David Booth may have been swindled.
Getting your name attached to anything related to Kansas football seems rather grim.
In the case of Booth, the KU mega-donor gets his name inscribed in stone, or lighted in neon or stenciled on a sign at one of the oldest structures on campus, Memorial Stadium.
That’s what $50 million gets you this holiday season. Booth provided that donation as the lead gift to the “Raise The Chant’’ project the university announced in September, an ambitious $350 million endeavor designed mostly to give the Jayhawks’ football home a facelift as the stadium approaches its centennial.
My conflicted feelings regarding the stadium may not change even with all the slick amenities $350 million — if that goal is met — can add.
The location at the bottom of Campanile Hill makes for a gorgeous setting on game day. The simple addition of portraits depicting past greats on the north exterior wall was a great addition this past fall. The historic appeal of the place makes you feel as if the stadium has a good story to share.
However … parking is inadequate and demands a garage be built as part of the new project, though such a structure is not specified. The tradition so many adore, especially during the traditional march graduates take at commencement, often prohibits approval of architectural changes such as a parking garage. Also, whatever stories can be told about a century-old stadium matter little when the program is in disarray and most seats at games are vacant.
As for my conflicted feelings over the renaming the stadium as part of its intended rebirth, the first realization that must be made is that most anything is for sale if it can help an athletic program compete favorably.
Just look around at other arenas, stadiums and practice facilities at schools throughout the country sponsoring sports teams at all levels.
Donation levels are even tied to seating, particularly in the case of KU and sold-out Allen Fieldhouse, which houses a storied program with tradition that dictates the arena, the court and the street out in front be named for legendary KU basketball figures.
The football at KU, however, has never been so legendary.
Oh, former standouts have their place in the Ring of Honor. Three greats — Ray Evans (15), John Hadl (21) and Gale Sayers (48) — have their numbers retired. An Orange Bowl trophy, claimed just a decade ago on Jan. 3, 2008, sits in the foyer of the football complex.
When I first heard of the move to add a name to the stadium, I actually wondered if it might be Hadl, who has worked in so many capacities for KU both in football and the athletic department.
That was the traditionalist in me. The realist was not surprised the distinction went to Booth, whether it was part of a deal worked out to solicit the $50 million gift or a show of appreciation for his generosity contributing to many projects at KU. Or both.
With the move, KU chancellor Douglas Girod assumed even more ownership of the massive stadium renovation — and the state of KU football. The project, he said during its unveiling in September, was designed to sustain KU’s place moving forward in the Power Five conference structure.
It could be, though, that having David Booth’s name affixed to Kansas Memorial Stadium dissuades other potential donors from contributing to “Raise The Chant.’’ If there is a name associated with the upgrade, then keep tapping those pockets, some may shrug.
Another hindrance remains the football program itself. Girod has elected to exert patience. Both with the 3-33 coach in charge, David Beaty, and the athletic director, Sheahon Zenger, who hired two coaches (and one interim) who combined for 10 wins the past six seasons.
A fourth season for Beaty and a four-year extension given to Zenger by the previous KU chancellor, Bernadette Gray-Little, are in effect. Their exploits have not been the kind that get their names affixed to any facades, but may cause Girod to pay for his generosity.
Contact Kevin Haskin at email@example.com or @KevinHaskin on Twitter.