Thursday, May 3, 2018


Tom Keegan: Billionaires latest to hear Matt Baty’s stadium-renovation pitch

Rendering of the University of Kansas football stadium, at completion of renovation project.

Rendering of the University of Kansas football stadium, at completion of renovation project.


The search committee, multiple people who would know have told me, recommended University of Kansas Provost Neeli Bendapudi as successor to Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, but the regents went with their own choice, Douglas Girod.

Right out of the chute, Girod announced a Kansas Athletics’ capital campaign to raise $350 million for athletic facilities, $300 million of which would go toward renovations of David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.

Based on that, it appears Kansas has a chancellor who understands the value a successful football program can bring to a university.

Yet, the same chancellor who kicked off the campaign decided to leave in their positions an athletic director whose six years of football coaching hires have produced a 10-62 record and a head coach who is 3-33 in three seasons.

How can this be?

A head-and-neck surgeon, Girod gathers all the information, and ponders all the options before moving forward.

That seems to be the best explanation for why Girod didn’t hit the reset button with a new AD and football coach.

KU is in an eight-year football slump since the forced resignation of Mark Mangino.

It was a two-year mistake, because if the right replacement had been hired, by the end of the 2018 season, KU would be one year into a recovery, or in a seven-year hole. Instead, it will be in a nine-year hole, unless Beaty shows significant progress this season.

It’s a horrible time to try to raise money for improvements to a football stadium. Then again, when Baylor football coach Art Briles asked university president Ken Starr for a new football stadium, reportedly at a party June 1, 2010, Briles was entering his third season in Waco and the Bears had a streak of 14 consecutive losing seasons.

Somebody has to do the asking for Kansas and that somebody is Matt Baty, head of the Williams Fund, fundraising arm of Kansas Athletics.

Baty fell back on tired, broken crutches during a podcast interview in December, defending the athletic department’s decision to stay with the football coach. You know, firing coaches hasn’t worked in the past, so they’re going to give this one time, the “local papers” are making it tough for Beaty to recruit, etc.

More on those later.

For now, let’s look at what he did this week. I had heard he met in Scottsdale, Ariz., with some of the university's biggest donors, which he prefers to refer to as “shareholders.” I was told there were multiple billionaires (with a capital B) in the room.

Baty didn’t care to share what names were there, how many zeroes are behind those names or what precisely was discussed, but he said he thought it “went well.”

His message?

“Investment-first strategy, that’s the message,” Baty said by phone Thursday.

Meaning, Kansas can’t wait until it becomes competitive on the field to begin stadium improvements. He tried to convince a room full of outrageously successful businessmen that the school is more committed to football than at any time in its history — a tough sell when the product on the field is so diluted that injuries to the offensive line prohibited a spring game from taking place.

Baty also makes part of his message that in order to protect KU’s conference affiliation, Kansas needs to get up to speed in football in all ways. He's right about that, of course.

“A business doesn’t make money until there is a commitment, and there has never been a commitment to football in the past,” Baty said. “There is a commitment to football now and it starts from the chancellor down. He understands the importance of football.”

Baty did a better job Thursday of articulating his mission than during a dreadful “Sport Management” podcast appearance with a KU student in December, during which he said of Athletic Director Sheahon Zenger's decision not to fire the football coach: “We’re putting a stake in the ground and we’re not doing what we’ve done and constantly done, year after year after year. That’s what we’ve done. We’ve fired coaches. Average tenure’s four years. We’ve done that. We’ve been there.”

As if firing the wrong football coach for the job is the problem and not the failure to hire the right one in the first place.

Baty would be better served to let Zenger answer for his decisions.

And here’s a line from the podcast Baty definitely needs to lose: “When we’re out talking to donors, my mission is very simple: ‘If you want to be part of the problem in the last 65 years, then we fire David Beaty. If you want to be part of the problem, don’t come to the games. If you want to be a part of the problem, don’t give to 'Raise The Chant,' the capital campaign. Don’t support this. Talk negatively about them. But if you want to be part of the solution, buy season tickets.’ ”

It wasn’t Baty’s finest hour, but he was one of the better hitters in recent KU baseball history. Good hitters don't let an 0-for-4 day at the plate send them into a shell. He'll keep plugging away at the second-most difficult job in the athletic department, ranking behind only coaching the offensive line.

