Share story

Kansas State will pay a $5,000 fine and its marching band will perform without its director later this season as part of self-imposed sanctions following a routine that turned into a widespread social-media meme over the weekend.

The school also said Tuesday it would require approval of all future halftime shows after the Big 12 warned of potential sportsmanship and ethical conduct violations.

The controversy erupted after Saturday’s space-themed halftime show during the team’s home opener against South Dakota. One formation featured the Kansas State band forming the University of Kansas mascot and a phallic-looking Starship Enterprise crashing into it.

Kansas State president Kirk Schulz quickly tweeted an apology for the performance, and band director Frank Tracz issued a statement Sunday in which he said “there was absolutely no intent to display anything other than the Enterprise and the Jayhawk in battle.”

“Our response has nothing to do with any perverted social media,” Kansas State athletic director John Currie said Tuesday. “Our response is solely the fact we portrayed the disintegration of the Jayhawks by the Starship Enterprise.”

Currie said that was deemed by the Big 12 office to be an unsportsmanlike act.

Kansas State came under scrutiny last season when fans rushed the court after a victory over the Jayhawks in men’s basketball, with some physically jostling players. The school responded this fall by asking students picking up football tickets to sign a sportsmanship code of conduct.

“This is very significant as it relates to the new sportsmanship rules,” Currie said. “I believe that the Big 12 Conference and our university and our president are trying to be leaders in sportsmanship. That is a significant aspect of this.”

The entire episode generated thousands of responses on Twitter, ranging from humor to outrage. Even actor William Shatner, who portrayed Captain Kirk on “Star Trek,” chimed in on his Twitter account after the sanctions were announced Tuesday: “I think it’s time for the @Big12Conference leaders to step down and get their eyes checked. What a travesty!”

Currie said school officials reached out to their counterparts at Kansas, but he does not believe that the University of Kansas or its band was ever in contact with the Big 12.

“Frankly, bands have been poking fun at each other for hundreds of years. I can remember growing up and hearing different fight songs that criticize rivals and all that stuff,” Currie said. “The reality of it is that as things have evolved over the years, things get amplified.”

Currie said the fact that Kansas State was playing South Dakota, rather than Kansas, made the use of the Jayhawk mascot as a central part of the show an exercise in poor taste.

“It would have been different if it was a coyote out there or something like that,” he said. “I understand the historical joshing that goes back and forth, but Saturday was about K-State and all the stuff going on. It was about our band and how hard they work, our students and everybody that goes into making K-State such an incredible atmosphere.”


Associated Press freelancer Tate Steinlage contributed to this report.