Allen Fieldhouse: College Basketball's Mecca

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Allen Fieldhouse: College Basketball's Mecca
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

When driving back to Lawrence from my parents' house after having Sunday lunch with them after church yesterday, my significant other, who is in law school at Kansas, needed to stop by the law building to pick up a couple of things she had accidentally left there on Friday. 

So from 23rd Street (Lawrence's main east-west thoroughfare), I made the right turn onto Naismith Drive.

In moments I had to—no, I got to—drive by Allen Fieldhouse, the gym that houses 16,300 screaming fans on Kansas basketball game days. 

The law building is an outlet pass away from Allen Fieldhouse, and you can't miss it when you are on the southern portion of campus. 

As I was driving north on Naismith and gazed at Allen Fieldhouse on my left, I nearly stopped the car, just to take a "mental photo," which I had already done countless times as a Kansas undergrad. 

Sunday was particularly perfect; snow was falling sparingly, but enough snow had accumulated that the statue of coach Phog Allen just outside the East entrance to the stadium had been dusted with snow. 

The sky was gray, and with the snow falling, I thought how perfect a picture it would make for any Jayhawk fan's basement wall. 

Allen Fieldhouse isn't like "The Dean Dome" in Chapel Hill or Rupp Arena in Lexington. Allen Fieldhouse is a gym, and that's exactly what it looks like. 

The place is an antique. It oozes history in every corridor, and with the Booth Family Hall of Athletics added a few years back, you can enjoy history of not just the basketball program, but every athletic program ever offered at Kansas. 

The building itself was dedicated in 1955, and aside from a few noticeable face-lifts here and there to minor things, it is essentially the same exact building it was 55 years ago. 

"Packed to the rafters" doesn't even begin to describe some of the seating situations in Allen Fieldhouse. There are some seats where patrons could theoretically climb into the catwalk system. 

When it comes to seating, you better be sitting next to someone you can tolerate, as there is no leg room—your legs will be squished, and you may have to turn your torso slightly just to be able to establish some level of comfort.

The cramped nature adds to the camaraderie between the fans and thus produces the sounds that Allen Fieldhouse is so famous for. 

There are very few places in college basketball with the tradition of Allen Fieldhouse, but there probably is nowhere like it in college basketball when it comes to...dust. 

Dust is everywhere—behind the bleachers, in the rafters. You'd be surprised where you find the stuff, some of it so thick it makes the mind wonder if the base layer started accumulating in 1955. 

It wasn't until midway through this past decade that the athletic administration decided to upgrade the scoreboard that hangs over just about every college basketball court in America.

The old scoreboard used color-changing light bulbs for screens on each of its four sides, where promos for Coca-Cola and "the dancing nachos" could be seen at just about any time during the game. 

Some traditionalists were sad to see it go, and it is still a topic discussed among many of my friends. 

Now Allen Fieldhouse has a modern scoreboard, with video screens on all four sides broadcasting the game simultaneously as the action is played out. 

If any tradition was lost with the ageless scoreboard's replacement, it is arguably made up for by the opening video played before the player introductions of the home team. 

It starts out like any Kansas basketball video would start out, with photos and video of the Jayhawks' first coach and the inventor of the game, Dr. James Naismith, teaching the game to his Kansas players. 

It rifles through Kansas basketball history, coach Phog Allen, highlights of some of KU's greatest players—Wilt Chamberlain, Danny Manning, and Paul Pierce among scores of others—before culminating with the words "The Glory," then "The Power," then "The History," then "The Legends," then "The Titles," and finally, "The Tradition." 

The sound its set to is this ominous beat of synthesized sounds over bass beats, which makes Kansas fans who, at this point in proceedings, are ready to burst, hissing to a near boil until the video ends, and I can only imagine what it does to the opposing team. 

Baylor coach Scott Drew withdrew his players from the court, preventing them from watching it on Jan. 20 of this year. 

While there are several places in the sport of men's college basketball that have great tradition, nothing is like Allen Fieldhouse. 

No other building allows its team to produce home unbeaten runs quite like Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks haven't lost there since 2007—yes, that is three years ago. 

They currently ride a 57-game home winning streak, which is far and away the nation's best. Don't be surprised that when they eventually lose, they will go on another one that rivals the current streak. 

Oklahoma will have the near impossible task of winning at Allen Fieldhouse tonight. They'll enter the game without one of their best players in Willie Warren—not a good start. 

It won't be an easy task, and you'd be hard pressed to find any opposing player who thinks it is.

"We were down 10 points before we walked on the court," Missouri forward Keith Ramsey said, helping to explain KU's 90-65 cakewalk over the Tigers earlier this year. 

"They're on top of you," says OU coach Jeff Capel, who will be looking for any and every advantage his team may be presented with in tonight's game. 

Allen Fieldhouse has everything you'd want in a college basketball complex. 

Being 55 years old, it has the history of time, but combine it with the type of history that Kansas has produced at Allen Fieldhouse over the years, and those 55 years seem like 155. 

Allen Fieldhouse packs in all of the tradition of the basketball program, with statues, information, the old basketball floors, and of course, all of the trophies.

Few basketball facilities around the nation just ooze tradition, but Allen Fieldhouse is on the top of heap when it comes to that feeling you get when you step inside. It's truly a relic of the game of basketball itself. 

It is also the toughest place to play in all of college basketball. As a fan, the noise reaches jet engine volumes, and if it's hard for a fan to hear himself think, one can only imagine what the opposing players have to go through. 

It may be the only venue that instills fear into the hearts of the opposition. 

Two years ago, after his Texas Tech Red Raiders lost in Lawrence, 109-51, coach Pat Knight said: "I had guys that I honestly thought looked scared when they got out there to play." 

There is no other place has a more perfect combination of history, tradition, and most importantly, home-court advantage than Allen Fieldhouse. 

KU has deep tradition and history in the sport of basketball itself—with the inventor of the game, Dr. Naismith, as the program's first coach. 

It produced Phog Allen, at first as a player under Naismith and then one of Kansas' most successful coaches. 

If you need any more suggestions as to why Kansas is the tree by which all of the rest of college basketball finds its limbs, look no further than Coach Allen. 

He taught the minds of Adolph Rupp and Dean Smith, both Kansas basketball players, and both admit their desire to coach came from coach Phog Allen. Now, Kentucky and UNC join Kansas as college basketball's three most elite teams. 

If you get a chance to go to Allen Fieldhouse, you'll be reminded of Coach Allen's influence in the larger world of college basketball. 

One thing is for sure: No serious college basketball fan's life should be complete without a trip to Lawrence and Allen Fieldhouse to watch Kansas play. 

Allen Fieldhouse is truly the Mecca of college basketball. 

 

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