Dana Anderson the stealth recruiter behind stadium renovation campaign

photo by: Nick Krug

Dana Anderson sits courtside before the Kansas University men's basketball game Monday at Allen Fieldhouse.

Most who care about the fortunes of the Kansas football program are familiar with the name Dana Anderson. His generosity enabled construction of the $32 million Anderson Family Football Complex, which houses the football coaches’ offices, player locker rooms and strength and conditioning center.

Anderson also was a big donor for the Wagnon Student Center, which is used not only for athletic training but to house the academic-support wing of the athletic department. It’s where the tutoring takes place. The student-athlete support services staff headed by Paul Buskirk has its offices there.

Anderson also wrote a $1.4 million check to support the new School of Business building. Also, along with the Mike Beatty family of Salina and David Booth was cited as a big donor for the $350 million “Raise the Chant” KU Athletics facilities-upgrade campaign.

That’s all well documented. What I never knew anything about was the key role Anderson played in recruiting the man who would a decade-and-a-half later make the biggest gift in the history of KU Athletics.

Booth, who resides in Austin, grew up in Lawrence and received an MBA from the University of Chicago School of Business, pledged $50 million toward the $350 million campaign that includes a $300 million Memorial Stadium renovation project.

“I started getting involved with KU in about 2003,” Booth told me in the moments leading up to kickoff of the West Virginia game Sept. 23 at Memorial Stadium. “I worked for years in Santa Monica. My office was in Santa Monica, just a couple of blocks from Dana’s. For whatever reason, I had kind of lost touch with KU and Dana came over with somebody from development and got me interested. Then we decided to do the (Booth Family) Hall of Athletics, Lew Perkins’ idea.”

At first glance, Booth was underwhelmed by the unveiling.

“It opens up the first day, I look at it and I go, ‘This is way too small.’ It was about a quarter the size it is now,” Booth said. “So I said, ‘OK, I’ll re-up.’ So the athletic department’s been fantastic in that regard. So that’s why I’m predisposed to do something like this (pledge $50 million). Plus the market’s up so that makes it easier to do.”

Six years behind John Hadl at Lawrence High and KU, Booth watched Hadl as a running back and quarterback and watched Todd Reesing scramble and sling his way to a slew of KU passing records. Booth then hired Reesing, a fast riser at Dimensional Fund Advisors, in Austin.

Booth has visited several times with Hadl during the legendary quarterback’s time at the Williams Fund, the fundraising arm of KU Athletics.

So I figured Booth would be as good a source as anyone to ask for a Hadl-Reesing comparison.

Booth spoke to a trait shared by the two strong-armed quarterbacks who were so much harder to get ahold of than their straight-ahead speed suggested they should have been.

“One of the keys to sports and business is you have to be incredibly competitive,” Booth said. “At the same time, while you’re competing, you have to be kind of relaxed. You can’t let everybody know how hard you’re competing. Tom Brady is an incredible competitor and looks very relaxed out there, seems to me.”

In order to amass the fortunes they have through the decades, Booth and Anderson obviously have serious competitive sides, but they also both come across as very relaxed and down to earth.

Anderson’s competitive streak and relaxed exterior no doubt came in handy when he paid a visit to Booth a decade-and-a-half ago. Had Anderson not taken that step, no telling whether the current ambitious campaign ever would have taken flight.