Archive for Saturday, September 23, 2017

Donor David Booth explains his $50M gift for KU football stadium

September 23, 2017


As word spread that Lawrence High and University of Kansas alumnus David Booth had pledged $50 million, in $10 million installments over five years, toward a $300 million football stadium renovation, many wondered aloud, “Why would he do that?”

In a 20-minute interview with the Journal-World shortly before the opening kickoff of Saturday’s football game at Memorial Stadium, won by West Virginia, 56-34, Booth answered that question.

“I was trying to convince them to let me give them $100,000 a year for 500 years, but they said, ‘No, I don’t think you’re going to last that long,’” said Booth, a 1968 graduate of KU.

Born at Lawrence Memorial Hospital to Gilbert and Betty Booth, he lived in Lone Elm and Garnett before moving to Lawrence and becoming a member of West Junior High’s first graduating class.

Booth’s first exposure to Kansas football came when, as a Boy Scout, he served as an usher at games.

“I quit the Boy Scouts and then I was over at the fieldhouse selling popcorn,” he said. “I was one of those kids who was very irritating to people, walking around with a bunch of popcorn — ‘Sit down, kid!’”

John Hadl was an All-American running back and quarterback for Kansas when Booth was an usher. In recent years, Hadl has worked in the Williams Fund, asking for big donations. Booth’s is the biggest gift in the history of the athletic department.

He once donated $300 million to the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, from which he received his MBA in 1971. It now is known as the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

“University of Chicago has downplayed athletics,” Booth said. “We don’t really have a Division I team in anything.”

It wasn’t always that way.

“The first Heisman Trophy winner (Jay Berwanger) was a University of Chicago running back,” Booth said. “They were a powerhouse. Amos Alonzo Stagg (one of the inductees of the first college football Hall of Fame class) was the coach at Chicago. Then abruptly they just shut it down. That’s fine.”

But it runs in contrast to Booth’s beliefs.

“I’m familiar with the argument as to why you might not want to have a serious athletic program,” Booth said. “I get the arguments. I don’t agree with them. I’m on the other side.”

Booth said he sees a value in college athletics that extends beyond athletic departments and teams.

“It’s a way for the alums to stay connected to the university,” Booth said. “You don’t stay connected through the biology department. You stay connected through athletic programs. So I’ve tried to be helpful.”

The goal of the fundraising campaign is $350 million, all but $50 million of which is earmarked for football.

“I buy a lot of art,” Booth said. “This would buy a lot of art. But every now and then you’ve just got to stand up because you realize nobody else is going to. And I’m able. Not that many people can, right? A lot of people would give $50 million to the university if they had it.”

The donation is expected to come with naming rights, but any such move would have to go before the Board of Regents for approval. Booth declined to comment on that.

Booth lives in Austin, Texas, where the business he co-founded in 1981, Dimensional Fund Advisers, is now headquartered, but he visits Lawrence regularly.

The children of Gilbert and Betty Booth donated money for the creation of the Booth Family Hall of Athletics, a museum inside Allen Fieldhouse. David Booth also purchased the original rules of basketball, housed inside the DeBruce Center.

In athletics, large donors often expect to have a say in hirings and firings within the department.

“I’m different,” Booth said. “My attitude is, you give this money to make yourself happy. First off, it’s scary. You’re always worried — ‘What happens if I can’t pay it off?’ I’ve been blessed so far, but you never know, right? After you get through that anxiety, I’ve already gotten the joy out of it because wherever my parents are right now, they’ll be happy. They get it.”

Booth said he was “so touched” by a plaque honoring his parents at the Booth Family Hall of Athletics.

“They moved to Lawrence so we could live at home and go to college because they knew they would never have enough money to send us away,” he said. “I mean, I’ve never had to sacrifice like that for my kids.”

As for why KU’s recent poor record in football did not discourage him from kicking off the campaign, Booth had an explanation.

“This is a long-term thing,” he said. “It’s like the stock market. You have long periods of time when the results are disappointing. What people don’t realize, from 1966 roughly to 1980, for a 15-year period, stock returns didn’t keep pace with inflation. You play for the long haul. You try to do the right thing and that’s all you can do.”


Jean Robart 6 months ago

What in the world are they planning to do to Memorial Stadium that costs $300,000,000? I've been there, ands I wonder how that "renovation" compares to what the stadium cost in the first place---in real dollars, and in now dollars equivalent to what it cost then.

Brett McCabe 6 months ago

A tremendous gift for the university. Thanks to David Booth for getting this thing started in a big, meaningful way.

Bill McGovern 6 months ago

Giving the stadium a big makeover should help with recruiting :)

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 6 months ago

With that kind of money, how many scholarships could be provided to people who want to go to college for an education, not to go to football games?

Sam Crow 6 months ago

Typical you Dottie, wanting to tell other people how to spend their money.

You must not be aware Booth in 2008 gave $300 million to the University of Chicago, where he also went to school. Those dollars were not for sports.

Of course, that is where Obama supposedly taught.

Had you invested in his Dimensional Funds as many of us have, you would be able to fund scholarships you wanted. But that would be investing in companies that make profit, which you detest so.

It's none of your business how other people choose to donate.

Just worry about you.

P Allen Macfarlane 6 months ago

We should remember after all, in the eyes of the public, that the purpose of colleges and universities is entertainment of the masses. Bread and circuses, just like in Roman times.

Mark Kostner 6 months ago

What a guy. He's really come through for KU. I love watching the video of him bidding on Naismith's Original Rules of Basketball on the DeBruce site and ESPN 30 for 30. This really gives this effort a shot in the arm. And this is a mighty tall order for the university but it has to be done. The football program has to be rebuilt and to do that you have to be able to attract the great players and also to do that you have to have great facilities for them to practice and play in and create a great experience for the fans. As someone wrote in, they can't give tickets away right now. College athletics gives a school a name. Whenever I tell someone I am from Kansas, the Jayhawks are usually the first thing that comes up. And it's a fact of life it's football that conferences and schools are judged by not basketball. Ask the AAC. They're a basketball powerhouse but have to convince the country they're a P6. As for the once mighty Big 12, it hasn't convinced me, a fan, by its actions over the last several years, that it's going to survive and as a KU alum, I'd like to see the Jayhawks be able to make that jump to another power conference. And a decent football program will assure that happens. Thanks again, David Booth

Mo Meza 6 months ago

Mr. Booth. Thank you so much for all you do for KU. ROCK CHALK JAYHAWK.

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