When is enough actually enough? Will there ever come a time when the Kansas University athletic department, or the university as a whole, has enough money to get its job done and meet its responsibilities?
It is disappointing to learn that KU athletic officials apparently have decided to continue playing the annual Kansas-Missouri football game in Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium rather than moving it back to where it belongs: on the KU and MU campuses.
Earlier this week, KU’s new athletic director, Sheahon Zenger, told a Lawrence Rotary club that the annual, historic football game between the two schools would continue to be played in the professional stadium of the Kansas City Chiefs.
He said that he personally would prefer to have the game played in Memorial Stadium and in MU’s stadium but that KU’s athletic department budget won’t allow that shift quite yet. He added, “Until we fill Memorial Stadium, we can’t really afford to pull it back. Until then, we need the revenue.”
This doesn’t sound too encouraging because, historically, the Jayhawks have seldom been able to “fill Memorial Stadium” on a continuing basis. Whether this is due to a lack of interest by KU alumni, students and fans or the result of losing football games is debatable. We wonder whether this is the same reasoning of Missouri officials. They seem able to fill their stadium for games.
The Big 12 Conference recently signed a multimillion-dollar contract with Fox television, which was hailed as a huge financial windfall for the conference and its 10 member schools. Millions of new dollars would be deposited in the bank accounts of Big 12 athletic departments.
Apparently, these millions are not enough to pay the bills at KU or support the athletic infrastructure built by former A.D. Lew Perkins. During Perkins’ tenure, the number of employees multiplied and expenses exploded. Private giving also increased, and KU basketball teams continue to play before capacity crowds.
Speaking of basketball, will the time come, with KU athletics in such critical need of more revenue, that more and more basketball games will be played in Kansas City’s Sprint Center? After all, the seating capacity in that arena is several thousand more than in Allen Fieldhouse, and KU officials can explain why this will bring in more money to take care of the ever-growing KU athletic budget.
In addition to the disappointment of the game remaining in Kansas City is the even greater disappointment of KU athletic mouthpiece Jim Marchiony claiming the Journal-World should not have reported what the A.D. said because the Rotary meeting was a private gathering and Zenger should have been informed there was a reporter in the room before he made his presentation. It is clear some of the misguided policies and thinking of the Perkins era remain with some of the Perkins holdovers.
At the same time when most merchants are having a tough time meeting their budgets and paying their bills, both in Lawrence and Columbia, it would be nice to have the retail sales a KU-MU football game generates in those cities. In recent years, these pre-Christmas sales have gone to Kansas City merchants, restaurants and hotels along with the tax dollars these sales generate. It’s big business for Kansas City while Lawrence and Columbia retailers struggle.
Zenger’s hire was met with great enthusiasm, a breath of fresh air after the years of Perkins bullying and arrogant manner. He is sure to do a good job for KU, but he missed an opportunity to score a huge win when he decided to keep the KU-MU game, or at least KU’s “home” game with MU in Arrowhead Stadium.
Apparently, there never will be a time when KU athletics will be able to live within its means.