RCW: A Look Back 4.12

This week, just after we have celebrated Veterans Day, let’s take A Look Back at the creation of Memorial Stadium.

Kansas’ Memorial Stadium was built to honor the 130 students, alumni and faculty killed in World War I – including America’s first officer killed in action, Lt. Dr. William T. Fitzsimmons, KU Class of 1912. While several ideas were originally offered for the planned memorial, including an auditorium and a student loan fund, the stadium was the final choice due to the need of such a facility on campus. KU’s then-athletics grounds, McCook Field, was highly dilapidated and in need of replacement. Funding was raised through a “Million Dollar Drive” that was announced just days after the football team tied a heavily-favored Nebraska Cornhuskers team at the Homecoming football game 97 years ago today. The game resulted in a furious wave of excited donations – nearly $225,000 within two weeks!

Pictured is a K Club paddle with hand-written details from the 20-20 KU vs. Nebraska football game that kicked off the “Million Dollar Drive.” After being down 20-0 at the half, KU came back to score 20 unanswered points and tie the game on November 13, 1920. The paddle is on exhibit in the Booth Family Hall of Athletics.

While the Jayhawks had played a few games before the stadium was officially dedicated, the official ceremony on November 11, 1922, marked Armistice Day (as Veterans Day was called until 1954) and included a parade, rifle salute, the singing of hymns, playing of Taps, and of course, a football game – coincidentally against the Nebraska Cornhuskers.