No, Dale Seuferling doesn’t have any inside information about the fate of the Big 12 Conference, nor the future partners for Kansas University athletics.
But he does lead operations for a $1.3 billion endowment that helps bolster KU, and he’s not exactly fearing recent market turmoil as it pertains to collegiate athletics.
“So,” he said Monday, opening a luncheon discussion with members of the Lawrence Rotary Club, “the answer on conference realignment is: ‘KU will be OK.’ We’ll be just fine.”
And while the more than 100 Rotarians in attendance didn’t exactly start waving the wheat, they could at least take some comfort in the thoughts of a man who graduated from the school 33 years ago, went to work for the KU Endowment Association four years later and became its president in 2002.
“I hope he’s right,” said David Corliss, Lawrence city manager who has earned three degrees from KU. “This is a very sensitive time. Those of us that are on the sidelines have to hope that those on the field will make the best decisions.”
Seuferling essentially urged calm during a storm that already has seen the University of Colorado agree to join the Pac-10 Conference, and the University of Nebraska cast aside decades of tradition for a spot in the Big Ten Conference.
Now, with rumors swirling that KU could end up with anything from membership in a major conference — staying put in the Big 12 among them — to partnering with smaller institutions elsewhere, Seuferling likened the uncertainty among KU donors, alumni and supporters to the psychological effects of other difficult times in the university’s past:
• The university tearing down “old” Fraser Hall in 1965.
• Fire at the Kansas Union in 1970, causing $1 million in damage.
• A Kansas legislator taking a KU faculty member to task over teaching sex education on campus.
“Those events occur,” Seuferling said. “Emotions run high. But those are short-lived.”
What endures, he said, is the university’s commitment to helping students, and to conducting research for advancing science and finding cures.
“That’s the higher cause the university is all about, and will continue to be about,” Seuferling said.
Seuferling took a question about why athletics departments were responsibly for generating their own revenue.
Unlike during “simpler times,” before the “preponderance of apparel contracts and TV contracts,” athletics operations were treated very much as departments within a university, Seuferling said.
Such complex relationships — similar to those for research activities, now handled by the KU Center for Research Inc. — require more of a corporate approach, he said.
“The university is subject to changes in the marketplace, just as businesses change,” Seuferling said.