K-State Wildcats football: Chant could end Wabash Cannonball

The Kansas State University Marching Band, also known as the Pride of Wildcat Land, will perform during halftime at the Alamo Bowl.

The Kansas State University Marching Band, also known as the Pride of Wildcat Land, will perform during halftime at the Alamo Bowl.

Courtesy of Scott Sewell

The excitement level inside Bill Snyder Family Stadium was palpable last weekend when the Kansas State band helped kick off a new football season by playing Wabash Cannonball as the Wildcats finished warming up for a game against South Dakota.

Young fans rocked back and forth on top of metal bleachers in the student section and one of K-State’s most storied traditions was in full swing.

But K-State band director Frank Tracz refused to play the song a second time after he heard a vulgar chant directed at the rival Kansas Jayhawks coming from the crowd. He didn’t want to give anyone another chance to chant a four-letter word that starts with the letter F and KU.

Turns out, that could be the norm moving forward at K-State football games. if fans continue the KU chantthe Wabash Cannonball might go away.

“I just didn’t think it was appropriate to do that in a packed stadium,” Tracz said Wednesday in an interview with The Eagle. “It just really hurts me and it hurts a lot of people to look at the sign that says Bill Snyder Family Stadium and knowing what he was all about. To hear that screamed in the stadium with his name on it is just wrong.”

The Wabash Cannonball and the KU chant have been heavily discussed in K-State circles over the past few days, and those conversations kicked into high gear after a Topeka TV station reported that band members were prepared to stop playing Wabash if the chant continued

When asked about that report, Tracz stopped short of saying the song was in danger of going heredity. He views eliminating the Wabash Cannonball as a last resort. He would much rather convince students to chant something else or remain silent during the traditional song.

He said the band is still “trying to figure out exactly what we’re going to do,” but he wants to educate and talk with people in hopes of convincing them the chant isn’t worth continuing. Tracz already thinks K-State students are mobilizing to end it.

“We’re trying to work with all the people involved with this to get it to stop,” Tracz said. “It’s not something that we want to do in Bill Snyder Family Stadium. It’s not appropriate. It’s not the right thing for us at Kansas State. We are working with everyone we possibly can here on campus to find a solution.

“I think there is overwhelming support from the students and the community to stop it. We are hoping to make some progress and be successful. It is going to take some time. It’s not going to be easy. It has been around for a while. We are going to do our best to stop it.

“The Wabash is a great tradition. It’s been around much longer. It has been voted the No. 1 tradition in the Big 12. We want to see it continue and make K-State football what it is and the band what it is. We are going to work with a lot of people to see if we change that. The band is going to do everything it possibly can to help.”

K-State has been here before.

The Wildcats chose to stop playing the song Sandstorm at basketball games inside Bramlage Coliseum, because too many fans broke out the vulgar KU chant when it was played.

New men’s basketball coach Jerome Tang has been working hard within the community to convince fans to stop the chant so K-State can bring back Sandstorm at games in his first season. He recently showed up at a Manhattan pep rally and told fans what it would take to get Sandstorm back in the song rotation.

“We aren’t going to give that school down the road any credit,” Tang said, “and we aren’t going to let them steal one of our traditions. We are going to play Sandstorm because it’s going to be about KSU.”

Tang has also retweeted many posts on social media urging K-State fans to stop chanting about KU.

Tracz said Tang has been “a true gentleman” who is “taking this cause on for all the right reasons.”

It will be interesting to see how many times the K-State band plays Wabash Cannonball in the Wildcats’ next game, against Missouri on Saturday. Both teams consider KU to be their primary rival. Will Tigers fans want to participate in the chant?

No matter what happens, Tracz wants to make one thing clear to K-State fans.

“We aren’t trying to curtail anyone’s excitement and enthusiasm for K-State football,” he said. “I just think that chant is wrong and most people think it is wrong. We are going to do everything we can to keep Wabash going.”

This story was originally published September 7, 2022 2:12 PM.

Related stories from Wichita Eagle

Profile Image of Kellis Robinett

Kellis Robinett covers Kansas State athletics for The Wichita Eagle and The Kansas City Star. A winner of more than a dozen national writing awards, he lives in Manhattan with his wife and four children.