KU’s Gridiron Club flops

Glowing rhetoric to the contrary, the vaunted Gridiron Club sure looks dead in the water to me.

An eyebrow-raising project to begin with, this latest attempt by Kansas Athletics Inc. to suction multiple dollars from the wallets of the well-heeled KU faithful may, in fact, sink under the weight of its own audacity.

For those of you unsure or even unaware of this controversial concept, Kansas Athletics wants to erect a structure high above the east side of Memorial Stadium and reserve it for 3,000 elitists.

Unveiled prior to the start of the 2009 football season, the plan involved selling club memberships ranging from $30,000 for five years to $105,000 for 30 years.

In an attempt to assuage a university community already grumbling about the athletic department’s unending thirst for money, KAI said it would designate some of the proceeds to the school itself, although it didn’t say when.

Not that when matters anymore because the notion of a Gridiron Club, at least in my opinion, will slowly fade into the sunset with Kansas Athletics never admitting its mistake.

When corporations announce such ambitious projects, it’s imperative to obtain the bulk of the nut — in this case $34 million — within the first few months. That hasn’t happened. Only about 13 percent of the total has been raised.

Why did the Gridiron Club flop?

Obviously, the sour economy didn’t help. Then along came a disastrous football season. The Jayhawks were predicted to contend for the Big 12 North championship, then won their first five games to enhance the euphoria.

Is it unreasonable to suspect that most of the $4.5 million Kansas Athletics has raised for the Gridiron Club was pledged during those first couple of months?

However, as you know, the Jayhawks went in the tank, losing their last seven games and costing Mark Mangino his job. Yes, I know they used Mangino’s ill-treatment of players as the excuse for asking for his resignation, but that was like blaming the ’51 Kansas River flood on a leaky tap at Johnny’s Tavern.

In order to spark renewed interest in the Gridiron Club, Kansas Athletics needed to hit a home run with its new hire, but Turner Gill was at best a triple and probably more of a ground-rule double.

So the economy and the failed football season were detriments, but there were two minor factors as well.

One was the benefits. Membership would include a game ticket, unlimited food and drink and access to the club. That’s a lot of good stuff, right? But do you see what’s missing? That’s right. No parking pass. Club members would have to pay for their parking.

Good grief. You cough up all that money and you STILL have to pay to park. Oh, well, that just proves what savvy KU professors and administrators have known for years, that the parking department — not Kansas Athletics — is the omnipotent force on Mount Oread.

Here’s another problem. By sitting high on the east side, club members would be looking into the sun for most or part of every game unless the skies were cloudy.

All in all, with the misguided notion of a Gridiron Club, Kansas Athletics pushed the envelope too far.