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A Saturday In “The Phog”

the-phog

There is a reason Allen Fieldhouse labels itself as “The Best Home Court Advantage in College Basketball.” It’s because Allen Fieldhouse is the best home court advantage in college basketball.

With all due respect to Duke’s Cameron Indoor, Indiana’s Assembly Hall, Michigan State’s Breslin Center and any other venue you want to throw out there, including our own Rupp Arena, Allen Fieldhouse is the best environment in the sport. It makes Rupp feel like a funeral or a hungover Sunday morning at church — and I say that with love, Big Blue Nation.

I have now made two trips out to Lawrence to see the Jayhawks play at home and both times I was blown away by the insanity inside “The Phog.” Students surround the court on three of the four sides and they’re as rowdy as any students in America. It’s the way it should be in the college game: the loudest and most rambunctious sit the closest to the action.

Then again, at Kansas, students aren’t necessarily the loudest and most rambunctious in the stands. Everyone in the building is on their feet and making noise; from the middle-aged man sitting with his two kids, to the 65-year-old woman at the top of the bleachers with a turtleneck under her free t-shirt. There’s not a calm soul in sight.

This past weekend, the excitement in Allen was heightened with the 20th-ranked Kentucky Wildcats in town, as you well know. Kansas saw a record crowd of students fighting to get a seat for the marquee showdown between two of college basketball’s most storied programs.

One arena employee told me she had never seen anything like it as we stared out the window at the impatient crowd prior to the game.

ku-fans

A small glimpse of the crowds outside waiting to get in

Once that impatient crowd was allowed inside, students sprinted toward the court’s first-come, first-serve general admission seating, ignoring the “WALK!” and “NO RUNNING!” pleas from arena personnel.

It did not take long for them to fill each end zone with well over an hour to spare before tip-off.

ku-student-section

Meanwhile, I used my early arrival to tour the area and take it all in. I arrived almost three hours before tip, which is very unlike me, so I could share the scene on Periscope and SnapChat with everyone who couldn’t make the trip. (Because I’m a man of the people and I didn’t drive nine hours each way to be selfish with my findings.)

I began in the neighborhood surrounding Allen Fieldhouse, where the streets were lined with students, many of them tailgating in their front lawns. I was amazed to see an overwhelming amount of female students on my way in, dominating the male population at a 5-to-1 ratio, at least where I was. I wondered if KU had any male students at all.

One lawn had around 15-20 girls drinking from a keg and not a guy within two blocks either direction. Needless to say, I was very… we’ll say… ‘intrigued’ by what I was seeing and couldn’t believe such social settings exist in the world. I was quick to text everyone back home:

ku-text

It may be time to look into grad school in the Midwest.

ku-girls

@haley_jennison

After fighting the urge to quit my job, buy a Kansas t-shirt, join the party and never go home, I made my way to the correctional facility that is Allen Fieldhouse.

allen-fieldhouse

The Fieldhouse turns 61 next month and it looks every bit of it. That’s kind of why it’s so awesome, but not as awesome as the Kentucky fans I found outside:

uk-fans-kansas

 

My first stop inside Allen was the Booth Family Hall of Athletics, a museum located in the concourse area of the arena. It is a 26,000 square-foot shrine to University of Kansas athletics, with a heavy emphasis on college basketball.

Tons of good SnapChat material in there, too.

museum-snapchat

And a place where you can search for great moments in Kansas history:

The University of Kentucky even has a presence in the museum with this photo of a young Adolph Rupp. Rupp is a “special admittance” into the Hall.

Look at that ladykiller!

young-rupp

Reading all about James Naismith and the Morris twins worked up an appetite, so I headed toward the media room for a free meal.

On the menu: BBQ ribs and baked beans…

Mmmmmmm...

Mmmmmmm…

I took two bites, tossed it, then went to the court to watch Kentucky warm up and get ready for the game.

At that point the place was packed with fans watching both teams get some final shots up before tip. Tyler Ulis couldn’t miss, which was a telling sign of what was to come. After watching him hit shot after shot, I walked up to my seat in the bleachers as the teams headed back until game time.

