Several weeks ago, officials with Kansas Athletics Inc., announced plans for a $17.5 million apartment building that would house 30-some KU men and women basketball players along with a like number of non-athlete students.
The building would be located south of Allen Fieldhouse, along Naismith Drive and was being sought to help in the recruitment of all-star basketball players. Athletic officials pointed out that the federal Title IX law requires there be equal facilities for male and female players.
KU officials expected the plan to get slam-dunk approval from the Kansas Legislature, but it didn’t. A request for bonding authority to build the apartments was rejected by the House Education Budget Committee, and KU officials immediately withdrew the request.
Skip forward a couple of weeks, and now the $17.5 million building has been trimmed down and probably will cost no more than $10 million. It will house members of the men’s basketball team plus other non-athlete students. No housing for women basketball players will be included in the first phase of the project.
Those involved in paying for the building have made it clear they believe the project should be financed by private money, not tax dollars. They also have made it clear they want competitive bidding for construction and architectural services and want no part of cronyism.
It is interesting to note the significant differences between the plan originally put forward by KU Athletics officials for approval by the Kansas Board of Regents and state legislators and the revised plan now being put into motion. Obviously, sound, common-sense thinking entered the picture and, consequently, the public is likely to be far more supportive and enthusiastic about the project.
The KU basketball program, historically, is recognized as one of the nation’s best. Recent coaches such as Larry Brown, Roy Williams and Bill Self have overseen a very special, seldom-duplicated period of excellence. Good players and some exceptional players have helped make this winning streak possible and have reflected credit on the university and the state.
Times change, and just because KU’s record is exceptional, there is no reason to believe this always will be the case. Like it or not, recruiting has changed and housing facilities now play a far more important role in the eyes of prospective recruits.
This is why the new Marie S. McCarthy apartments will be a welcome addition to the university’s athletic program. It’s good those who are leading the private funding of the project injected sound, practical actions into the original athletic department blueprint.
The 2013-14 basketball season has been a winner for KU in every respect, and there is the possibility for even more successes before the season comes to an end. The addition of the new apartments south of Allen Fieldhouse will give Coach Self and his assistants an added asset to help continue Jayhawk basketball excellence.