Closers come in all different personality types. The quintessential Type-A closer portrayed by Alec Baldwin in an unforgettable way in the 1992 film “Glengarry Glen Ross” drives a fancy car and wears expensive threads.
And then there is the unassuming, quietly confident closer who gets the job done without calling attention to himself. Mariano Rivera comes to mind.
The Kansas University athletic department’s stealth closer falls into the latter category. Everybody knows his name because once upon a time he had such a great game. Yet, the last person on earth who’s going to make a fuss over John Hadl is John Hadl. That’s what makes Hadl an ideal fit for asking for the order from prominent businessmen who have an affection for KU.
Heavy hitters who have enough spare cash to help out their university of choice don’t become heavy hitters by deferring to anyone. Generally, they enjoy having everyone’s attention trained on them. As regular a big-name sports star as has ever walked the planet, Hadl doesn’t need to be the center of attention. Plus, his passion for all things KU sports runs deep. He sells a product he not only believes in, but loves. That comes through to every audience he has, and he never has to state it.
Hadl’s name opened the door for him to have a meeting with Tom Kivisto, who donated $10 million toward the building of the football complex. Hadl’s smooth style in asking for the mind-blowing figure closed the deal. Hadl knew the donation was needed to construct a complex that would benefit his beloved football program, so he didn’t show nerves in asking for the order. He showed confidence.
Hadl has enjoyed similar success with other families — Anderson, Booth, Hoglund, Ward, to name a few — generous with gifts to KU athletics.
Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins has seen Hadl work fundraising miracles for him, so now he has brought back another KU legend, one with an even bigger name than Hadl’s. Hall of Famer Gale Sayers, one of the top five running backs of all-time — along with Jim Brown, O.J. Simpson, Walter Payton and Barry Sanders — is moving to Lawrence to raise money for the athletic department.
Sayers’ first assignment hasn’t been announced yet, but it doesn’t take much to connect the dots to realize he will be hitting up big donors for help with renovations to the east side of Memorial Stadium, probably some sort of posh gathering place for big donors.
This is somewhat new territory for Sayers, who in the past has done more to promote his alma mater’s School of Education than the athletic department, although he once was an assistant AD.
Sayers’ name will open many doors. Who wouldn’t want to meet one of the top five running backs of all-time? But it will take more than a name for him to gain huge pledges. It will take the skill to ask for the order and close the deal.
Asking for money isn’t as easy as Hadl makes it look. If Sayers enjoys doing it, he’ll be good at it. If it’s not his thing, he’ll find other ways to use his name to help his university. Either way, it’ll be nice having him in Lawrence.