Friday, October 5, 2007

The First of Many Things: KU v UK

Well, it's time for my friday entry, and I just have too many things that I want to write at length about.

too many things = two

The first thing that I was considering on my way in to school was the nature of the difference between a P and a J personality, according to the Myers-Briggs test, and how those personality differences can have an interesting effect on a person's type of law school success.

The other thing I'd like to discuss is an array of oddities. Namely, a recent court decision in favor of the RIAA, the difference between Official and Unofficial law school blogging, why Terry Pratchett is awesome, NJ gets rejected, KU-KSU, and the origin of the letter flip regarding KU rather than UK.

Alright, so "two" is a bit of intellectual dishonesty.

Let's start with that last one and work our way up.

Recently, as a result of this KU-K State game, an awful lot of people have been arguing back and forth about why KU isn't called UK. I think this is mostly because stupid people come up with stupid reasons to fight.

Anyway, when I walked away from the din of that ridiculous verbal battle, it occurred to me to actually try to find out why the University of Kansas is called KU, rather than the more obvious UK.

My first step was to dispel the myth that KU is called KU, because Kentucky already uses UK.

If we turn to the wikipedia entry on the Univ. of Kentucky, we find that UK first came into being in 1865. Curiously, this is the same year that KU came into being, though students didn't begin attending KU until 1866. Since then, UK has gone through a diverse array of name changes, including the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Kentucky, State University Lexington Kentucky, and, of course, the University of Kentucky. In that time it has splintered in a few different directions and did not exist in its modern form until 1916.

Regrettably, the wiki page dedicated to KU focuses more on the present than the past, though a few things are notable. First, KU football dates from 1890, and basketball dates from 1898, when James Naismith agreed to coach here. UK football dates from sometime in the 1890s, and basketball dates from 1902, when it was originally a girls sport.

The man who put UK basketball on the map was Adolph Rupp, a Halstead, KS native who was a reserve on the KU basketball team under Phog Allen and who was mentored by James Naismith.

All of this indicates, at least to me, that neither team was particularly first out the gate athletically, or as a University in general. And, if we were to try to find the "first out the gate," I'd probably have to tip in favor of KU with the University name going through fewer perturbations and the athletic achievement settled first by dint of having coached the UK coach.

Which means we should look elsewhere for the reason KU is called KU.

Regrettably, from this point forward all I have is conjecture. Notable is the fact that former Big 8 schools that don't have a "State" in their name go by a similar naming scheme (e.g. Univ. of Missouri is MU, Univ. of Colorado is CU, Univ. of Oklahoma is OU).

This might mean that something about these specific schools lent to this change. Two possible theories exist. One is that these schools wanted to not be confused with their more populated coast-hugging name brethren. The other is that each of these schools have changed their name in the past.

KU, I know, may fall within this category. Old, old pictures in the law school refer to the university as Kansas University. This would fit with certain other midwestern schools, such as Indiana University and Ohio University. It may well be that the abbreviation was associated with the school (and especially the school athletic programs) LONG ago when sports were big, then the school changed its name, but kept the old nomenclature.

In fact, this theory helps to understand why UK is called UK, rather than some other crazy name. Sports programs at Kentucky did not become big until well after it had ultimately adopted its modern name.

Now that we have our preferred hypothesis established (KU was called Kansas University by sports fans, who don't go changing abbreviations simply because the school changed its name), we need only find, as the archaeologists do, one or two pieces of evidence that KU was still called Kansas University during the heyday of early university athletics.



Kathleen said...

Maybe it was something as simple and stupid as some clerk messing up the name on the first official documents and everyone just used it after that to save face? Also, I love Terry Pratchett.

Olive said...

Good for people to know.

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