Archive for Saturday, March 28, 2009

KU athletics, academics compete for private dollars

March 28, 2009


Wednesday’s announcement by Kansas University athletics department officials that they intend to build a $24 million “Olympic Village” southwest of Allen Fieldhouse should be of particular interest to KU Endowment Association officials as well as those interested in the academic/research side of the university.

It also should be of interest to the university’s yet-to-be-named new chancellor.

KU athletics department officials have done a superb job in raising big dollars for a number of projects such as the large, plush new football office, new football practice fields, numerous improvements at Allen Fieldhouse, a new boathouse for KU’s women’s rowing team, improvements for the men’s baseball team, improvements for the men’s basketball team, hiring more tutors for athletes and many other projects.

Athletics department officials stress these projects have been funded by private gifts and pledges. Now they intend to spend another $25 million for their “master” sports plan.

All of this — the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars raised to pay for the above-mentioned improvements — has come from a number of major and generous donors. In the Wednesday announcement, an athletics department spokesman said construction on the master sports complex would not get started until the money is in hand, adding that solicitations started last year.

This is going on while the KU Endowment Association, one of the nation’s best at any state-supported university, sits still with no major capital campaign under way.

KUEA officials say they are studying and working on plans for a new campaign, but such planning is long overdue. The university’s last capital campaign ended in 2004 with $635 million pledged or contributed.

Today’s economy has focused attention on the importance of private money if colleges and universities are to remain competitive. Many state-aided institutions are engaged in major fundraising efforts. Missouri officials recently announced they had finished their recent drive, topping $1 billion. The University of Texas has a goal of more than $3 billion, and Ohio State tops this with a goal of approximately $3.5 billion.

Professionals who direct and supervise financial campaigns for colleges and universities pointed out a year or so ago that there was a lot of money available for capital campaigns. They said KU was missing millions.

While KU Endowment officials have been quiet, KU athletics department officials have been calling on donors throughout the country, asking for money and pledges for the multitude of athletic-related projects on Mount Oread.

Obviously, there has been little coordination between KUEA and the athletics department. Now, the national economy is such that private giving is likely to be more difficult, and the Obama administration is calling for a major cutback in income tax deductions for private charitable giving.

The prime givers, those who have been so generous in past years in their support of KU, do not have endless resources. How many times can the same people be expected to make major gifts to the university? It’s reasonable to believe there is a limit to what even the most loyal KU supporters can give.

It’s known that some of those who have made major pledges to the athletics department have asked for extensions on their giving schedule due to current economic conditions, and yet, the athletics department has not slowed its efforts to raise millions of dollars.

If everything was perfect, it would seem university officials would have announced a grand “master plan” to elevate the academic and research excellence at the school. The KU athletics master plan calls for the KU basketball team to be challenging for the national crown year after year and for the football team to play in a post-season bowl game every year.

What about specific targets and goals for the academic side of the university? Chancellor Robert Hemenway announced some years ago that he wanted to have KU ranked among the top 25 state-aided universities in its academic excellence, followed by a similar ranking among all U.S. universities. For various reasons, the first goal has not been achieved within the chancellor’s timetable, and it is highly unlikely the second, even more challenging, goal will be attained. Even so, it is good to have goals and targets.

What must KU faculty members think about the steady and successful efforts by the sports side of the university to raise millions of dollars while about all the academic side of the university can talk about is cuts in state support and the harmful consequences those cuts have on the university, its students, faculty and the state?

Consider what millions of dollars in private support would mean at this time to help fund many needs on Mount Oread.

Has the athletic department muscled in on the university’s efforts to raise private money, or is it a case of the athletic people taking advantage of the absence of any major Endowment Association fundraising effort?

This is taking place when KU is trying to identify and hire a truly outstanding individual to move into the chancellor’s office. Surely anyone considering the chancellorship will study the availability of private money, particularly in light of cutbacks by the state Legislature. Past records in private giving are impressive, but what about the future? Also, those being encouraged to seek the chancellorship must wonder about the relationship or level of emphasis and importance at KU between athletics and academics. Who or what runs the institution and what is the indebtedness of the athletic department?

Kansas University enjoys an excellent record as a state-aided university with tremendous potential for even greater achievements in the years to come. However, to reach new heights, it will take visionary, courageous, inspirational leadership, significant private fiscal support and the proper balance between academics and athletics. There must be strong, intelligent oversight and control from the chancellor’s office and strong, effective leadership in the independent Endowment Association to raise millions of badly needed private dollars for the university.


Bruce Bertsch 9 years, 1 month ago

I suggest Dolph C. Simons, Jr. put his money where his mouth is and become the example of giving to KU. He could start by donating dollar for dollar all of the salary he pays to the MU alums he has on his staffs at the LJW, Six News, Sunflower Cable and KTKA.

davidsmom 9 years, 1 month ago

There was an editorial about this last year. This is disturbing. Does anyone know why the KUEA has not yet embarked on a capital campaign?

dinglesmith 9 years, 1 month ago

To understand how all this works, one need only visit:

KUEA of course being KU Endowment Association. Where this URL points speaks volumes about what they actually care about and why we do not have a capital campaign for the academic side of KU.

gl0ck0wn3r 9 years, 1 month ago

It is interesting to see Dolph explore this issue when he clearly makes a ton of money (directly and indirectly) on the back of the University. How much has Dolph given back? If you are going to implicitly complain about fundraising, perhaps you ought to put your cards on the table.

