The Kansas football program’s 11 a.m. kickoff against unbeaten Duke on Saturday is officially sold out.
Kansas officials announced Thursday afternoon that all 47,233 tickets for KU’s second home game of the season had been sold, marking the program’s first sellout since Nov. 2, 2019, and just the second in nearly 13 years.
KU drew a respectable crowd of 34,902, for the season opener against Tennessee Tech on Sept. 2. That was the largest opening day crowd in eight years. But KU’s 3-0 start to the season, which has included road wins at West Virginia and Houston in the two weeks since the opener, has added to the buzz surrounding the program.
“It’s great to be back home after a couple on the road,” KU coach Lance Leipold said earlier this week. “And I think it’s important that we have a good crowd. Hopefully we’ll have a good crowd for a lot of different reasons. I think we have a chance now to create some energy and a homefield advantage.”
For years, KU administrators and coaches have begged for fan support to help the stagnant program get up off the mat. And for years, fans mostly stayed away, as the Jayhawks continued to take loss after loss and struggled to compete on most Saturdays.
The 2019 sellout came during Les Miles’ first season with Kansas State in to town. In the two weeks leading up to that season’s Sunflower Showdown, the Jayhawks had shown signs of life with a near-upset at Texas and a rare Big 12 win over Texas Tech. Kansas scored 48 and 37 points, respectively, in those two games, and the fans showed up to see if the Jayhawks had turned a corner.
That sellout was made easier, of course, by the fact that nearly a third of the fans in attendance that day were wearing purple and cheering for Kansas State.
The Jayhawks lost that game 38-10 and finished the season 3-9. KU went winless (0-9) in 2020 and Miles, like so many before him, was shown the door, partly because of the performance on the field and partly because of his involvement in an ugly sexual harassment scandal during his time at LSU.
Miles’ departure led to the hiring of Leipold, who, in just 15 games, has people believing the program is actually headed in the right direction again.
Leipold won just two games in his first season at Kansas, but one of them came at Texas late in the season and that sparked KU to play inspired football in one-score losses in the final two weeks of the season. The momentum from those efforts has carried over into the start of the 2022 season, and Leipold already has won more road games at Kansas (3) than his four predecessors combined.
This week is all about the home crowd, though.
As excitement grew over KU’s overtime win at West Virginia in Week 2 and 48-30 win at Houston last week, fans started social media campaigns seeking to fill David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium for the matchup with Duke. “Pack the Booth,” was the rallying cry, and the Jayhawk faithful appear to have done just that, surpassing more than 12,000 new single-game tickets sold in the five days that followed the win over Houston.
“This is a tremendous statement regarding both the exciting trajectory of Kansas football and the incredible passion of Jayhawk fans,” KU Athletic Director Travis Goff said in a statement Thursday night. “We are excited to host an atmosphere at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium that will rival the best in college football. We are grateful for the way our fans have responded to the momentum of Kansas football and I am confident sellouts will no longer be the exception to the rule in our bright future.”
While Saturday’s showdown with Duke has Kansas fans excited, the reality of the situation is that KU now has a chance to make a run and a statement.
Counting Saturday, the Jayhawks’ next three games are at home, and based on the excitement surrounding the program today, it stands to reason that if KU can beat Duke this weekend the stadium will be full or close to it again the following week when KU hosts Iowa State.
When asked about the potential for the upcoming homestand, Leipold said three consecutive home games can be huge for a program and also can present distractions. The key, he said, would be balancing that out. But he noted that there’s no doubt in his mind that supportive and strong home crowds can be “beneficial to (helping) this program take another step.”
“Our fans, the loyal fans, have been waiting for something, starving for (us to be) successful,” he said. “Hopefully it’s meshing at the right time, and we’ll have three weeks of great crowds.”