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Archive for Thursday, October 20, 2005

A winning deal?

Kansas University officials should be open with the public about exactly what the university gained and lost by moving a home football game to Kansas City.

October 20, 2005

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For many years, officials of the Kansas City Chiefs have been trying to get Kansas University officials to approve a Jayhawk football game in Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium. In past years, other schools invited to play KU in the proposed games said they would be agreeable if they did not have to give up one of their home games to play in Kansas City.

For example, if KU was willing to give up a home game to play in Kansas City, that would be OK with Missouri, but MU officials were not going to give up a home game in Columbia to play in Kansas City.

Chiefs officials kept the pressure up, and current KU athletic department and Strong Hall administrators didn't take long to approve the plan to move a game. Trying to minimize the negative economic impact on Lawrence, KU officials rigged a schedule that has six games in Memorial Stadium - three with cupcake opponents and three with Big 12 conference opponents. In so doing, however, they took away the Oklahoma game, which would have been one of the biggest attractions, if not the biggest game, on the 2005 schedule.

The KU-OU game now is history, and some in Kansas City are suggesting KU should consider scheduling a number of games in Arrowhead Stadium. The signals from KU are mixed, with one athletic department staffer telling KU football fans earlier this season there is nothing better than spending a Saturday afternoon in Memorial Stadium watching the Jayhawks.

This is countered by another staffer saying the KU-OU game will have to be studied and he might or might not favor more games in Kansas City. Yet another staffer has tried to sell the idea money wasn't the reason for the shift to Arrowhead and the real motive was to give the large number of KU fans living in Kansas City a chance to see the team in action. Baloney!

After final, audited attendance figures are released - if they ever are - maybe KU officials will find out it wasn't as much of a windfall as they had anticipated.

A number of those attending the game were highly skeptical of the announced crowd of approximately 53,000. Then there was a report that Chiefs officials guaranteed KU something like $3 million to play the game in Kansas City. The Chiefs retained all parking and concessions income.

Why such a low turnout? If all those KU fans living in Kansas City were so eager to see the Jayhawks play, what happened? Previous games in Arrowhead involving Kansas State, Iowa State and Oklahoma, drew far larger crowds even though fans of those teams had to travel much further from Ames, Norman and Manhattan to get to the game than the thousands of supposedly interested and hungry KU fans living in greater Kansas City.

It is hoped, KU officials will come clean with the public and announce the financial arrangements and the full fiscal results of the KU-OU game. Do they know the actual attendance or is it an estimated figure? What was KU guaranteed? How much of the ticket income did KU get? Did KU have to pay a rental fee to use the stadium?

Such figures ought to offer substantial information about whether moving the game was worth it to KU. Was it worth it in dollars and cents, and was it worth it to project the image that KU officials turned their backs on Lawrence fans and supporters who, year after year, are the backbone of KU support?

Kansas City Chiefs officials cannot be faulted for trying to woo the susceptible KU officials, but those same KU officials should realize the importance of keeping college games on campus and the importance of showing support for local fans and contributors.

By the way, it is understood, Oklahoma and Texas officials have decided to move the much ballyhooed annual OU-Texas game from Dallas back to the respective campuses in Norman and Austin. They want to return the game to the college environment. Maybe they have learned something KU officials have yet to learn.

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