Sayers tickled by sellout

Kansas University’s football program has come a long way in 45 years.

“It’s great to come out here today and see the students tailgating … to have a sellout in the first ballgame,” said KU legend Gale Sayers, the Jayhawks’ new director of fundraising for special projects.

“We had some great athletes here at the university in my career. We never had a sellout …. unless Nebraska came to town bringing their 55,000 to Lawrence,” joked Sayers, an All-American in 1963 and ’64.

The college and pro football Hall of Famer said he was thrilled to be back at KU working in an official capacity for the first time since 1975, when he completed a three-year stint as assistant athletic director.

“I left the university a long time ago,” said the 66-year-old Sayers. “I said back then I was blessed getting two degrees from the University of Kansas. After I played football, I went into athletic administration. I was assistant athletic director here and athletic director at Southern Illinois for five years. Then I got into business. All that is because I was able to get a degree from the university. I’m just happy to be back. I’m here to help them the way they helped me.”

Sayers — he was decked out in a blue KU hat and blue KU windbreaker — was asked if he ever thought he’d return to live in Lawrence after leaving for SIU in 1975.

“My wife always liked Lawrence. I’ve always liked Lawrence. It’s a great community. I’ve been back many, many times. I don’t have a problem with Lawrence,” Sayers said. “It’s a great community, and we’re looking forward to coming back.

“The thing about it … I travel a great deal, whether I’m in Chicago (where he starred with Bears) or in Lawrence, it doesn’t make any difference. I’ve made a name in Chicago. That name will probably stay in Chicago, but I’m here to help do some things.”

He’s out to help raise money for the expansion of Memorial Stadium.

“It’s going to be a big job for us,” Sayers said. “We have great fans. They’ll help us. I really feel we can get the job done.”