On Feb. 13, 16,300 rabid Kansas basketball fans packed themselves into Allen Fieldhouse for the Jayhawks’ game against the West Virginia Mountaineers. This wasn’t a typical Kansas game, however, as the crowd opened the evening by setting the world record for the loudest indoor sports event.
That’s not to say the venue isn’t electrifying on its own, of course. This just happened to be a night on which both players and their adoring supporters, stuffing themselves into college basketball’s most notable monolith, got to be a part of something special.
As for the game itself, the Allen Fieldhouse magic was on full display as the final minutes of the game wound down, as it often does on Naismith Drive during college basketball season.
After trailing by double digits late in regulation, the Jayhawks mounted a furious rally and eventually overcame the Mountaineers. Filled with exciting, fast-paced basketball and a deafening roar from the Kansas faithful, that night exemplified why Allen Fieldhouse is such a special place to a countless number of people. For those reasons, and more, is why Allen Fieldhouse won "Best Campus Building" for the Kansan's Top of the Hill awards.
Brian Hanni, the director of broadcasting for Kansas Athletics and radio voice of the Jayhawks, has experienced Allen Fieldhouse from the perspective of a fan, a fill-in broadcaster, a member of an opponent’s commentary team and as the Kansas play-by-play voice. To him, every “first” broadcast inside what some call “the mecca of college basketball” was special.
“One of the first games I ever had a chance to see at Allen Fieldhouse was Jacque Vaughn’s famous game-winner vs. Indiana in 1993,” Hanni said in an email. “I was in middle school at the time and thought that shot — and the deafening crowd roar that followed — was about the coolest thing I’d ever witnessed.”
The advantage Kansas has when it plays in Allen Fieldhouse is attributable to the rabid fan base that fills the building throughout the season. Hanni, a 2002 University graduate, said the team has an inherent confidence when it has that raucous crowd behind it.
“When a Jayhawk run begins and the crowd starts frothing at the mouth, you can just see the demoralizing effect it has on the faces of the opposing players,” Hanni said.
The West Virginia game epitomizes the aura and special nature of Allen Fieldhouse. Hanni said that game was a perfect example of the effect Allen Fieldhouse has on Kansas opponents, a sentiment which is shared by Chris Lilly, the sports director for WIBW-TV in Topeka.
“The craziest game I’ve ever covered [in Allen Fieldhouse] was the West Virginia game this year,” Lilly said. “They were down late, the crowd rallied and all of a sudden KU comes back.”
Lilly called the atmosphere in the building “mind-numbing,” especially when it comes to opponents facing it.
“It’s incredible how loud it gets and how it throws off other teams,” Lilly said. “Everything plays into it to make it the perfect home-court advantage.”
On the University campus and throughout the legions of Jayhawks fans which blanket the world, Kansas basketball is treated like religion, with its epicenter located in a state somewhat fanatical about religion. This faith truly brings people together from countless backgrounds and cultures, and its church is beloved by generations worth of students and fans.
For Hanni, whose experiences in broadcasting have led him to notable venues all over the country, nothing compares to “The Phog.”
“Where else can you drive up to an arena that’s located on a street named for the game’s creator (Naismith), walk into a building named after the ‘Father of Basketball Coaching’ (Phog Allen), see Naismith’s original rules of the game and look at the immortalized jersey number of the single individual whose impact caused more rules changes than any other (Wilt)?” Hanni asked. “It’s all right there at 1651 Naismith Drive.”
— Edited by Casey Brown