Jerome Tang gave a lot to Kansas State fans Tuesday night. He gave them excitement, hope — for some, a near-heart attack — and perhaps most importantly, an 83-82 Sunflower Showdown win over No. 2 Kansas.
So when K-State students stormed the court and “the chant” (F*** KU) began to echo across Bramlage Coliseum as it had multiple times that evening, Tang did not hesitate to climb up onto the scorer’s table and cash in a little of that recently earned goodwill to try and set things straight.
“Hey, this is not about who we just beat, it’s about us winning,” yelled Tang before directing the students to the ‘K-S-U’ chant. He then added: “Isn’t it amazing what you can accomplish when you do it out of the emotions of love and care and passion?”
Earlier in the week, Tang also preached a message of love, not hate, during a pregame press conference leading up to the KU game. He hoped that he had gotten the message across, but old habits are tough to curb, especially with a chocked-full student section and a sold-out crowd of 11,000 people that were foaming at the mouth with excitement and passion.
“I was really disappointed in the (team) introduction when our students started chanting the ‘F-KU’ chant,” Tang said following the game. He said he was thinking, “‘Crap. I haven’t gotten it across yet. There’s work to be done.’ Then, at the end of the game when (the fans) were on the floor and they started chanting it again, I really wanted them to understand that we don’t have to degrade the other team. We can dislike them, but let’s cheer for us. Let’s just let America hear Kansas State and not the other name.”
It’s a noble cause and one that’s been the impetus of quite a lot of consternation for some K-State fans and the administration for a more than a decade. However, until Tang’s arrival, the fight had been an uphill battle, any pushback over the years has been met with a fierce and obstinate response by students.
But the tide began to turn during football season when Tang inserted himself into the student section to help lead the Wabash Cannonball into a ‘K-S-U’ direction. The backslide was inevitable, the Sunflower Showdown was always going to be the biggest obstacle, but Tang knew Tuesday night, if there’s anyone K-State students will listen to, it’s the guy who just gave them a reason to celebrate.
“I believe that we can have a terrific culture here because of the passion of our fans,” Tang said. “Somebody has to say it, right? We just can’t be like, ‘Kids will be kids.’ Somebody has to say it. If we’re losing, then maybe my voice doesn’t carry as much weight, but thankfully, God’s given us this platform, we’re winning, and I can speak on some of those things because this is a special place. Manhappiness. This is a really special place, and I want the country to know how special it is (instead of being) known for the dumb chant.”
Whether Tang can continue to gain headway toward ousting the chant from the confines of Bramlage Coliseum is yet to be seen, but an expectation has been set, and it wasn’t the only expectation he left Wildcat fans with that evening.
“I told y’all we would get you one court storming,” Tang said. “From here on out, expect to win.”