On Saturday, the 11 a.m. start of Kansas football’s program, undefeated Duke, was officially sold out.

Kansas officials announced Thursday afternoon that 47,233 tickets were sold for KU’s second home game of the season, marking the program’s first sellout since Nov. 2, 2019, and only the second in 13 years.

KU drew a respectable crowd of 34,902 for its season opener against Tennessee Tech. But KU’s 3-0 start to the season, which included road wins at West Virginia and Houston in the two weeks since the opener, has added to the buzz around the program.

“It’s great to be back home after a couple,” KU coach Lance Leipold said earlier this week. “And I think it’s important that we have a good crowd. We hope to have a good crowd for many different reasons. I think we have an opportunity now to create some momentum and home field advantage.

For years, KU administrators and coaches have pleaded for fan support to help get the stagnant program off the mat. And as the Jayhawks continued to reel off loss after loss and struggled to compete on most Saturdays, the fans largely stayed away over the years.

The 2019 sale came in Les Miles’ first season when he moved into town from Kansas State. In the two weeks leading up to that season’s Sunflower Showdown, the Jayhawks showed signs of life with an upset of Texas and a rare Big 12 win over Texas Tech. Kansas scored 48 and 37 points in those two games, respectively, and fans showed up to see the Jayhawks turn the corner.

That sellout was made easier by the fact that nearly a third of the fans in attendance that day wore purple to cheer on Kansas State.

The Jayhawks lost that game 38-10 and finished the season 3-9. KU went winless (0-9) in 2020 and Miles, like many before him, was shown the door, partly because of his performance on the field and partly because of his involvement in the ugly sexual harassment scandal at LSU.

Miles’ departure led to the hiring of Leipold, who, through 15 games, has people believing the program is actually headed in the right direction again.

Leipold only won two games in his first season at Kansas, but one came late in the season at Texas, and it led KU to play inspired football in one-point losses in the final two weeks of the season. The momentum of those efforts carried over to the start of the 2022 season, and Leipold has already won more road games than his previous four at Kansas (3).

But this week is all about the people of the house.

As excitement grew over West Virginia in Week 2 and a 48-30 win, fans began social media campaigns to fill David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium against Duke. “Booze Pack” was the rallying cry, and the Jayhawk faithful seemed to outdo the more than 12,000 new single-game tickets sold in the five days following the win over Houston.

“This is an incredible statement about the exciting landscape of Kansas football and the passion of Jayhawk fans,” KU athletic director Travis Goff said in a statement Thursday night. “We are excited to host the best competitive atmosphere in college football at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. We are grateful for the way our fans have responded to the progress of Kansas football and I am confident that sellouts will be no different. We look forward to a bright future.”

While Kansas fans are excited about Saturday’s showdown with Duke, the reality is that KU now has a chance to make a run and make a statement.

Counting down to Saturday, the Jayhawks’ next three games are at home, and judging by the excitement surrounding the program today, if KU can beat Duke this weekend, the stadium will be full or close next week. Iowa State hosts.

When asked about the potential of the upcoming homestand, Leipold said three home games in a row can be huge for a program and can provide distractions. The key, he said, is balancing that. But he said there’s no doubt in his mind that a supportive and strong home crowd would be “important to (help) take this program another step.”

“Our fans, our loyal fans, were starving (for us) to be successful and waiting for something,” he said. It’s coming together at the right time, and hopefully we’ll have three weeks of great crowds.

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