College Traditions: Rock Chalk, Jayhawk
“Rock Chalk, Jayhawk” (a.k.a. the “Rock Chalk” chant) is a chant used at University of Kansas Jayhawks sporting events. The chant is made up of the phrase “Rock chalk, Jayhawk, KU”.
The chant was first adopted by the university’s science club in 1886. Chemistry professor E.H.S. Bailey and his colleagues were returning by train to Lawrence after a conference. During their travel, they discussed a need of a rousing yell. They came up with “Rah, Rah, Jayhawk, Go KU”, repeated three times, which later became “Rock Chalk Jayhawk, KU”.
By 1889, “Rock Chalk”—a transposition of chalk rock, a type of limestone, that exists in the Cretaceous-age bedrocks of central and western parts of the state as well as on Mount Oread, where the University is located, which is similar to the coccolith-bearing chalk of the white cliffs of Dover—later replaced the two “rahs.” Those responsible for the change are unknown, with Bailey himself crediting the geology department, and others an English professor.
Kansas troops have used it in the Philippine-American War in 1899, the Boxer Rebellion, and World War II. In the 1911 Border War football game, over 1,000 fans gathered in downtown Lawrence to listen to a “broadcast” of the game by telegraph and participated in cheers including the Rock Chalk.
In the 1920 Summer Olympics, Albert I of Belgium asked for a typical American college yell, and gathered athletes replied with the chant.
It is best known as being loudly chanted at basketball games at Allen Fieldhouse and football games at University of Kansas Memorial Stadium. During pregame, the refrain of “Rock chalk… Jay-Hawk… KU,” is repeated twice slowly, and then three times quickly. It is usually preceded by the Kansas alma mater “Crimson and the Blue”, and followed by the fight song, “I’m a Jayhawk”. Since the early 1980s, Kansas fans have been known to do the slow repetition of “Rock chalk… Jay-Hawk… KU” when the Jayhawks are believed to be safely ahead, and victory is guaranteed.