How was KU's 'Rock chalk, Jayhawk' cheer born?

Posted at 4:22 PM, Jan 04, 2016

It can strike a chill into the bones of players on opposing teams. 

WATCH: The "Rock Chalk, Jayhawk, KU" chant starts low and slow, building to a near-frenzy.

According to a KU historian, even Theodore Roosevelt (a Harvard man) is said to have admired it as “the greatest college cheer ever devised.” 

There are several origin stories about the chant, and they tend to share some themes.


“The chant was first adopted by the university's science club in 1886. Chemistry professor E.H.S. Bailey and his colleagues came up with 'Rah, Rah, Jayhawk, Go KU,' repeated three times, which later became "Rock Chalk Jayhawk, KU."

“By 1889, 'Rock Chalk'—a transposition of chalk rock, a type of limestone, that exists on Mount Oread, where the University is located—later replaced the two 'rahs.'” Read more

Urban Dictionary

"A chant made up by KU science professors back in the day. Due to the limestone, chalky rocks found near the University of Kansas campus. Also Chalk is about the only thing that rhymes with jayhawk. Used by Kansas fans during sporting events." Read

The Lawrence Journal-World

"According to the university, Kansas University's Rock Chalk Chant evolved from a cheer that a chemistry professor, E.H.S. Bailey, created for the KU science club in 1886. Bailey's version was 'Rah, Rah, Jayhawk, KU' repeated three times. The 'rahs' were later replaced by 'Rock Chalk,' a transposition of chalk rock, the name for the limestone outcropping found on Mount Oread, site of the Lawrence campus." Read

What does KU say?

A university spokeswoman sent us an article about the "Rock chalk, Jayhawk, KU" chant's origins. Written by Mark D. Hersey of KU's Department of History, it discusses the Bailey and chalk rock themes. Read on for even more drama!

"The myths ranged from the yell’s originating in the clicking of a train’s wheels as it was heard from a 'swaying railway car' crossing the plains to supposed chalk rock outcroppings on Mt. Oread. (In 1956 the geology department pointed out that although no such outcroppings existed on the hill, they are found in western Kansas)."

WATCH: Prof. Bailey's granddaughter tells the tale