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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Keegan

Opinion: Zenger explains that TV deal good for KU

Kansas University athletic director Sheahon Zenger watches the Jayhawks warm up before tip off against Texas Tech on February 1, 2011.

Kansas University athletic director Sheahon Zenger watches the Jayhawks warm up before tip off against Texas Tech on February 1, 2011.

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The mind has a way of suppressing memories that hemorrhage at the slightest rekindling of them.

Remember the conference-realignment scare? Remember the term “Forgotten Five”?

Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri in some circles became known as that when college athletics were on the verge of a seismic shift driven largely by conferences seeking schools that could generate the biggest television bucks.

KU had two strikes against it. The Flint Hills may take breaths away, but beauty and a low-stress lifestyle free of insane traffic don’t equate to TV sets. Rutgers and Maryland are headed to the Big Ten because they are in the middle of large media markets, even though viewers aren’t tripping over each other to watch the Terps and Scarlet Knights play football.

Once Kansas made it out of the Forgotten Five forest alive, it was time to find out why raiding conferences were avoiding the school the way we all avoid compulsive talkers cursed with bad breath and a tendency to prattle about nothing but their ailments, their children, their shot-by-shot accounts of their most recent golf round.

They were told in part what they already knew. They didn’t have enough TV sets. They weren’t conveniently located. They were the idiot-savant of the college athletics world, brilliant in basketball, nationally anonymous in so many other sports.

To overcome the population and geographic issues, the Jayhawks had to patch the holes that they at least had the potential to fix.

That in a big way was behind the move to strike a deal with Time Warner. So the athletic administrators swallowed hard, coated themselves with a beehive-shaped coat of armor made of paper mache and handed clubs to those in their fan base from whom they had stripped their TV remote controls for two exhibition games and four regular-season ones. Tonight’s contest in Allen Fieldhouse against Iona College is the third of six such games.

Those who either can’t subscribe to cable TV because it’s not offered in their areas or choose to subscribe with a competitor of Time Warner’s and live in an area that blacks out a half-dozen of the games on ESPN3 feel like the next-door neighbor who liked their cozy neighborhood just fine and doesn’t like the idea of a hot-shot crashing the block, tearing down a small house and resurrecting a mansion. They feel helpless to do anything about it. They yearn for the way it once was because it was perfect.

The athletic department likes the new deal because it gives national exposure to sports that normally don’t get that and because of Time Warner, at its cost, not at the university’s cost, has produced coverage of the school’s lesser-attended sporting events. Also, Time Warner has loaded the airwaves with what’s known as “shoulder programming,” shows devoted to KU basketball, football, other sports and even academic-related activities.

KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger wishes he could tell the disconnected-for-six-games customers something they want to hear, but he can’t, so he is left to answer a simple question: Why did he do it?

“Two-fold,” Zenger said. “First, I believe any decision we make, the core value has to center around your student-athletes. This provided 500 student athletes the most exposure possible to regional and national coverage. What it did for them in exposure and recruiting is unrivaled.”

The games and shoulder programming are seen nationally, increasing exposure of a brand that in one way has a subtle advantage on most because, in the Jayhawk, the school has one of the nation’s coolest mascots. (I love it when someone from another region of the country looks both ways to make sure nobody’s looking and quietly asks: “Is it a real bird?”)

“If you are in the Time Warner areas, you’re naturally in there,” Zenger said. “Then the ESPN3 part lays over the top of it and takes you into another close to 100 million homes. Let’s say Ritch Price recruits a kid in California or Hawaii, Florida, wherever. His friends and family can watch him play baseball, whereas before they couldn’t. What he and other coaches were running into, now that we have it, we can say it, that was a problem.”

The switch has been painful for blacked-out fans whose interest in KU athletics pretty much begins and ends with KU basketball and in some cases to a lesser extent football.