To hear the entire Baty podcast or to read other quotes from it, click on my “Lunch Break” blog on


Brett McCabe 10 months, 3 weeks ago

The Regents were appointed by........ Everyone who loves KU wanted Neeli....those with other agendas won...KU lost. Big time.

Interesting that the Big 12 whiffed on adding Louisville, and Louisville ended up far better off by landing in the ACC. And then KU whiffed on Neeli, and Louisville ends up far better off because of Kansas idiocy.

Girod is a wet bag. Zenger wouldn't recognize a good football coach if Vince Lombardi, Bill Parcells and Nick Saban all walked into his office together. Matt Baty is stunningly stupid. And David Booth will pay any amount of money to have his name on something. I guess 30/30 just wasn't enough.

I'm actually starting to be embarrassed by this clown show. Please quit showing such disrespect to my University by putting your collective of big egos, small brains and large bank accounts to use in order to create the Bermuda Triangle known as KU Football.

Joe Norgay 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Keep up the heat Tom! It’s sad you’re one of the only people trying to hold KU accountable for the miserable failure that’s been the Zenger and Beaty tenures. And at this rate possibly Girod’s.

[''] 10 months, 3 weeks ago

I'll never forget when somebody tried to sell me and my family a timeshare during a Category 4 hurricane in the Bahamas. Trees were uprooted as she spoke to us. This is the exact situation here. Good luck with that.

Brad Sherp 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Zenger is making another huge mistake. The issue is not firing bad coaches. The issue is hiring bad coaches. To stick with a bad coach, because you keep hiring bad coaches and can't figure out why it isn't working out is tragic.

Brian Leslie 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Do you mean Girod? Or Baty? Zenger is in "keep cashin' dem paychecks" mode, which is logical enough. Zenger knows he is not getting another chance at hiring a football coach and has got to know that he is unlikely to have his job at the end of this calendar year.

Kevin Robert Fest 10 months, 3 weeks ago

The issue is hiring bad coaches and then paying them a lot of money then when you fire them before the contract is up you have to pay out a huge buyout which is what led us to Beaty. Why they hired Weis in the first place is beyond me. They didn't wanna hire another expensive coach in case they didn't win and they had to get rid of him and it would be another buyout on the books that the donors would have to take care of. Then they give Beaty an extension and raise for 1 win over Texas. Money well spent :/

Dane Pratt 10 months, 3 weeks ago

All that football brain power and we still struck out.

Jeff Coffman 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Wow...we hired the chancellor and we had a different recommendation. Didn't we do that with both the weis and Beaty hires as wrll?

Dennis Strick 10 months, 3 weeks ago

This problem has more facets than the Hope Diamond. We need to start assembling an outside selection committee to identify a new AD, a new Head Coach, and it sounds like we may need a new head of the Williams Fund. We need this committee up and running by the middle of the summer. All current job holders need to feel some heat heading into the season. If the results are not there after game 3 they can all head for the exits. Whomever the committee identifies needs to be the one that is hired. We cannot trust the internal bureaucrats to make good hiring decisions. Left to their own devices they would keep paying Gray-Little her annual salary (500K+) until she reaches retirement/pension age. One person I know needs to be on that committee is Mark Mangino. He appears to be the only guy in that department in the last 20 years that was results motivated/oriented. He obviously knows what it takes to create a formula for success. We made a horrible decision in letting him go, but we are way too far down the river to bring him back as a coach. We can benefit from his knowledge.

Lance Hobson 10 months, 3 weeks ago

The latest fad us to fire the athletic director. Zenger certainly blew it with Weiss but I don’t see how firing him will help us now. As far as the stadium is concerned, if they don’t wreck the East side and eliminate all of the huge sideline space this project will a completel waste of time and money.

Michael Leiker 10 months, 3 weeks ago

I've been thinking the exact same thing since the design came out. Unless the top row on the east and west side get closer to one another, this stadium will be just as quiet as the current one.

Aaron Paisley 10 months, 3 weeks ago

The quietness of the stadium has little to do with how far back the stands are. Having been to several stadiums that are considered among the loudest in the nation, KU's sidelines aren't significantly larger than anywhere else.

