Thursday, March 26, 2009

Rocks, Chalks and Jayhawks

About halfway to Topeka from Kansas City is the small town of Lawrence, Kansas, a charming little town that might be otherwise unremarkable save for one thing - the University of Kansas.

The university, which most call KU, is a bit less than half the size of Michigan State. Admission is relatively easy - about 92 percent who apply get in - but don't take that to mean that this is some cupcake U.

KU is either the best in the nation or very close in both special education and urban and regional planning. Its medical center is top flight and the university also deserves high praise for its psychology and political science departments. The Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics acts as a not-quite presidential library for the long-time Kansas Republican senator who got closest to the White House during his 1996 run against Bill Clinton.

The campus is simply gorgeous. It's a hilly campus, although the word "hilly" doesn't seem to do justice to some of these climbs, especially in inclement weather. It's not uncommon for a first story building to actually be the top of a three-story building set in one of those hills. It does have a quirky library, which actually has half-floors (and very low ceilings).

Beyond the university, Lawrence is actually a pretty cool town. Massachusetts Avenue is the downtown drag - think of Lansing's Old Town, but larger and without the scary bits a few blocks away. Lots of quirky shops and good eats.

In fact, it's such a nice place that U.S. News and World Report named it one of the best places to retire - due in part to all the former Jayhawk students who eventually retire there.

Their Jayhawk nickname came from pre-Civil War times, when a group of abolitionists Kansas used it to describe their militia. The mythical bird is supposed to be half blue jay and half sparrow hawk, jay and hawk, Jayhawk. See?

KU is very proud of their "yell", the Rock Chalk Jayhawk chant. The chalk, in this case, is chalk rock found in western Kansas and, somewhat more famously, the White Cliffs of Dover.

KU is a very nice place. So nice, in fact, I'm hoping the Jayhawk players won't mind going back after tonight. Because I know Tom Izzo's Spartans want to send them home early.

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