“I’m from here (Hays),” Zenger said. “I would never do anything to alienate anyone in our fan base. But at the end of the day, we have to take care of our student-athletes and our coaches and give them that competitive edge every day and hope that people understand that those decisions are based on what’s best for the student-athletes and the coaches.”

What’s it in for Time Warner? Teaming with KU gives it an edge on its competition.

“They came to us,” Zenger said, “and said, ‘We’re willing to give you somewhere between $1 and $2 million worth of production a year that you don’t have to pay for. And not only are we going to do all these telecasts, we’re also going to do 300 hours of shoulder programming for basketball, football, for the university.’”

The university?

“If you watch Jayhawk Insider, the Chancellor was on there the other night,” Zenger said, “talking about all the attributes of the University of Kansas. We’ll have our Provost, the E.V.C. (executive vice president) of the Med Center. This is truly a Jayhawk Network to help sell this institution. In doing that, we expanded our brand to a level that most other schools don’t have the opportunity to do.”

Zenger’s position doesn’t allow him to repress the scary days and sleepless nights of the conference-realignment tremor. Becoming a more attractive conference member is reason No. 2 to the stated No. 1 of looking out for all student-athletes at KU.

“It’s all too clear in my recent memory,” Zenger said. “I was encouraged by folks around the country to continue to expand our national footprint and exposure.”

Those telling Zenger what negatives had to be reversed typically started by praising the basketball team and academic reputation and then told him KU needed to become elite and stay elite “nationally and within your conference with your brand.”

How?

“You’ve got to keep your national coverage, be a national brand, for everything, not just basketball,” Zenger said. “Your basketball has to stay at that high level, and your other sports have to rise up to it.”

As long as Bill Self stays at Kansas, basketball will remain an elite school. The winning tradition and conference affiliation are factors as well. Zenger signed Self to a 10-year contract extension worth nearly $50 million, so he did what he could there. Highlighting the tradition will take another step forward with the construction of the building that will house the original basketball rules.

That leaves conference affiliation. Zenger was told by credible sources he needed to increase the national brand of the athletic department and make more sports relevant to be well positioned the next time conference realignment rears its venomous fangs.

The TV partnership with Time Warner helps toward that end, even though it means for two exhibitions and four real games ripping the remote out of the hands of so many people who cherish KU basketball as the most important form of entertainment in their lives.

Given the talent and entertainment value of this year’s team, the negative consequence of a smart play for the future is especially painful.

Comments

Paul Peters 4 months, 4 weeks ago

I live in Lawrence. I have satellite and an antenna. It was bad enough listening to KU football games but listening to basketball just doesn't cut it. I feel like a second class citizen.

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Jeffery Stadler 5 months ago

Welcome to my world which is Joplin Missouri. Blacked out on Directv. Blacked out on ESPN3 and too far from a radio affiliate to listen to the game. I paid to have ESPN Full Court because I live in enemy territory but still love the Jayhawks. The best example of the love is I have lived here for 17 years and have had season football tickets for 16 years. I have missed maybe 12 games since 1996. I know pain. I have no idea how KU games can be blocked over 3hrs from Lawrence. Money isn't everything but I understand it pays the bills. Did not ease the sting of not watching the game tonight.

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Jason Bailey 5 months ago

Guys...this isn't difficult. Just fire up a VPN solution (like VyperVPN or others) and voila! Even though you may be in the middle of black-out central, ESPN3 thinks you're living in Austin, TX and all's good. Your room is ablaze with the flickering light from your monitor of KU Basketball.

Stick it to the man...it's not hard.

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Bruce Beckum 5 months ago

Is it too much to hope that this will lead to KU not being left out next time conference realignment occurs? If that happens, then I will see this as a period of trading a few games a year to avoid becoming a mid-major. If that happens, it will have been worth it for me. If that happens.

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Brad Farha 5 months ago

I fully admit that my move from U-Verse to Comcast Xfinity (back in August) was heavily influenced by all of this.

