Kansas University’s new athletic director said Monday he hopes to make the department a place where student-athletes train.
Sheahon Zenger was speaking to a group of Lawrence Rotarians Monday and detailed parts of his speech that he intended to give to all KU student-athletes this fall.
He said that he would tell the athletes that all through their lives — since grade school, for many of them — people had been clapping for them.
“Someday, the clapping is going to stop for you,” Zenger said.
He hoped to be able to teach student-athletes that life isn’t always easy and to be prepared for disappointments and hard times, too.
“We’ve got to teach them and prepare them for these moments of their lives,” he said.
Zenger also fielded questions from the crowd and touched on a wide variety of topics:
• Football at Arrowhead: The first question the crowd asked Zenger was about his feelings on the Kansas-Missouri football game being played annually at Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium.
He said as a Kansan, he would personally love to see the football game back in Memorial Stadium, but added the athletic department’s budget won’t allow for it quite yet.
“Until we fill Memorial Stadium, we can’t really afford to pull it back,” he said. “Until then, we need the revenue.”
• New billboards coming: Thanks to an anonymous donor, Zenger said to look for lots of new billboards in western Kansas along Interstate 70 and along the Kansas Turnpike south to Wichita.
He said the billboard design would be something he’s always envisioned in the past — half of the billboard devoted to a photo of Kansas wheat in the field and the other half featuring KU students waving the wheat. A Jayhawk will be in the middle of the billboards.
“That’s all you need,” Zenger said.
• On conference realignment: Zenger said he was happy with the way things shook out with KU landing in a 10-team Big 12 Conference.
Particularly with a new television deal signed, the Big 12 remains among the top revenue-generating conferences in the country.
He said he looked forward to the new conference scheduling, when KU will play every team in football, and every team twice in basketball.
“That’s pretty neat stuff,” he said. “It kind of reminds me of the old Big 8 days.”