“That was Jared, wasn’t it?” 😂💪 https://t.co/RpPl2L3kK2
— Kansas Football (@KU_Football) November 14, 2021
The Top 10 Kansas Athletics Moments of 2021
With 2021 coming to a close, we relied on Jayhawk fans all around the world to help determine the Top 10 moments of the calendar year. We received over 1,000 votes for the top moment of the year, in a year that will be remembered for monumental victories, rivalries, individual and team accomplishments and more. So, let’s take a look back at the top moments of 2021 as voted by you, our fans!
10. Kansas Defeats South Dakota in Lance Leipold’s Coaching Debut
The beginning of the Lance Leipold era at Kansas began with a 1 in the win column, as the Jayhawks defeated South Dakota 17-14 at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium on September 4.
The Jayhawks found themselves down by four with five minutes left in the fourth quarter, before quarterback Jason Bean then helped engineer an 11-play, 64-yard drive that spanned nearly four minutes and concluded with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Lawrence Arnold to put the Jayhawks up three with just 1:10 left on the clock.
The key play on the drive came on 4th-and-10 at the South Dakota 47 when Bean found tight end Mason Fairchild for a 20-yard gain to keep the drive alive and help set up the win. Five plays later, the Jayhawks scored.
The South Dakota offense had one final chance, but the Kansas defense came up big and didn’t allow the Coyotes to get a first down. Bean then took a knee to ice the game and secure the victory for Leipold in his first game as head coach of the Jayhawks.
“The biggest thing is how proud I am of this group to battle back that late in the game when the momentum really shifted, especially what they’ve been through,” Leipold said. “We talked a lot about how since the last time this program has won a football game so to do it in that style is very fitting and I hope it’s something we will build upon.”
9. Jayhawks Send Eight to the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games
For many athletes, competing at the Olympic Games is the holy grail of their careers. When the 2020 Tokyo Olympics were postponed due to COVID-19, athletes had to postpone their Olympic dream for another year, but that didn’t stop nine Jayhawks from pursuing their Olympic journey.
A total of eight Jayhawk athletes and coaches punched their tickets to the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games, including Jayhawk athletes Gleb Dudarev, Alexandra Emilianov, Mason Finley (volunteer coach), Christina Clemons (volunteer coach) and Bryce Hoppel and coaches Stanley Redwine, Andy Kokhanovsky and Michael Whittlesey.
The Jayhawks made many moments in their journey to the Olympic Games. Of them, seven made their Olympic debuts, with Finley being the sole returner of the group. Kansas track & field and cross country head coach Stanley Redwine was also selected as Team USA’s assistant coach working with the distance squad.
8. Men’s Golf Gets Hot, Wins Four Straight Tournament Titles
Of the Jayhawk wins during the 2021 season, one of the most significant runs came from the Kansas men’s golf team, which captured four-straight tournament wins to close out its fall season and climb all the way up to No. 9 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings.
The Jayhawks started their run at the Gopher Invitational in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where Kansas led a strong effort by shooting 14-under for the tournament to be named Co-Champions of the Gopher Invitational. Sophomore Luke Kluver led the Jayhawks with a -10 (203) to win the individual race.
Kansas continued its success at the Windon Memorial Tournament from September 27-28, posting an 18-under, including a 12-under final round to win by seven strokes. The Jayhawks had another individual Champion at the Windon Memorial, with sophomore Davis Cooper leading the way with a 9-under.
The Jayhawks capped off the 2021 campaign with consecutive tournament wins at the Quail Valley Collegiate Invitational in Vero Beach, Florida, followed by the Ka’anapali Classic in Maui, Hawaii.
“I’m really happy for the guys and the program. I think the guys are really starting to believe in themselves and continue to get better every day,” Head Coach Jamie Bermel said. “We still have some work to do, but we are definitely headed in the right direction.”
7. Eli Davis Pitches First No-Hitter Against a Conference Opponent
There aren’t many feats in baseball as significant as a no-hitter. Kansas has had six individual pitching no-hitters in program history, dating back to 1880. Kansas’ Eli Davis was the latest to etch his name in Kansas history, throwing a 7-inning no-hitter against Kansas State on May 14.
Davis became the first Jayhawk since 2009 to accomplish such a feat and the first Jayhawk to pitch a no-hitter against a conference opponent.
Davis’ dominant performance surrendered no hits or runs, while striking out four batters and only walking two. But Davis’ feat came at the end of a long journey.