KU_cynic 9 years, 1 month ago

I challenge Dolph's premise that "KU Endowment Association [is] one of the nation’s best at any state-supported university."

Compared to the other four state-supported universities I have been associated with as an undergraduate student, graduate student, and faculty member, KUEA is the least professional, the least ambitious, and the least accomplished. And to top that off, KUEA charges a very high overhead charge for every dollar it manages.

Recently a colleague in administration responded to a question as to what KUEA was doing to help in fundraising by saying, "KUEA doesn't help us raise funds. You should think about KUEA merely as a very expensive bank." That comment speaks volumes of how low in esteem KUEA is held on campus, and how little KUEA's personnel and operations are integrated into strategic decision making at KU. KU Athletics has recognized this by essentially bringing the raising of funds within KUAC, an effective move that, alas, academic units at KU are not authorized to do.

Alison Carter 9 years, 1 month ago

This is all so embarrassing for KU! Building an Olympic Village when many parents can't afford to send their kids to college....because they've lost their jobs, etc. KU Athletics looks like those select corporate executives who decorate their offices and fly on private jets to their second or third homes. KUEA could use a high-voltage jumpstart on getting their act together especially after their recent value loss of existing funds.

P.S. The Simons Family has always been very very generou$ to this community and to KU!

Dolph can be a tad harsh with his words but who's going to start the checks and balances discussion on such matters if he doesn't give a knowledgeable opinion.

LloydDobbler 9 years, 1 month ago

This is a symptom of a bigger problem...our society has become stupid. Yes, sports are fun, but they shouldn't take precedent over academics on any campus. And why are there more business school applicants that science majors? Because, in relative terms, it's easy. We need to re-prioritize what's important and it starts with parents. Don't encourage your kid to go to KU because they have a good basketball team...encourage them to go to KU because they have good academic programs including one of the best pharmacy schools in the country. And when that student grows up and becomes a successful professional, ecourage them to support their academic program. Coaches and AD salaries are out of control relative to the net worth of what they produce. I am not saying Self, Mangino, and Perkins don't deserve to be paid well, but relative to faculty members, it's ridiculous. A realignment needs to happen and it starts with alumni and citizens.

tir 9 years, 1 month ago


The real url for the Endowment Association is:


However, you are absolutely right that just about anyone would assume KUEA is the correct acronym for KU Endowment Association. I Googled KUEA, and was unable to find it was used as an acronym for any KU organization apart from KU Endowment Association. Searching the KU website for KUEA, I found no other KU organzation besides Endowment that KUEA refers to.

So when you type in "" or "" and get re-routed to KU Athletics instead of the Endowment webpage, it does appear as if "someone" is deliberately trying to send potential donors to KU Athletics first.

Here's what probably happened. KU Athletics registered "", "" and numerous similar domain names that someone might guess would lead to KU Athletics or might type in by mistake, and set them all to re-route to the KU Athletics site. This is quite common practice for companies and organizations to insure that they get all the web traffic that was intended for them, instead of having it go to some competitor's site. KU Athletics and KU Endowment are essentially competitors for the same donor dollars, and KU Athletics must've nabbed those domain names first.

delft 9 years, 1 month ago

Perkins close friend Kurt Watkins, Chairman of the KU Endowment Association Board of Directors - and investment banker. Thanks Dinglesmith for the link in your comment. Was Dolph once the KU Endowment Board Chairman? Dolph questions the indebtedness of the KU Athletic Department but provides no answer. What investment banker finances that debt? Who is on the payroll of the KU Athletic Department? First Amendment "Freedom of the Press" is an important responsibility. A child could dig deeper than your editorial. Are you going to hire some investigative reporters to put the public "spot light" on issues you raise or just continue asking your soft questions as you line your pockets and turn a blind eye to finishing the stories only serving to cover those you claim to be highlighting? An earlier comment was correct, the Simons family has always contributed to Lawrence and KU. However, they now appear only interested in converting what were once public advantages for ALL local citizens into their own personal dam of green credits. While they have us focusing on KU Athletics, is the City being stuck with rebuilding the river dam for LJWorld green energy credits? Other family investments are of interest. It is sad enough to see those who should have minded the KU store let it get so far afield but to have you only scratch the surface compared with ALL you know is pathetic. Do your job - finish these stories and stop being the white wash guy in return for your special privileges. That could be said for the list of the "in crowd" - not named at the moment.

thirdgenerationjayhawk 9 years, 1 month ago

KU Endowment is one of the few foundations that does not keep anything from gifts that are made. When a donor makes a gift to KU Endowment, 100 percent of the principal goes to the university.

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