 

Things got real with about 10 minutes on the clock, when Allen Fieldhouse broke out into the Rock Chalk, Jayhawk chant. It’s a really eerie chant, like being in an old monastery, not in arena about to host one of the biggest college basketball games of the season.

Isn’t this creepy?

The mood quickly changed from slow and haunting to complete mayhem when Kansas was introduced to the home crowd. It hit 120 decibels in there, if you’re to believe the meter on the video board. A jet takes off at 100 decibels.

Then came the tip.

Of course, Kansas went on to win the game in overtime in an instant classic. It was the closest thing you’ll ever see to a ‘moral victory’ for Kentucky. How they were able to stay composed in that environment, especially right out of the gate, is beyond me.

Alex Poythress said afterward, “It was crazy. Loudest atmosphere I’ve ever been in.”

I’m going to agree with him.

The Best Home Court Advantage in College Basketball indeed.

Article written by Drew Franklin

I can recite every line from Forrest Gump, blindfolded. Follow me on Twitter: @DrewFranklinKSR

31 Comments for A Saturday In “The Phog”



  1. HillbillyInBC
    9:23 pm February 1, 2016 Permalink

    Gotta get rid of those bogus Helms banners, Jayhawks.



    • onsides
      9:45 pm February 1, 2016 Permalink

      Yeah that’s pretty weak. Helms awarded Rupp 2 national titles in in 1933 & 1954 that UK doesn’t recognize. If UK did, the ‘cats would be going for the 11th title this year I guess. But c’mon.



  2. resjcg
    9:36 pm February 1, 2016 Permalink

    Good grief, how anyone could attend a game at Rupp when we play the likes of Louisville, UNC or any other blue blood and compare that special environment to a funeral is a complete idiot…….period. Hey Drew, you need to hit youtube up and watch the 5 minute video on number one ranked UF’s visit to Rupp in 2003.



    • The Rest of the story
      10:29 pm February 1, 2016 Permalink

      What you mentioned here is only a rarity at Rupp. Rupp is the worst arena in college for seating the fans away from the floor and letting the Old Money sleep in the lower arena. UK deserves better than that.



    • CATandMONKEY
      10:42 pm February 1, 2016 Permalink

      Sorry man, Drew and Rest are on target. (I don’t know that we are the worst)Rupp CAN be a fantastic and intimidating environment for BIG games. Otherwise we have a good to mediocre crowd/environment . When people in the lower arena ask you to sit down…come on. It has happened to many of us, though no longer am I a student so getting into the lower arena is less common these days.

      I was in the lower arena for the UNC game when Davis made THE block and the crowd was, indeed magical. Unfortunately that has become more of an exception rather than the rule.



    • catdaddyd
      11:00 pm February 1, 2016 Permalink

      I’d like to sit in the lower level at Rupp, hate sitting in the upper level. But if it wasn’t for the older crowd donating big bucks, where would UK be? Especially in the down years.



    • CATandMONKEY
      11:26 pm February 1, 2016 Permalink

      Catdaddy, that is why we need luxury boxes and club seating.



    • symphonist41169
      8:36 am February 2, 2016 Permalink

      Does Allen Fieldhouse have luxury boxes and club seating? I’d guess not considering it’s 20+ years older than Rupp, but I don’t know for certain. If it doesn’t, then how does KU have the students’ seats so much better without getting the blue-blood money for lower level seats but UK claims we “need” that to survive? Is it because AFH is on campus and Rupp Arena is downtown?



    • CATandMONKEY
      8:45 am February 2, 2016 Permalink

      Just a suggestion on how we might make up lost revenue from moving out big donors from lower arena…and not pi$$ing them off too much. I meant in no way to compare Rupp to AFH in that above comment, just a reply to ” older crowd donating big bucks.” I have no idea how Kansas structures its support of the basketball program.

      I agree with the notion that other major programs manage to put a lot more active fans in the lower arena and financially survive- so why can’t we?



