Kansas chancellor Douglas Girod got the news he was hoping for Wednesday when the Kansas Board of Regents approved the university’s request to rename Memorial Stadium.
Still, there are many details still to be hammered out — right down to the last hyphen.
KU will rename the near century-old facility “David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium” after the major donor who, among other gifts over the last decade-plus, in September pledged $50 million to the athletic department’s “Raise the Chant” campaign, which aims to raise $350 million in facility renovations with a primary emphasis on football.
Still, Girod said the board’s unanimous approval was only the first step in a long process that also could result in the facility being renamed “David Booth-Kansas Memorial Stadium.”
“To be honest with you, we haven’t gotten into what the signage is going to look like, where it’s going to be or any of that at this point,” Girod told The Topeka Capital-Journal. “We needed to get this step approved and then we’ll start on those projects.”
Before heading back to Lawrence, Girod discussed a number of topics, including when the renaming idea came about, his desires to re-emphasize the World War I memorial aspect of the stadium, the status of the “Raise the Chant” campaign and whether he expects any push-back from the public.
The decision to honor Booth, a Kansas native and 1968 graduate of the university, isn’t directly tied to the $50 million donation, Girod said, but rather the totality of Booth’s gifts, which include contributions to the Booth Family Hall of Athletics adjacent to Allen Fieldhouse and the $4.3 million purchase and subsequent donation of James Naismith’s original rules of basketball, now housed inside the campus’ DeBruce Center.
Girod, who said he wasn’t part of the university’s efforts to secure the $50 million donation from Booth, couldn’t categorically say the renaming of Memorial Stadium wasn’t discussed prior to the donation but said that scenario wouldn’t be typical.
“I can’t say with a fact, but generally that would be an after-the-fact event,” the first-year chancellor said. “Generally we don’t talk about those things ahead of time.”
As for the “Raise the Chant” campaign itself, Girod couldn’t offer any specific update but said the university is focusing now on the construction of a new $26 million indoor practice facility, the first football-related phase of renovations.
“It’s kind of all-hands-on-deck on that particular project right now while at the same time looking at what the next phase is going to look like, which is probably going to be the west bleachers and south end zone,” he said.
Another aspect of the renovations and renaming process Girod stressed to the Board of Regents was a re-emphasis on the memorial aspect of the stadium. He told the board members that the “vast majority” of students on campus wouldn’t know the facility is a memorial to KU students who fought and died in World War I.
Girod said that group will be honored either through a monument or significant signage at renovated Memorial Stadium.
“I think that’s kind of been lost over the generations,” Girod said. “I do think it’s an opportunity to bring that to the fore. People understand what the other monuments are for. I think they’ve just kind of lost touch with that original concept of ‘the war to end all wars.’ ”
Still, Girod acknowledged the balancing act the university has to undergo in the renaming process, which he said is modeled after what the University of Texas did in a 1996 dedication to honor its legendary former coach with what is now Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
“We certainly don’t want to lose that (memorial aspect),” Girod said. “At the same time, you wouldn’t want to put somebody’s name on it, ‘David Booth Memorial Stadium.’ It’s not a memorial to David Booth. He’s still with us fortunately, so that doesn’t make sense.
“You want to make sure you recognize his phenomenal support to the university — and not just football obviously — but also not lose that (memorial).”
The renaming process may be completed prior to next season, but it also may not be finalized until the 5- to 10-year renovation process is finished.
“I don’t think we’ve worked through all that, to be honest with you,” Girod said.
Regardless, Wednesday’s news will kick-start what Girod called “a great opportunity” to revisit the memorial aspect, and for that reason, he doesn’t anticipate much public resistance to the effort to rename the stadium after the big-money donor.
“I don’t expect a lot of push-back on that,” he said, “but we’ll find out.”