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Steve Kubler 5 months ago

I understand the TV deal. Just wish they would not say thinks like "choose not to have TWC." Most of KS, speaking geographically, we do not get a choice of cable providers. We have one, and only one, take it or leave it. My cable provider made a deal with TWC to rebroadcast locally which was great in theory but the picture/sound quality has sucked to be polite.

Just admit that decisions are made that are good for the school, if not KU fans overall, and be done with it. Most of us are smart enough to know how things work and would prefer the unvarnished truth to a bunch of politically correct platitudes.

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Yolanda Gay 5 months ago

I personally have been having good luck with this. The late night was shown, I think, on a Fox channel in its entirety. Cox was able to show the exhibition games on Channel 22/2022. WIBW also has carried the KU games.

There are also shows like Jayhawk Insider which is really good as well as the pre-game shows.

During this conference reallignment talks, do we know if other offers were made and if so, how good they were. If not having a television market was one of the downfalls of not making KU as a whole attractive, at least we have that part fixed.

I think our conference is pretty strong now; but if reallignment talks should happen again, at least we have the television market in place. Maybe in the future, Zenger can get a better deal.

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Larry Smith 5 months ago

If you want to Watch it on ESPN3, you can also install Hotspot Shield here http://www.hotspotshield.com/ it is also free and will give you a different IP that is not in the Blackout area. You can do from any browser, not just Chrome.

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Benz Junque 5 months ago

This move was a huge mistake plain and simple. Mr. Zenger, TIME WARNER SUCKS and has alienated a huge majority of users/former users in the KC Metro area. People are leving them in droves because of their terrible service, terrible support, terrible uptime and inferior product.

And KU should SUE ESPN for their pi$$ poor coverage on ESPN3.com. The feed of Late Night, which was supposed to "increase national audience" was CUT OFF before the mens team even took the floor. Ridiculous. And I got all of the non-nationally televised games on ESPN3 before this contract with Time Warner so you really didn't add anything.

If you are going to sign a deal that impacts your local market, at least do it with the company that isn't currently screwing the local market like Time Warner.

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Grouch Lives 5 months ago

In the article photo, does Zenger look like he really cares? Decision made, on to the next deal.

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Joshua Ames 5 months ago

My frustration with the logic of this deal is the motives. For example if KU is basing this deal on the Texas, Long Horn Network than we need to bow out of it immediately. Look what good that has done for Texas. Every major sports program is in decline. But hey we have a lot of money to renovate empty stadiums.

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Joseph Bullock 5 months ago

OK, I am a Businessman, and this deal is 'Strictly Business'! It is about $ & Cents! NO wait, just $! If it would have been done before the Big 12 was saved, I would have totally understood it, and even been for it. But this is about money, period. Don't give me this crap, that this deal was about helping "ALL" the Student Athletes! The only sport, in most Major College Programs, that make money is Football. K.U. happens to be one of the few that make money in basketball (although there may be more now, than when I read about this a few years ago). Oh, and by the way, I am a season ticket holder, so I can see every game, so my opinion is not biased, or out of anger. PS: This deal is also about Time Warner, trying to beat out their competition, and they used K.U. to do just that. Again, it is all about the $. And being nasty with each other, like saying 'did you even read the article', is very childish and immature! People have a right to their opinion, even if, oh my gosh, it differs from yours. You can disagree with me, as I'm sure some will, but I am fine with that, as people have a right to do so. In closing, I hate this deal, although it ultimately may help the University, down the road, but once it is done, I hope it is not renewed. Also, I sometimes give my tickets to those who can't afford to go, or sell them to friends, and I go watch the games at a sports bar, with friends. That is a lot of fun, and usually a good meal, also. Rock Chalk!