    • Sentient Third Eye
      8:55 am February 2, 2016 Permalink

      Rupp does equal “The Phog” at times, but it only happens occasionally. Because of the limitations that are discussed a lot (the seating, the older fans who won’t get up, etc), it takes a lot more effort. But it DOES happen. The loudest I ever remember Rupp was actually during the Pitino days. I can’t even remember the opponent now, but I’m sure someone else will. It was when the C-A-T-S cheer got so thunderous that it absolutely rattled the opponent and cost them the game. And prick that he is, Pitino complained afterwards that fans shouldn’t do that cheer like that anymore. I never understood why he said that because the crowd directly affected the outcome that game more than anything Rick did.



  3. catdaddyd
    10:55 pm February 1, 2016 Permalink

    drew, is it the University of Kansas or Kansas University?



    • FartsInGayBars
      11:25 pm February 1, 2016 Permalink

      Actually the main entrance into campus and every other place I saw said the University of Kansas. Go figure.



    • catdaddyd
      2:15 pm February 2, 2016 Permalink

      I thought I’ve seen it both ways as well.



  4. FartsInGayBars
    11:23 pm February 1, 2016 Permalink

    I was in the house Saturday. Came home yesterday and watched the first five minutes of the game just to see if the tv did it any justice.

    NOPE!! The place was absolutely pulsating. It was unreal. EVERYONE on their feet. EVERYONE yelling.

    I’d say the average age of the crowd there was maybe early 30’s as compared to a generous mid 50’s for Rupp.

    Longtime and lifetime fan of UK. Two time grad. You can find me court side at almost every home game so I’ve seen my fair share of the good and the bad including all of the ones mentioned above. But sorry BBN. This place makes Rupp look like a library inside of convalescent care facility.



    • JCBlue22
      4:03 pm February 2, 2016 Permalink

      to be fair you attended what will easily be the biggest non-conference game of the year for KU in the regular season, of course the place will be jumping with rowdy college students. For a better comparison why not go watch a december non-con game at allen and report on the difference. I bet it would be night and day. And even though you can argue that AFH is louder than rupp, we have led the country in attendance for something like 25 of the past 30 years, even beating out the carrier dome. So even if allen is louder, rupp holds more bodies AND is also filled to capacity on a regular and steady basis, whether we’re playing UNC or directional-state tech



    • Catlanta
      6:07 pm February 2, 2016 Permalink

      I was also in Allen on Saturday. I’ve been in Rupp for big games too. Phog wins hands down. And JCBlue, Allen has a sell-out streak of over 200 games. Don’t think Rupp has anything near that.



  5. mapcatfan
    12:59 am February 2, 2016 Permalink

    I’m taking exception as well. But first let me qualify: I’m not arguing that AFH isn’t the best home crowd environment – too many people say it indeed is the loudest. And I’m not going to say that it isn’t the loudest arena on a regular basis, even for just mundane games. But I wish everyone would quit using Saturday’s game as the barometer and stop acting like AFH is like this for every game. It isn’t. Also, Rupp will never be able to have the acoustical advantage that AFH has by design alone.

    I’ll be the first to admit Rupp can resemble a church service sometimes when not playing a quality opponent. But it also can be unbelievably loud for big games. I don’t know how it could have been any louder than it was for the LSU/Shaq game I attended. You literally couldn’t hear the person standing next to you – could only see their mouth moving.



  6. Cerebral Cat
    6:26 am February 2, 2016 Permalink

    UK’S winning percentage in Rupp is 89%. KU’s winning percentage in Phog is 87%. 89% > 87%.



    • CATandMONKEY
      7:43 am February 2, 2016 Permalink

      Fair point but without crunching the numbers and applying the appropriate statistical tests we have no idea if the difference those numbers are statistically significant or not. Also we would need to look at opponents, difference between each home team and each opponent, assign some value to each venue as a contribution towards the win, etc,etc.

      Bottom line is that Rupp is not ALWAYS the “greatest most intimidating atmosphere in college basketball ” for every game- though it sometimes CAN be so. It just simply is not the case anymore. UK should do everything in its power to give our premiere program the number one atmosphere for every game.



