KU brings Sayers back to his alma mater

Famed Kansas University running back Gale Sayers, center, flashes a smile as he is greeted by longtime broadcaster Max Falkenstien in a lounge at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., in this file photo. Sayers has been hired by the KU athletics department to serve as Director of Fundraising for Special Projects.

Famed Kansas University running back Gale Sayers, center, flashes a smile as he is greeted by longtime broadcaster Max Falkenstien in a lounge at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., in this file photo. Sayers has been hired by the KU athletics department to serve as Director of Fundraising for Special Projects.

Originally published August 31, 2009 at 4:41 p.m., updated September 1, 2009 at midnight

Former Kansas University football standout Gale Sayers has been named KU’s director of fundraising for special projects.

Sayers, a two-time All-America running back selection at KU in 1963 and ’64, who went on to work as a Jayhawk assistant athletic director in the 1970s, will begin his new job in October.

“Lew (Perkins, KU athletic director) and I started talking about my coming back to the University of Kansas about six months ago,” Sayers said Monday.

“He told me that he wanted to build Kansas athletics into a program that would be competing for national championships in every sport. I believe that with the team Lew has put together, and with the support of the KU alumni, we can make this a reality. I am happy to be back at the University of Kansas and I am eager to get started.”

Sayers, who lives in Wakarusa, Ind., with wife, Ardie, is currently working on opening the Gale Sayers Center, an after-school program for 8-to-12-year-olds, which will provide extensive computer and public-speaking programs.

“I am thrilled and honored to welcome Gale back to the Kansas athletics administration,” KU athletic director Perkins said. “There is no one better suited to take on this role. Gale obviously distinguished himself on the gridiron as both a collegian and a professional, but the example he also set in his career after football serves as a model to our student-athletes and to the general student body. Our entire university will benefit from Gale’s return. We look forward to his being an integral part of our team here at Kansas.”

Sayers rushed for 2,675 yards and produced 3,917 all-purpose yards during his Jayhawk career. He led KU in rushing, touchdowns and kickoff returns in each of his three years in the lineup, and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1977.

Sayers then put up NFL Hall-of-Fame numbers with the Chicago Bears, who made him their No. 1 pick in the 1965 NFL Draft. He scored a rookie-record 22 touchdowns, just one of seven records he either tied or broke in his career. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977.

After his NFL career was cut short by injury, he embarked on a career in college athletics administration. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at KU and served at KU as assistant athletics director. In 1976 he was selected athletics director at Southern Illinois University, becoming the first African-American A.D. in Division I.

In June Sayers was inducted into the John McLendon Minority Athletics Administrators Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame recognizes the dedication of longtime minority athletics administrators in working toward the advancement of minorities in the field of athletics administration, while achieving the highest level of excellence in their own career.