For the students who play Big Jay and Baby Jay, their special KU experience is one big secret. The students are told to tell as few people as possible their identity, leading to some awkward questions about their whereabouts on game days.
The identity of the students behind the masks are never publicly revealed. You can’t look them up on any website, and there’s no trace of their mascot exploits on social media.
But when Commencement comes, the graduating seniors get their one day to share with the world the activity that made them both a campus icon and completely nameless.
Laura Ballard, d’08, g’09, spent three of her four years at KU cheering for the Jayhawks from the sidelines as Baby Jay. As a sophomore, a graduating senior explained to her the tradition of wearing the boots for the walk down the hill.
“One of the first rules I learned as a mascot was to never be partially dressed in the suit – it ruins the ‘magic’ of the mascot,” Ballard said. “That’s when it hit me how truly special Commencement is. We spend our mascot career doing our best to perform anonymously, and graduation is the one time when we can be both Baby Jay and ourselves.”
“I overheard lots of people commenting on my shoes. A few thought it was a random way to stand out in the crowd, but I heard many exclaim, ‘She must be Baby Jay!’ I was really proud of all I had accomplished at KU as a student and a member of the Spirit Squad, so it felt good to be recognized. I was even asked to take a few pictures with random students, which actually felt very normal since I posed in many pictures with random people as a mascot.”
The following was shared with alumni members as an April Fool’s Day joke on April 1, 2015. Our playful prank, which included a “new” logo added to the website, fooled more than a few alumni, but by sundown everything was back to normal, and everyone was let in on the joke. We’ve kept the post for posterity, but don’t be fooled again! What follows is pure folly and is not to be believed. Proceed at your own risk:
At the end of 2014, we asked alumni to vote for their favorite Jayhawk, and hundreds of you responded. In January we shared the results of the survey, and the winner, with a whopping 27% of the vote, was the 1941 “Fighting” Jayhawk.
KU alumni spoke, and we listened.
So starting today, a new era begins for the KU Alumni Association, with an old twist. Today we are proud to announce our new logo and brand identity that pays tribute to KU’s history and tradition, while echoing the voice of KU alumni.
The Fighting Jayhawk Returns
Our new logo proudly features the Fighting Jayhawk, originally designed by student Eugene “Yogi” Williams in 1941. Williams, who worked as a cartoonist for the University Daily Kansan, created the Fighting Jayhawk with a more aggressive demeanor, reflecting the mood of campus and the country in the midst of World War II.
Though the Fighting Jayhawk was replaced as KU’s official symbol by a happier version in 1946, Yogi Williams’ version never went away entirely, attesting to its popularity. As of today, it’s been called back into action.
We expect the rest of the university to follow the Alumni Association’s lead, adopting the Fighting Jayhawk everywhere from KU business cards to the center of James Naismith Court, including the mascots. While Big Jay is already imposing enough to intimidate opponents, a new “Fighting Baby Jay” will strike fear into the hearts of children who dare support KU opponents.
Don’t be fooled by today’s announcement, as logos are often here today and gone tomorrow. We appreciate all of the proud members of the KU Alumni Association who voted for their favorite Jayhawk, giving an old bird a fighting chance.
Happy April Fool’s Day, and Rock Chalk!