  7. playmorezeppelin
    7:28 am February 2, 2016 Permalink

    1. Way too early to be looking at so much Jayhawk.

    2. I posted on here last week talking about how disappointing it is that UK doesn’t give students better seats for the games. Anyone who thinks Rupp arena is a tougher environment to play in than AFH or Dean Smith or Cameron is in denial. We stick our students behind a goal at one end of the arena and it’s pitiful honestly. They do give out another thousand or so student tickets, but they get put up into the nosebleeds. It SICKENS me to watch Duke UNC and Kansas play their home games and see how crazy it is. Whoever said Rupp Arena is like a funeral some games hit the nail right on the head. You could have a conversation with someone across the arena from you if you really wanted to. It’s just a shame that it can’t be more about the students who attend the college and pay tuition.



  8. Rise
    7:37 am February 2, 2016 Permalink

    Wait, you are telling me that Kansas can have all the great things that we have without having blue hairs filling up the lower bowl? That is absurd!!



  9. Capurnicus
    8:04 am February 2, 2016 Permalink

    I must agree with some of the complaints here on Rupp Arena… The lower arena is way too quiet, and needs a bigger student section. Meanwhile if your sitting up top, your probably too busy trying to get someone’s knee out of your back instead of enjoying the game and cheering.



  10. BobTheBuilder
    9:01 am February 2, 2016 Permalink

    Creepy AF talkin about all the college girls. Isn’t the guy that wrote this like 40?



    • UK Big Board Update
      9:19 am February 2, 2016 Permalink

      Nope. Quit hating.



    • Sentient Third Eye
      9:36 am February 2, 2016 Permalink

      Admiring the “local talent” in towns they visit has always been a part of the KSR formula. Don’t diss tradition.



  11. Jpcat15
    10:36 am February 2, 2016 Permalink

    I can’t believe the Rupp Arena hate that is spewed by this site. I have been to 3 games at KU, including the 2006 UK game and the last time Mizzou and KU played (Mizzou most hated rival). The Phog is a great place to watch a game, but Rupp Arena is just a loud and seats about 5,000 more people. The Phog has nothing that compares to the entire gameday setting that Rupp has. The hotel lobbies and the shopping center atmosphere 3 to 4 hours before the game rivals an NFL or College football tailgating situation. I have not lived in Kentucky since 1986 but typically get to Rupp at least once a year. Heck, I was able to make it to the Mizzou game last week and the crowd was incredibly loud when you consider it was a 34 point blowout. I think it is natural to always think the grass is greener somewhere else, but you have been spoiled. If you did not get to go to Rupp all the time you would give it much more respect in terms of atmosphere. Also, you saw the Phog as loud as it will ever get. It is not that way all the time- trust me.



  12. Biglaw Dawgin'
    11:16 am February 2, 2016 Permalink

    Blasphemy! Benedict Arnold! Brutus!!

    Ok, those were my initial thoughts. But I guess if a homer like Drew is that convinced, it must be pretty awesome. Let the record reflect, however, that I come to this site for blind-UK loyalty and homerist views, not unbiased journalism!



  13. Memphis UK Cat
    12:13 pm February 2, 2016 Permalink

    I think Mrs. Tyler will agree. The loudest UK fans are on the road. We buy up the good seats and are loud as can be. We are able to be loud because almost all the other venues are sold out and we are their super bowl. So standing and being loud is very acceptable.



  14. ncaa is in on it
    2:34 pm February 2, 2016 Permalink

    Man i I was Bill Self I would so it to every recruit. BUT, sadly you’re right, Rupp needs to do something its so dead sometimes its crazy.



  15. JCBlue22
    3:52 pm February 2, 2016 Permalink

    couple points
    1) this game was easily the loudest Allen Fieldhouse will be all year
    2) Rupp arena has a higher seating capacity AND higher win percentage in rupp arena
    3) Kentucky is first all time in wins, so we must have some sort of homecourt advantage
    4) I’d take 8 national titles and 25 national attendance titles over a bunch of dusty helms banners and a rowdy old arena



  16. JewelieLou
    5:47 pm February 2, 2016 Permalink

    I just want to know how Drew was able to get two lines of text on the Naismith snapchat.