This past Friday, I joined Kansas Athletics Director Sheahon Zenger to announce Raise the Chant, a $350 million fundraising project focused on football. This visionary project addresses the reality that a competitive football program is important to our university and that our outdated facilities hinder our ability to compete with Big 12 Conference peers. Today I’d like to discuss this exciting effort and why it needs to be one of KU’s institutional priorities.
First and foremost, a competitive football program benefits the entire university. In terms of recruiting new students, football is often the front door for prospective Jayhawks, particularly given our increasingly national recruitment strategy. The truth is, a massive Jayhawk at the 50-yard-line on national TV can help keep KU at the top of mind for students we’re recruiting. Additionally, football keeps KU alumni connected to their alma mater – which often translates to donations and networking opportunities – and produces revenue through merchandising, which benefits the entire institution.
We need to remain a strong member of the Big 12, and football is key to that. Membership in a major conference has enormous benefits – including TV contract revenue, branding and prestige – that strengthen every aspect of KU’s mission. More broadly, being in a major conference is tied to our goal to continue being a strong member of the Association of American Universities.
In recent years, KU has transformed its campuses in a thoughtful, strategic way. Since 2009, we’ve completed $1 billion in construction for new and renovated facilities, including the Health Education Building, Capitol Federal Hall, Self and Oswald Halls, the Spencer Art Museum, Swarthout Recital Hall, and the Central District. At the same time, our Far Above campaign funded 735 new scholarships and fellowships and 53 new professorships. In other words, we’ve begun to modernize our campuses with a focus on our academic mission. We will continue our work in this area, and Memorial Stadium is an important part of the next phase of our transformation.
I want to reiterate my confidence in Sheahon and his vision. While we’ve had challenges in football, Kansas Athletics has had many successes – on and off the field – under Sheahon’s leadership. He’s a man of integrity, and he’s a Jayhawk to the core. Moreover, I share his belief that Coach Beaty has us headed in the right direction. Put simply, I believe we have the right people for the right time. Our focus now is getting these people the right tools to succeed.
I’ve been a Jayhawk for 23 years, and the passion of our friends and donors never ceases to amaze me. I am excited to work with them – and with you! – to advance this transformational project on behalf of our university.