With Kansas State up 60-57 on No. 7 Oklahoma and exactly three seconds remaining in Tuesday’s game at Bramlage Coliseum, Gene Taylor finally felt the timing was right. He left his seat and tapped Brett Eakin on the shoulder. Eakin knew what it meant.
Moments later, “Sandstorm” started blaring over the loudspeakers.
The techno song once was a staple of Bramlage’s playlist, used during points in home games when the Wildcats were riding a wave of momentum. The song fell out of favor with K-State administrators in recent years, though, all because of two words.
After K-State fans began chanting those words any time the song appeared at Bramlage, “Sandstorm” was all but banned from the arena’s playlist.
Favorable circumstances, in Taylor’s mind, temporarily lifted the ban Tuesday, providing another memorable moment in the Wildcats’ 62-57 upset victory.
“Last night, I think the kids had a chance to win,” Taylor told The Mercury in a phone interview Wednesday morning. “The crowd was smaller. I thought if the chant started, it wouldn’t be as vocal. It was a great moment for Mike (McGuirl), for him as a senior, in a big win.”
Just don’t expect the song to return regularly.
“It’ll probably go back into a deep freeze,” Taylor said. “It’s very limited and very rare that we’ll play it — unless (fans) can figure out a way to get rid of the chant and come up with something new, it’s going to back into a deep freeze.”
It’s not a statement Taylor makes with any hint of satisfaction, though.
“I wish we could play it a lot more,” he said, “because our fans love it. The students love it. It gets the team fired up. The team, they’ve kind of forgotten about it, but it helps, because they know about it.”
Even if the KU-related chant didn’t exist, “Sandstorm” wouldn’t be on repeat.
“It still would be very limited, because you want to use it at specific times when the team needs it or the team is on a run,” he said. “But as long as that chant keeps coming up, it’s going to stay in a deep freeze again for a while.”
It’s not as if the song is a stated talking point at the beginning of each season. Those tasked with “running the production” of K-State home games — when the band plays, when certain music is used, what content pops up on the video board during timeouts — already “know it’s not an option,” Taylor said. The production group includes Eakin, K-State’s assistant athletics director for fan experience, who regularly receives joking text messages from Taylor on the subject.
The tenor finally turned serious in the waning seconds of Tuesday’s game.
“I had texted (Eakin) and said, ‘Stay tuned,’” Taylor said. “He goes, ‘I’m at the ready whenever. Just let me know.’ I just walked down and tapped him on the shoulder. He smiled. I walked away. Then he cranked it.’”
Prior to Tuesday, the last time K-State let “Sandstorm” rip during a game was its notable come-from-behind victory over West Virginia on Jan. 9, 2019. That night, the Wildcats rallied from a 21-point second-half deficit — the largest single-game comeback in school history — to hand the Mountaineers a shocking defeat.
At that time, Taylor said playing the song “was a trial run.”
The Wildcats didn’t renew that subscription.
That’s because the song only has surfaced in one other instance in the two years between the West Virginia win and Tuesday. That instance also involved Oklahoma. After the Wildcats clinched a share of the Big 12 regular-season title in 2019 thanks to a win over the Sooners, after the band played the school’s fight song, and after purple and white confetti rained down from the rafters, “Sandstorm” set in.
Pertinently, it came after TV cameras already had concluded filming.
The song — and its place in the Bramlage gameday experience — is a tiresome topic for Taylor.
There’s only one way to permanently put the subject to rest.
“(This topic) would go away if the chant would go away and they came up with something a little more creative than what they use,” Taylor said. “It just never seems to stop. So (the song will) go back into a deep freeze.”