While Kansas University’s private giving levels continue to remain strong, the pace of giving to athletics has increased more dramatically than giving to academics.
Since the year ending June 30, 2000, annual giving to KU Athletics has increased more than 300 percent, from $7.5 million to $31.3 million in the year ending June 30, the most recent figures available.
With state budget shortfalls looming again for higher education, athletics programs and facilities continue to prosper, with $7.8 million in improvements to Allen Fieldhouse being recently unveiled in time for basketball season.
The $23.8 million increase in athletic giving comes during a time period when giving to nonathletic causes increased by $29.3 million — a more modest 64 percent rate.
KU has experienced a higher level of success in high-profile sports in the last decade, culminating in a recent Orange Bowl victory for the football program and a national championship for the men’s basketball team.
Also, Athletic Director Lew Perkins — who arrived on the KU campus in June 2003 — has instituted programs designed to increase the level of giving, including a new priority points system for allocating tickets and seats.
Overall giving to the university — which includes the athletic funds — went from $53.3 million in 2000 to $106.4 million this year.
Jim Marchiony, associate athletics director, said increasing private giving to athletics has been a goal of the athletics administration.
“We’ve developed a master plan for athletic success, and we’ve stuck to it,” Marchiony said. “You combine that with the fervor that the alumni and friends have, and you have a good plan for fundraising success.”
Forrest Hoglund, a Dallas-based KU donor whose name appears both on KU’s baseball stadium and on a brain imaging center at KU Medical Center, served as the campaign chairman for KU First, the last major capital campaign for KU.
He said that athletics relies on private donations for its success, and does not receive substantial state support. He said he’s supported Perkins’ efforts to “put a little swagger back” into KU’s programs.
“People recognize that if it’s going to happen, they have to step up to make it happen,” Hoglund said.
At Kansas State University, athletic giving in the most recent fiscal year totaled $18.5 million, a little less than 60 percent of KU’s total.
KSU reported receiving $82.5 million in total and pledged gifts to the university as a whole last year — a figure that differs slightly from the way KU reports its data. Kansas State’s figures include donations that have been deferred, while KU’s figures account only for cash that’s already in-hand.
For Lisa Wolf-Wendel, KU’s faculty senate president and a professor who studies higher education, the new amenities for athletics — renovations to Allen Fieldhouse, new football practice facilities, office space for Olympic sports and a planned Olympic Village — stand in sharp contrast to the tight budget environment that KU’s academics are enduring.
Faculty members are facing furloughs, cutting back on copying expenses and aren’t receiving raises, she said.
“We’re really thinking about those things on a daily basis,” Wolf-Wendel said. “When you’ve got Allen Fieldhouse and they have palazzo tiles in the bathroom and iPod jacks in the locker rooms, it’s hard.”
She said she appreciated a recent $40 million commitment to academics from athletics from revenue raised from the Gridiron Club addition to Memorial Stadium.
“It’s lovely, and it’s great,” Wolf-Wendel said. “I applaud them. It’s wonderful. I hope they keep it up.”
Hoglund said that athletic success stokes university pride, which can help academics.
“From the KU First experience, having a good sports program also helps you raise money for the other things, too,” he said.
KU is planning another major capital campaign, and isn’t the only university in the region with such an initiative. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln recently unveiled its nine-year Campaign for Nebraska effort, with a goal of raising $1.2 billion for the school.