


The mascot and logo have gone through many changes over the last 100 years. Its first incarnation features a blue bird with a large yellow beak and shoes – for kicking opponents.


The next logo depicts a less cartoonish bird perched on the letters KU. This guy is also mostly blue, but his beak is sharper and narrower.


This is the first year the Jayhawk is depicted with a red head. The “KU” also appears on his body for the first time in red, and his beak is rounder and freakishly large when compared to its prior version.


This version is similar to the last, with a few notable changes. The beak is smaller, the Jayhawk looks fierce, like he meant for business, and he has talons on his legs.


The 1941 rendition is shorter, stouter, and has a wide, frowny beak that pairs very well with his “I mean business” steely glare. The KU remains on his chest but is now depicted in white.


The Jayhawk undergoes one more change. He’s a little spunkier now, walks with a jaunty step, and features a smile instead of a scowl. This is the version that survives today.

Beware of the Phog

Are you a Kansas fan? Before you head out to Allen Fieldhouse, make sure you grab some brand-spankin’ new Jayhawks gear at Fanatics.





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