Rare Jayhawk images from University Archives face off in March Madness bracket challenge

Ever since the term “Jayhawk” was coined in 1848, University of Kansas enthusiasts have crafted creative images of the mythical bird. In celebration of the iconic mascot, the University of Kansas Libraries will host a Jayhawk March Madness competition in alignment with the 2021 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, March 14-April 3. Featuring a selection of unique and eclectic images from University Archives, the libraries’ Jayhawk March Madness bracket offers KU fans the chance to view and vote for their favorite Jayhawk.

The University Archives, located in Kenneth Spencer Research Library, boasts a plethora of Jayhawk illustrations ­– from drawings appearing in KU yearbooks and publications to sporting event programs and campus club logos – created by various artists and alumni that span decades of university history. 

A team of KU Libraries faculty and staff narrowed the field of Jayhawks to 32 images, organizing them in a similar fashion to the NCAA tournament bracket, except each “region” represents various decades of Jayhawk history. The Jayhawk March Madness tournament will begin on Selection Sunday. As the NCAA tournament rounds progress, the winning Jayhawk illustrations will move forward in the bracket, advancing until the championship bracket is released on Mar. 30. The winning Jayhawk will be announced April 3. 

Jayhawk fans may vote once for each round before voting closes at 11:59 p.m. CST. View the Jayhawk March Madness bracket and vote for your favorite.

“KU Libraries and the University Archives play a vital role in preserving the distinctive traditions of our celebrated university,” said Beth Whittaker, associate dean and director of Spencer Research Library. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to share dozens of rarely-seen Jayhawk characterizations – like Jayhawk Gridster (1932), UDK Jayhawk (1971) and Disco Jayhawk (2003) – with KU students, alumni and fans, who can view the images and even take a deeper dive in the University Archives collections online.”

To explore the collection or to help preserve these critical resources, visit the University Archives.

Vote for your favorite Jayhawk during Jayhawk March Madness, and help name the 2021 champion!