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Baby Jays to reunite


October 5, 2001
Vol. 26, No. 4

• Baby Jays to reunite
• ACT scores abover national average
Open House
Dole Institute breaks ground
Professor finds fulfillment helping humanity
Chancellor to serve on life sciences board
Professors win $10,000 Higuchi awards
Couple establishes first professorship in counseling psychology at KU
KU faculty authors: 1996-2001
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Bales Recital Hall celebrates anniversary
Three recieve Ellsworth medallions
Series focuses on struggle for peace
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By Lauren Beatty
The squawking may be a little louder during this year’s homecoming -- the Jays are coming home.

Amy Rachman, the original Baby Jay, has organized a mascot reunion for everyone who has worn the costume in the 30 years since its inception. The reunion will be Friday and Saturday, Oct. 12 and 13.

The Jays will march in the homecoming parade on Friday. After the parade, there will be a tailgate-style dinner at 6 p.m. at the Adams Alumni Center. On Saturday, they will walk onto the field with the Alumni Band during halftime at the football game.

There is no formal record of all the people who have been mascots, so Rachman had a hard time getting in touch with some former Jays. She said she contacted about 65 people, often relying on word of mouth to invite people to the reunion.

“Maybe we’ll do another reunion at 35 years,” Rachman said. “Then more birds can come.”

The idea for a mascot reunion has been on Rachman’s mind for some time. She wanted to organize a 25-year reunion, but put it off.

“It was just one of those things where I said, ‘I’ll do that tomorrow,’” she said. “Things don’t work that way now.”

When 25 years went by, Rachman set her sights on a 30-year reunion instead. She has been working the reunion since January.

“There was no way I was going to let 30 years go by without a reunion of these birds,” Rachman said. “I said I’d do whatever it takes.”

The Kansas Alumni Association has helped plan the reunion. Rachman and Donna Neuner, director of membership services, decided on a dinner at the Alumni Center and an informal program, along with participating in homecoming activities.

“I’m very excited to meet and talk with these former birds about their experiences,” Rachman said. She said some of the recent Jays weren’t even born when she hatched Baby Jay. Rachman is also excited about visiting KU again because she hasn’t spent much time in Lawrence since her graduation in 1974. She now lives in North Carolina.

Funny anecdotes and memorable moments will be aplenty at the reunion. Here is just a small sampling of some of the tales these Jays will tell.


It’s a girl
Baby Jay was born in 1971. Rachman said she had been a longtime KU fan because many of her family members attended the university. When Rachman was a freshman, she met the man who was portraying Big Jay.

“I harassed him,” Rachman said. “I just tormented him about how they needed a little Jay. We went to the Alumni Association and they basically said, ‘If you build it, you can wear it.’”

That summer Rachman went home and, with the help of her parents, created the little Jay costume. They wrapped it in trash bags and strapped it to the roof of their car to transport it back to Lawrence.

“They couldn’t believe I did it,” Rachman said. “I’m sure they thought I was weird, but they were cool about it. With all the red tape there is now, I don’t think you could do it that way anymore.”

Rachman decided to make her debut at the 1971 homecoming game. The Jayhawks were playing against Kansas State with 55,000 fans in the stands. And then, the egg cracked open and out popped Baby Jay.

“I remember the collective gasp of 55,000 people,” Rachman said. “It hit me at that point how surprised the KU world was. That will never happen to me again.”

Love birds
Recent graduates Carrie and Josh Cox are former Jays who fell in love. Carrie Cox, who graduated in 1999, said during her freshman year, she and her friends enjoyed watching the mascots in action at basketball games.

“I joked with my friends about how I should be down there doing that and they said, ‘yeah, you should,’” Cox said.

The audition process was a long one. Cox said the coaches made them run for 20 minutes to test their endurance. Then they had to perform an entrance and exit routine, do emotion and reaction exercises, dance with the pep band and finally, lead a cheer.

“It was a lot of fun, but exhausting,” Cox said.

She met her future husband after she made the team. He was a member of the yell squad, but later donned the Big Jay costume, when the team was a Jay short of the required three. The two began dating.

When Carrie went on to medical school at KU, she thought that was the end to her mascot career. Not so. She was called back into duty because there were only two Baby Jays.

“It was great because Josh and I could do events together,” she said. “He still holds a grudge over a free throw contest we both were in.”

It was only natural that the Jays would make an appearance at the couple’s wedding. One of Josh’s fraternity brothers was Big Jay that year, so he brought the bird to the reception.

Up, up and away
Elaine Brady was the cheerleading and mascot coach from 1983 to 1998 and recalls a time when her mascots were literally carried away in the KU vs. K-State rivalry.

“We were at K-State, in old Ahearn Field House, and someone just snatched our Baby Jay and passed her around like a beach ball,” Brady said.

The mascots were in the middle of the court, entertaining the crowd when the fervent K-State fan decided to grab Baby Jay, with a person inside the costume, and toss it into the crowd.

“We ran across the floor and got it stopped, but that was the scariest moment that I can remember,” Brady said.

Brady said it was at that moment she realized she couldn’t coach all the teams alone.

“It’s imperative the mascots have their own coach,” she said. “They need someone there for the mascot.”

Dash for cash
Debi Moore met all the requirements to be a Baby Jay in 1975. She was 5’2” and wore a size six shoe. When Moore portrayed Baby Jay in 1975, she didn’t get to go to many away games wearing the costume, but in 1988 she finally had the chance to be Baby Jay in the Final Four tournament.

“The Baby Jay didn’t make it to Pontiac, Mich.,” Moore said. “To this day I can’t tell you why, maybe she missed her plane, but they didn’t have anyone to be Baby Jay.”

Moore, who was in Michigan for the tournament, received a call in the early hours before the game requesting that she fill in.

“It was only 13 years since I had been Baby Jay,” she said. “I figured it was like riding a bike.”

She agreed to don the suit once more, but when she pulled the costume out of its bag, she was disgusted by what she saw.

“There was a can of Lysol in the bag,” Moore said. “It was tattered, it smelled and it was not a good representative of the school.”

Moore seized the moment to start fundraising for new mascots. She grabbed a hat off a nearby fan and started collecting money in the stands. Back at the hotel where she was staying, Moore said she stood on a bar stool and yelled, “Buy ‘Hawks, not beer!”

It worked. She raised between $6,000 and $8,000, which was used to buy the costumes the Jays currently wear.


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