A recent mailing from the Kansas University athletic department should get the attention of loyal Jayhawk fans.
According to the solicitation, titled “2012-13 Basketball Fund Drive — NEW Annual Giving Timeline,” KU is near the bottom of the Big 12 Conference in the number of individual donors to its private fundraising organization, the Williams Educational Fund.
This is the fund that helps finance a wide range of needs within Kansas Athletics, such as scholarships, tuition, fees, books, room and board, travel, facilities and other athletic expenses. Based on how many dollars they contribute, donors earn points that determine the availability and priority of seating at basketball and football games, invitations to travel with the teams, special dinners with KU athletic department elites, invitations and/or tickets to special events, parking permits and other goodies.
Unfortunately, according to the mailing, the number of Williams Fund contributors is third from the bottom among Big 12 schools, ahead of only Baylor University and Texas Christian University, both private universities. Texas is at the top with 12,000 donors, followed by Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Texas Tech, West Virginia, Iowa State and Kansas. KU, by the way, exceeded TCU by just 32 donors.
The mailing notes the number of donors but not the number of dollars provided by loyal Jayhawk supporters. Maybe KU ranks much higher in total dollars.
However, the ranking should raise questions about why KU is not doing better. The Williams Fund used to be known as a leaders, strong and effective. Is it because of the negative bullying tactics of former KU athletic director Lew Perkins, the miserable showing of the KU football team the past two years, poor efforts to sell the Williams’ program and recruit new donors, a lessening of interest in the KU sports programs, a lack of support from the chancellor’s office, or something else?
How will the current KU capital campaign fit into giving for KU Athletics? KU basketball enjoys sellouts for every hone game, and there are few ways for a newcomer to buy season tickets without making a major gift or for current ticket holders to improve their seat locations without boosting their financial support.
So far, KU football has not attracted sellout attendance, but even so, football fans are expected to write bigger checks to the athletic department if they want to improve their seat locations.
Texas has always enjoyed great fan support, both in numbers and private giving, but it is questionable whether KU previously has rested at such a low level of donors as it does today.
It will be interesting to see what Sheahon Zenger’s athletic administration is able to achieve in private contributions and how the drive for more money for sports will interact with the university’s major drive to raise money for academic and research excellence at the school.
What will the 2013 report of Big 12 athletic donors show, both in the number of donors and the amount given?
Basketball donors, numberwise, probably have just about maxed out, although there will be enough hunger for better seat locations that total dollars may increase. The level of interest in football would appear to offer the best opportunity to bring in more dollars as coach Charlie Weis tries to field a better, more competitive team than the almost-winless teams of former coach Turner Gill.
Unfortunately, there is a definite correlation between money and winning. College sports are big business, not amateur athletics.