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Nick Cole 5 months ago

Maybe this is a dumb question, but why is it blacked out in KS? I get the whole money aspect, which I understand is reason #1, but to me this is not a valid reason, and here is why. As SZ stated, TWC approached KU and not the other way around. If SZ could leverage that to say ESPN3 can show all these games too, why allow them to black it out in KS? If it's shown in KS as well then it's on even more TV sets which means more viewers and potential advertising dollars. KU needs to recruit the state in football, and if we have any disadvantage with KSU like one game not being shown it's a big deal in my book. It's jus one more thing KSU can say they have over us when recruiting the state. Not smart for our coaches and student-athletes, Dr. Z. I get more sports are shown nationally and blah blah blah, but this doesn't help locally in football which ultimately hurts the very things SZ says he is trying to help. I think it's a good move overall for KU and the athletic programs, but this deal hurts us locally which devalues this deal a little bit in my opinion. But nobody asked for my opinion so I guess I'll just shut up.

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Barker Gwen 5 months ago

I live in oklahoma city area. I have Cox cable, I called them to ask about ESPN3 and how to get it . The tech support has never heard of it & they don't have it. Kara I have been all the way from channel 1 to 2054 and never found it. I will have to suffer thru missing another game. I will also try Mike Adams way. Thanks.

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Mike Adams 5 months ago

just noticed someone above posted on ZenMate, this is the software as he mentions & I only refer to, works great...hope they don't figure out a way to detect and block this, call me paranoid! Here is the URL to watch the game after you install and run Chrome with ZenMate - http://espn.go.com/watchespn/index/_/channel/espn3

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Mike Adams 5 months ago

Also, even though you live in Kansas/KC you can get EASILY get around this blackout. Do a little research online (I know if I post all of the info it will be removed and the workaround possibly remediated so don’t want to chance spoiling for others and myself). Basically you run some free software in Chrome and you will NOT be blacked out, the software keeps ESPN from knowing where your IP is coming from, mask it. Took me less than 2 minutes to setup and I was watching the game, a friend told me about it. Then get an adapter and plug into your TV, or just watch from your laptop/pc. It’s better than the game IMO as you don’t get all of the redundant commercials. Everyone I know is doing this … amazed the word isn’t out more.

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Kara Guthrie 5 months ago

Just posting this for those that care to know. If you have cox cable it is on channel 22.

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Mike Payne 5 months ago

For those in the Blackout - To Stream ESPN3 during a blackout here is a little trick.... Use Google Chrome. Once you have Chrome on your machine go to the Chrome App Store. Download a free app called "ZenMate". And boom you can now watch ESPN3 on your computer during a blackout. -- What this app does is change your IP address on your computer to some other place in the country. I live in Johnson County but ESPN3 Thinks I am in NY.

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Bruce Brenner 5 months ago

At least these games are broadcast on ESPN3 in NYC area.

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Lance Cheney 5 months ago

All I know is that I am not donating any more money to the school until they get rid of this. And on a side note, I'm not having to answer any survey questions anymore. I don't know if I should be happy or worried. Has anyone else had this?

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Glen Miller 5 months ago

The guy went out and hired Charlie Weis as our "big fish". Did you expect any less from him?? Seriously, sometimes Z makes me scratch my head with his decision making.

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Joshua Ames 5 months ago

Growing up the teams that we could get on TV were the teams that shaped who I cheered for as an adult. Now that I want my children to share those teams in a day and age where you can virtually watch any game anywhere, that is no longer possible because of the new deal. So when my daughter asks, "can we watch the jayhawks?" I have to respond with "ummm, well, ugh, wait yeah go get you lap top and a sticky note." The lap top is for JustinTv and the sticky note is to cover the comments of some of its users. Unfortunately we get every stinking Kentucky, Kansas State game, so let's hope my children's teams aren't shaped the same way mine were.

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John Spencer 5 months ago

Does anyone know who the sponsors actually are, I would like to make sure I boycott them. This really pisses me off, and I want to 'vote with my dollars'. The black outs make the least sense since Allen Field house is always sold out!

