After 50 Years, KU Fight Song Adapts to New Era

Oct. 22, 2010


Contact: Jennifer Jackson Sanner, KU Alumni Association, (785) 864-4760

The familiar tune “I’m a Jayhawk,” a longtime University of Kansas tradition, will include slightly revised lyrics following the KU Alumni Association’s songwriting contest.

The winning entry, authored by Matt Schoenfeld, of Countryside, talks about the Sooners, the Cowboys and the seven other rivals that remain in the soon-to-change Big 12 Conference. A panel of judges selected Schoenfeld’s rendition from six finalists. His lyrics alter the first verse and one line of the chorus:

Talk about the Sooners, Cowboys and the Bears,
Aggies and the Tiger and his tail.
Talk about the Wildcats, and the Cyclone boys,
But I’m the bird to make ’em weep and wail.

‘Cause I’m a Jay, Jay, Jay, Jay, Jayhawk,
Up at Lawrence on the Kaw—
‘Cause I’m a Jay, Jay, Jay, Jay, Jayhawk,
With a sis-boom, hip hoorah,
Got a bill that’s big enough
To twist a Tiger’s tail,
Rope some ‘Horns and listen
To the Red Raiders wail—
‘Cause I’m a Jay, Jay, Jay, Jay, Jayhawk,
Riding on a Kansas gale.

Schoenfeld, who as a junior high student began following KU basketball teams coached by Ted Owens, attended college at Baylor University, but says he remained faithful to the Jayhawks.

“I remember sitting with my two roommates from Kansas City and tuning the radio until we could pick up the crackly voices of Bob and Max down in Waco,” he said, referring to Bob Davis, current play-by-play voice of the Jayhawks who is in his 25th season with KU and Max Falkenstien, former radio voice of the Jayhawks for 60 years. “Then this summer, I saw a Sports Illustrated story on the contest, and I sat down that night with my kids to work on lyrics. They frequently remind me that I’m not a true Jayhawk, and they have an interest in becoming Jayhawks.”

Schoenfeld’s wife, Cynthia Morrison Schoenfeld, earned KU degrees in education and occupational therapy in 1988 and 1998. His sister, Julie Schoenfeld Johnson, graduated from the KU School of Nursing in 1984.

The contest to revise the fight song began Sept. 1 and concluded Oct. 11. The judges were Del Shankel, former KU chancellor; Kevin Corbett, KU Alumni Association president; David Clemmer, KU director of athletic bands, including the Marching Jayhawks; Max Falkenstien, former radio voice of the Jayhawks for 60 years; David Lawrence, radio broadcaster for the Jayhawk Sports Network; Jennifer Jackson Sanner, senior vice president for communications for the KU Alumni Association; Michael Wade Smith, student body president; and Caitlin Wise, co-chair of the 2010 Homecoming Committee.

Robert E. Foster, professor of music and director of KU bands for 31 years, consulted with the panel on the winning entry.

“I’m a Jayhawk,” written in 1912 by KU graduate George “Dumpy” Bowles, became popular with KU students in 1920. The lyrics remained unchanged until 1958, when slight revisions included rival schools in the Big Eight conference. After longtime rivals Nebraska and Colorado in June announced plans to leave the Big 12 Conference, KU alumni asked the alumni association about adapting the lyrics after 50 years. Future conference changes will not automatically dictate further changes to the lyrics.