Committed to KU out of high school, Davis suffered an injury every baseball pitcher fears – Tommy John surgery. A surgery that would keep him off the mound for roughly 14-16 months.
Davis fought through his injury, returned to the mound and later became the sixth individual no-hitter in Kansas baseball history.
6. Soccer Wins Consecutive Games Against Ranked Opponents
You can’t have a much better week that what Kansas soccer did from October 7-10. The Jayhawks topped consecutive ranked opponents for the first time in the same week in program history, both in dramatic fashion.
First up, Kansas hosted No. 23 Baylor at Rock Chalk Park on October 7, which featured two Jayhawk goals within the first 15 minutes of the match.
Senior Rylan Childers got the scoring started in the fifth minute with a penalty kick, which was quickly followed with a goal in the 12th minute off another penalty kick, this time off the foot of sophomore Brie Severns. The Jayhawks would hold off Baylor with their two early goals, defeating Baylor, 2-1.
Three days later, the Jayhawks were prepared for another upset.
On October 10, the Jayhawks welcomed No. 9 West Virginia to Rock Chalk Park, which featured late game theatrics in overtime.
With just seven seconds remaining in double overtime, Severns fielded a pass from freshman Raena Childers, which Severns scored just under the crossbar to defeat West Virginia, 2-1.
“I’m just so proud of the group,” head coach Mark Francis said. “We used seven subs today and the level of intensity didn’t drop. It’s interesting what a difference a weekend makes. Last weekend, we had two disappointing losses. This weekend, we beat a top-25 team and then a top-10 team. Now, I think the group believes we can beat and compete with anybody.”
5. Rivalry Renewed: Kansas Basketball Dominates Missouri in Border Showdown
There’s nothing quite like a rivalry game. Especially a rivalry that dates back to 1907 and has the history and passion of the Border Showdown between Kansas and Missouri.
These two teams met up for the first time since 2012 on December 11, which brought back memories, stories and moments that fueled the rivalry.
Despite it being the team’s first meeting in nine years, the Jayhawks wasted no time in reclaiming the rivalry, winning 102-65, which was the third-largest margin of victory in the series and the most since defeating Missouri 98-54 on February 15, 1966. It’s safe to say that Kansas fans enjoyed it.
Kansas also improved its Border Showdown series advantage to 175-95 all-time, including winning six of the last seven meetings between the two teams.
The Jayhawks and Tigers will meet in each of the next five years, renewing the Border Showdown rivalry. Kansas will head to enemy territory in 2022, playing Missouri at Mizzou Arena, before returning to Allen Fieldhouse in 2023. The football rivalry will be reignited in 2025.
4. Bill Self Inked to Lifetime Contract
Prior to Bill Self entering his 18th season as the head coach for the Jayhawks, Kansas Athletics secured Self to a lifetime contract to keep the Hall of Fame Coach in Lawrence – forever.
“For almost 20 years, Coach Self has embodied the spirit and tradition of the University of Kansas, leading our men’s basketball program to a national championship, 15 Big 12 titles and 17 NCAA Tournament appearances,” Girod said. “We believe in Coach Self and we believe in the future of our program under his leadership, and we are thrilled that he will continue to be a Jayhawk for the rest of his coaching career.”
“I want to extend my sincere appreciation to Chancellor Girod, Kurt Watson, and the rest of the leadership at KU for their belief and faith in me to provide this lifetime contract,” Self said. “Every day, I am reminded just how fortunate I am to lead this storied program and there truly is no place else I would rather be. As we continue to work through the challenges facing our program, we look forward to moving ahead and focusing on our bright future. I would also like to express my gratitude to our alumni and donors, as well as the best fans and students in the nation, that have supported my family and me for the past 18 seasons. I’m excited to remain your basketball coach and compete for many championships in the future.”
3. Kansas Volleyball Makes Run to the Sweet 16 of NCAA Volleyball Tournament
It’s no surprise that Kansas volleyball’s run to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Volleyball Tournament is one of the top moments of 2021.
After all, the Jayhawks were on the outside looking in of making the tournament just weeks prior, before rattling off four-straight conference wins – including an influential sweep against the Wildcats in the Dillons Sunflower Showdown to finish the conference season on November 27-28.
A day later, the Jayhawks would huddle up to watch the NCAA Volleyball selection show to determine their postseason fate. The Jayhawks were selected for their 10th NCAA Tournament appearance in program history and would play Oregon in the first round in Omaha, Nebraska.
Kansas would go on a postseason run that would lead them to the Sweet 16, following a convincing sweep in its first-round game against Oregon – a game that Kansas never trailed, followed by a strong showing against Creighton, 3-1, in front of the Bluejays’ home crowd.