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Grouch Lives 5 months ago

We have Time Warner and were so looking forward to Google. However, TWC cut a great deal and has, in essence, stopped us from leaving their poor transmission quality and customer service. From a laissez-faire point of view, great move. But from an alumni and fan perspective, poor, poor decision on the part of this public university.

I do think it's sad that alumni from the state can't watch the games. It's similar to the older alumni that lost their seating at the field house when the new ticketing system went into effect. Money.

As has already been mentioned, this is all about the money and has little to do with exposure. It is a bit hard to convince me that our "brand" would be devalued in basketball, and our 500 student athletes poorly served, if we didn't step into the snake pit and sell our soul. If we were taken off the television today, it would take a decade or two for our "brand" to devalue significantly.

One would think that the promoters at Time Warner might figure out that rather than black out the games, they offer the games to other outlets and just flood every commercial break with their "brand" and maybe get a few extra customers. If the other outlets won't show the games, it's not the university or TWC's fault.

The reality is there is only one organization to blame for all of this - the University of Kansas Athletic business, which if you'll remember, is not a part of the university, but it's own sovereign business (I don't remember the actual name of the entity at this time). If the school was in charge of this decision, I can tell you I know several state legislators that would not have allowed funding to go through without stepping on some throats. Maybe that's where this fight should go?

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Joshua Ames 5 months ago

This could have been done differently. They could have allowed people that purchase ESPN Full court to watch the games as they originally stated they would. However TWC has blacked out this game the next game and apparently 2 more. I don't Want to drive to a bar and watch the game. I want to watch it In my home with my daughter. Now I am out money for the ESPN Full Court package since I only bought it to watch the KU games. Hey Zenger you want to reimburse me for your stupid decision and obviously not fully understanding the deal since this is the 5th or 6th article I've read on this and they all have different information. I'm glad somebody in Hawaii can watch the game tonight but long time fans in Kansas can't. Bravo

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Jack Jones 5 months ago

Yes, an extremely frustrating, and tremendously upsetting situation for thousands of long-time, loyal KU fans, and supporters ~ both financial, as well as otherwise. However, I completely understand, and agree with (although, I am one of those fans affected), the reason for the change in coverage of the football and basketball games ~ as so clearly explained (for the nth time) in this interview. The priorities set forth regarding the overall impact for the University ~ not only the overall athletic programs, but the entire University ~ had to be the first consideration at the time the deal was negotiated. It is unfortunate that there is not a way to revise the terms in order to rectify the 'harm' done to those Jayhawk fans, who are indeed "losers" of something very important ~ not only to them personally, but to the University as well. There must be a way.

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Rob Chestnut 5 months ago

“Two-fold,” Zenger said. “First, I believe any decision we make, the core value has to center around your student-athletes. This provided 500 student athletes the most exposure possible to regional and national coverage. What it did for them in exposure and recruiting is unrivaled.”

This quote is in itself conflicted. Student athletes for the most part are not worried about national exposure nor recruiting since very few of them will ever play professionally.

The pressure to expand budgets and generate revenue is enormous in Division I college athletics. But, let's not confuse the issue with thinking that decision-making by any athletic director begins with the student athlete.

Conference realignment was about money and TV. How beneficial was it for the players from West Virginia to travel to Lawrence, Kansas and play a game at 11 am in the morning?

I think Dr. Zenger is in a difficult position in trying to explain the unexplainable. The NCAA continues to promote the idea of the amateur athlete as a model. It simply doesn't apply anymore. Once athletic departments began incorporating and forming a separate governance, the business of college athletics is in direct conflict with the structure to manage it. It is a difficult challenge to balance.

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Ron Franklin 5 months ago

Live n sek. Bought cox Internet for espn3. Upgraded to full court. Still can't watch the games. First time in 10 years can't watch live games.

