LAWRENCE, Kan. – Even for a school like Kansas, where excitement and hype surrounds every season, this 29th Late Night in the Phog was one to remember.
With perhaps the most-heralded class in school history making its debut, led by freshman Andrew Wiggins, fans started gathering en masse Friday morning outside Allen Fieldhouse.
"You're a little bit excited because how many places in America can there be 25,000 people waiting to get into a 16,300-seat building other than Lawrence, Kansas," coach Bill Self told the audience.
Many fans, some who drove for hours, didn't even make it into the arena. Others, such as Kansas senior David Powell, got in line at 7 p.m. Thursday and slept in a tent.
"I like to get the center court, front-row seats so we want to make sure we're the first ones here always," Powell said. "I didn't have a tent last year. I was just in a sleeping bag last year, so it was better than last year."
The Fieldhouse crowd broke into loud applause when Wiggins' name was mentioned for the first time. The evening contained its usual pomp and circumstance, complete with highlight videos, a Simon Says competition among fans and dances by the players and coaches.
KU fan and comedian Rob Riggle emceed the event, being carried by Kansas cheerleaders on an easy chair onto the court, dressed in a white tuxedo.
"This is madness, baby," Riggle said. "You have no idea how much I love Allen Fieldhouse. I used to sit up there and dream that one day I would be carried into Allen Fieldhouse in a white tuxedo on a white throne to 'Thunderstruck.'"
The most popular video spoofed "Old School" and featured Self yelling at the current transfers and freshmen — plus former announcer Max Falkenstien, dressed in gym shorts and a jersey for practice.
During the dance featuring Wiggins, set to Justin Timberlake's "Suit and Tie," Wiggins was the first to do a short solo number, drawing huge cheers.
The first skit from the women's team was an 80's themed dance, complete with neon headbands, T-shirts and socks. The second group donned jeans, black T-shirts and leather jackets, while the final group of players wore old Kansas baseball jerseys and began their routine by dancing to 'NSYNC's "Bye Bye Bye." The coaching staff may have topped all the other performances, leading the team in a dance down the runway to Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines."
"We've got a young group of players that are excited to step up to the challenge," women's coach Bonnie Henrickson said.
Both the men's and women's teams celebrated their respective round-of-16 runs in the NCAA tournaments, as well as the men's ninth straight Big 12 title. But basketball trophies and banners weren't the only hardware or cause for celebration in the house. The women's track and field team unveiled its 2013 outdoor national championship banner and received its rings. It was the Jayhawks' first national title in any women's sport. Self also recognized PGA Tour and former Jayhawks golfer Gary Woodland, who was in attendance.
Football coach Charlie Weis got his turn as well, walking out to center court as the band played a song by Bon Jovi, who is from New Jersey like Weis. Before beginning his speech he made the band finish the refrain to the song "You Give Love a Bad Name."
Weis thanked the students who stuck around for the Jayhawks' victory against Louisiana Tech two weeks ago, a sloppy, low-scoring affair. He also promised the crowd that Kansas' Big 12 losing streak — more than 1,000 days long — would end Saturday.
"Stay out all night, roll over to Memorial Stadium about 10 tomorrow," Weis said. "Get here early and by 2:30 in the afternoon we can all be partying together."