The Jayhawks’ season would come to an end in the Sweet 16 round against No. 3 Pittsburgh, though it marked Kansas’ third trip to the Sweet 16 in program history, while ending with an 18-12 record.
2. Kansas Athletics Hires New Leaders, Travis Goff and Lance Leipold
2021 can also be described as a time of transition for the Jayhawks – hiring Director of Athletics Travis Goff and Kansas football head coach Lance Leipold in the same month, April.
Goff, who was introduced as Kansas’ 16th Director of Athletics on April 7, returned to his alma mater where he graduated in 2002. Goff’s leadership and vision for KU were what made him stand out in the search process, led by Chancellor Douglas Girod and alumni advisors Linda Ellis Sims, Ray Evans, John Ballard and Wayne Simien.
“I am especially impressed with Travis’ vision for KU,” Girod said of Goff. “Travis understands the challenges we face and the changing landscape of collegiate athletics. At the same time, he is well-positioned to help us build on our recent successes in student-athlete healthcare, diversity and inclusion, and student-athlete academic achievement. The fact that he is a Jayhawk himself is an added bonus and will undoubtedly serve him well as he moves Kansas Athletics forward.”
In what can be described as a hectic first 24 hours as the Director of Athletics for Kansas, Goff landed in Lawrence, where he was officially introduced as Director of Athletics to the media, met with the athletics department and quickly got to work searching for the next head football coach for the Jayhawks.
Twenty-five days later, Goff found his guy.
Goff, along with the search committee – consisting of administrators Nicole Corcoran, David Reed and Mike Vollmar and Kansas football alumni Darrell Stuckey – set out in interviewing, evaluating and finding the best fit for Kansas football.
They landed on Leipold, who in his 15 years of coaching is the quickest coach in NCAA history to reach 100 career wins and has claimed six National Champions while at UW-Whitewater. Many were quick to realize what Goff and the KU leadership saw in Leipold, as the hire has been praised by the media as one of the best football hires in all of 2021.
1. Kansas Football Wins in Dramatic Fashion in Austin
The top moment of 2021 brought all kinds of drama, from a 21-point halftime lead, action-packed fourth quarter and a 2-point conversion that sealed Kansas’ first win in Austin in program history. Kansas’ 57-56 win over Texas on November 13 was the top Jayhawk moment of 2021.
It all started with a methodical 13 play, 75-yard drive to get the scoring started. Kansas would play inspired football throughout the first half, scoring the final 21 points of the second quarter to take a 35-14 lead into halftime.
Texas fought back in the second half, outscoring KU 21-7 in the third quarter, before Kansas made it a 14-point game on a Kwamie Lassiter II touchdown with 8:47 remaining. Texas cut it to within seven with 4:39 left. The Jayhawks couldn’t score on their next possession, but true freshman safety O.J. Burroughs came up with an interception to keep it a seven-point game.
After Kansas failed to convert a first down, Texas got the ball back and scored with 22 seconds left to tie the game at 49.
In the first overtime period, Texas struck first on its first possession, setting up the dramatic finish.
The Jayhawks only used four plays, capped off by a 2-yard rush from freshman Devin Neal to bring the score to 55-56. Trailing by one, head coach Lance Leipold decided to go for two and the win.
After a timeout to talk strategy, quarterback Jalon Daniels evaded pressure right and found tight end Jared Casey for the 2-point conversion, to give KU the 57-56 win.
As for the postgame celebration, it was a special one.
🚨 Wholesome content alert 🚨
*Warning, if you don’t already love @Dev_Neal23, you definitely will after this clip* pic.twitter.com/ckjLnzEX0A
— Kansas Football (@KU_Football) November 14, 2021
All 😁 over here pic.twitter.com/e8uxrME8sM
— Kansas Football (@KU_Football) November 14, 2021
Explore More from the Top Moments of 2021 on Jayhawks Extra
Inside Kansas Football’s History-Making Overtime Drive Against Texas
Travis Goff: The Process of Hiring the Leader for Kansas Football
Inside the First 24 Hours with Travis Goff as Director of Athletics
Inside the First 72 Hours with Kansas Football Head Coach Lance Leipold
The Clash of Dreams and Reality
Inside the 72-hour Stretch That Extended Kansas Volleyball’s Season
Eli Davis: The Fight from Within
Mason Finley: Let’s do this Again
Inside Kansas Football’s Do-or-Die Drive Against South Dakota