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Josh Galler 5 months ago

I have sure west and it sucks that I could not watch my games, and I would never ever go back to TWC. expensive fees and bad customer service. I would not be too upset if ESPN3.com did not block out the Kansas City Market and state of Kansas. I understand TWC deal, but I do not understand with ESPN3.com that they alienate state of KS and KC markets. The first exhibition I saw the game on ESPN3 which was cool, but the second exhibition I could not. However there are some .eu websites you be able to get online to watch the games

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Terran Woolley 5 months ago

I also firmly believe Zenger has a plan to eventually land us in the B1G. That is the purpose of Rock Chalk Park. Look for football stadium upgrade announcements once that is done.

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Bryce Landon 5 months ago

Have any of you guys ever heard of this thing called "radio"?

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Terran Woolley 5 months ago

It sucks, but it gives me an excuse to go drink some beer and eat greasy fried food at our local sports bar in McPherson. Plus....only three games left on this stupid contract for this year.

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Ben Miller 5 months ago

If your sports bar is worth its salt, they should have a good enough internet connection to show ESPN3 games. Most of the U of South Alabama Jaguar football games fall into this category and the bar I go to shows them all, streaming in HD.

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Mel Clare 5 months ago

Don't sit there and fill me with this crap! IT IS ALL ABOUT MONEY!!!!!!!!!! Time Warner? Are you kidding me? As I have stated in western Kansas we DO NOT GET Time Warner!!!! SO Zenger alienates the WHOLE western half of the state??? Where KU has Alumni groups, graduates, donors, students parents, ect. ect. ect..........for MONEY??? What a MORON!!!!! Piss poor way of doing things Zenger. How much did YOU pocket???

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Roger Tobias 5 months ago

Has anybody talked to the Alumni Association and had the organizers of their watch parties weigh in on this? I am vacationing in Cocoa Beach. I checked with the sports bars in the area and they, like probably 99% around the country, are on DirectTV. So it doesn't matter if Time Warner has cable to the homes of alumni, unless someone in a large resort city wants to open their home to a 100 or more alums. Or am I missing something? I wonder if Time Warner's money gained will exceed the money lost by those rural Kansas donors upset over this, who's lifetime loyalty has been ignored. It's hard for me to believe that the one entity that, over time, has generated the most eyeballs directed at the university, is ignored for 6 games. The only reason something should be blacked out in an area is because tickets are still available.

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Brandon Koch 5 months ago

Time Warner has tried to make sure that they get the games to some of the alienated fan base. They have an agreement with Cox for the games and the original programming and they have also made the satellite feeds of the games themselves available to several of the rural cable companies. I know there are still some out in the cold, but hopefully they will continue to expand their agreements to restore it to the rest of the local fan base.

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Michael Sillman 5 months ago

If losing access to a few basketball games while strengthening the overall athletic program alienates some fans, then they weren't really Jayhawk fans to begin with.

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Vaughn Kruger 5 months ago

I don't think I understand his line of reasoning. More visibility for "other sports" doesn't really matter. There is football. There is basketball. There is other. No one pays attention to other.

Most Big 12 teams beat the crap out of us year after year at "other sports". It was crazy lopsided. No one noticed or cared.

If all it does is help other sports, it's not worth it.

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Steve Corder 5 months ago

Nothing mentioned regarding up-grading the football stadium.

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Brett McCabe 5 months ago

Did you two even read the article? Every once in awhile, you may have to take a backseat to the overall good of the university.

Zenger's deal is one of the more innovative on the collegiate landscape. It will help grow the brand and it will help improve our other sports. It was a smart move. Hard decisions are, by definition, hard. He gets paid to make 'em and this one is solid.

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Jerry Long 5 months ago

“I’m from here (Hays),” Zenger said. “I would never do anything to alienate anyone in our fan base. False statement Dr. Zenger. You most certainly have.

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Gavin Fritton 5 months ago

“I would never do anything to alienate anyone in our fan base," Zenger said while explaining why he did something to alienate the fan base.

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