Allen Fieldhouse turned up the juice.
With an All-Star rendition of the national anthem and a video board pep talk from former Kansas standout Sherron Collins, the Phog was the loudest it had been all season.
If Kansas fans had any reservations about their Jayhawks, they checked them at the door.
It’s been an intense stretch for the Jayhawks, as Kansas had a year’s worth of off-the-court news come to light over the course of a week.
The local — and national — perception of the team is not good.
“I know we all want to win,” said Justin Zellers, a 1999 graduate of the University from Overland Park. “But it’s not at all costs.”
On Jan. 24, reports came out that an alleged rape of a 16-year-old girl had been reported at McCarthy Hall — the residence hall in which the basketball team resides. The following morning, five basketball players — senior guard Frank Mason III, freshman guard Josh Jackson, sophomore guard Lagerald Vick, freshman forward Mitch Lightfoot and junior guard Tucker Vang — were listed among the witnesses by KU Police in the Dec. 17 incident.
When the news came out, fans had mixed responses.
"I was kinda disappointed really,” said Anna Donovan, a sophomore from Oklahoma City. “Because you cheer for these guys multiple times a week and they do something off the court that puts the team in a really uncomfortable position.”
On Jan. 26, sophomore forward Carlton Bragg Jr. had been suspended by coach Bill Self for a “violation of team rules” for his second suspension of the season. Four days later, Bragg was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia. According to police records obtained by the Kansan, police confiscated two glass smoking devices on the night of the alleged rape. Bragg was granted diversion on Feb. 1 for the charge.
“He’s been suspended twice,” said Scott Wellhausen, a senior from Brocton, Illinois. “Regardless of how serious you think it is, two suspensions is detrimental.”
Bragg’s first suspension back in December followed an arrest and a battery charge that was eventually dropped. After the charge against Bragg was dropped, a battery charge was filed against Saleeha Soofi.
“I think Carlton gets a bad rep,” said Bryce Dieker, a junior from Westphalia. “He was accused of an assault that got dismissed.”
Several students, including Wellhausen, cited that first incident with Bragg as something to learn from.
“The original Carlton Bragg issue shows just how problematic it can be to leap to conclusions early,” Wellhausen said.
But the off-the-court news wasn’t over.
On. Jan. 30, the Kansas City Star reported that a University investigation found that Vick had likely committed domestic violence and that the recommended punishment for said offense was two years of probation. In the Star's report, Vick allegedly hit a female student multiple times and kicked her in the face.
All of it together has snowballed, and some fans don’t know what to think.
"The news comes out and with the environment that's around domestic abuse, honestly those are some serious issues,” Wellhausen said. “We need more first. … As far as the stuff off the court, I think you gotta wait until you hear more to make a decision. That shouldn't downplay Lagerald Vick's problems or Carlton's problems. I hate to leap to judgement before I know stuff.”
When asked about the Vick report after the game, coach Bill Self delivered a prepared statement in front of members of the media, various Kansas Athletics officials, the Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs, Tim Caboni and the University's Director of Strategic Communications, Joe Monaco.
"I have been told that I cannot comment on a University investigation or whether one is or is not taking place or has ever taken place," Self read. "And due to previous practice by the University and by the athletic department, I would not be giving any details of such investigation. What was reported was reported. I haven't been made aware of anything. That's where that is and that's the last time and the only thing I will say concerning that because I am basically been told that's all that can be said."
Regardless of fans waiting for all the facts, some of the damage has already been done. Perception isn’t necessarily rooted in fact. It’s rooted in belief.
Kansas fans may have checked their feelings of their Jayhawks at the door, but there’s doubt in their minds, albeit a small amount.
“I am a stickler for rules,” Zellers said. “I think they should be followed. [The] University needs to come down on them, but they need the evidence to prove it."
— Edited by Ashley Hocking