The acoustics issue at Memorial has much more to do with the slope of the stands. Memorial Stadium is similar in design to Notre Dame and Michigan's stadiums in that there is a single tier of seats and the slope of the seats is pretty shallow. That design doesn't allow for much noise to stay in the stadium.

KSU has a similar sized stadium to KU in terms of capacity, but is much louder because of its design. It's got two tiers with the top tier sloped much steeper than Memorial is. This means that the noise made in the top level of the stadium cascades down and the noise from the lower tier doesn't escape out of the stadium either. This was blatantly evident even 10 years ago when KU was selling out games

John Fitzgerald 10 months, 3 weeks ago

I wrote letter to Mr. Baty in light of his insensitive comments towards fans. How is this guy leading the Williams Fund?

Bryson Stricker 10 months, 3 weeks ago



Jacob Zutterman 10 months, 3 weeks ago

So because he didn’t attend the university he can’t be a fan?

Robert Brock 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Zenger is an incompetent nincompoop. Fire him and hire someone who can cut it. NOW!

John Brazelton 10 months, 3 weeks ago

I follow the Forbes 400 list of Billionaires each year and there's only one Billionaire who graduated from KU and he has a library named after him at KU. There are three other Kansas Billionaires or families, but they didn't graduate from KU. So how many Kansas Billionaires could Baty be fundraising with? The point is that unless you're a Tech Billionaire and made your money fast, these gentlemen have heard every sales pitch in the world and they know BS from reality, that's why they are Billionaires. If Baty is successful in his fundraising, it's because he hit the right appeal. Every KU fan should be behind his efforts, because regardless of who is the KU Head Coach, we need to catch up with the rest of the Big 12 with facilities, including K-State.

Dirk Medema 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Tom - The "I'm offended by not being included in the survey" routine is comical. Like a jilted teenage girl who wants to date the football player. Soap opera in the local newspaper - complete with devoted viewers.

Kenny George 10 months, 3 weeks ago

The stadium renovation plans have nothing to do with the current AD, Head Coach or 3-33 record the past three seasons. They are not connected...period. The renovations will give us options down the road that we currently don't have which is a commitment to football. If the current AD and HC don't pan out for whatever reason then we are more likely to get better at those positions with a firm commitment to football. Quit trying to tie the two together...doesn't work!

[''] 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Baty sounds like a used car salesman: "What's it gonna take to get you into this lemon today? Huh? Huh?"

Mike Barnhart 10 months, 3 weeks ago

The "fat cat" donors need to "Colombo" Zenger. The Colombo is classic negotiating gambit. After the opposing party thinks the deal is done, right before the final contract is drafted, the other party delivers his Colombo line, "Ahh... just one more thing..."

In this case, "Dr. Girod, we're in but we're gonna' need one more thing. Before we invest one dime in this plan, Zenger and Beaty have got to go."

Dale Rogers 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Amazing. All these people who are relegated to writing comments and articles refuse to listen to those who clearly know what it takes to achieve success. Give it the five years. Then fire if the progress is not clearly there.

George Johnston 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Dale, you say, "Give it the five years. Then fire if the progress is not clearly there." I've seen that claim a lot. Do you have any evidence to support it?

Jerry Ryan 10 months, 3 weeks ago

I still support KU and Kansas Athletics, emotionally, and financially. This problem with football didn’t get to this point overnight, and it cannot be fixed overnight. “Phans” of KU can be just as stupid and uninformed as other fan bases, but that doesn’t make you right.

Jack Hoff 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Great point Jerry, this did not happen overnight, therefore it cannot be fixed overnight. I think most of us could agree that the roster is in far better shape now than it was 4 years ago and for that Beaty should get some credit. His coaching ability is still in question which is a fair assessment. But his recruiting and ability to build a roster has been fine. At the very least, if he gets fired; the next coach should have some legitimate players to work with, a luxury that he did not have.

Jack Hoff 10 months, 3 weeks ago

I enjoyed the Mangino era but he gets off the hook way to often. This dumpster fire started because of him. If wasn't a belligerent Grade A tool-bag to his players and to people around campus all of this could have been avoided. It's not that hard to win with class.

John Joseph Gorski 10 months, 3 weeks ago

I see the plan here. Keep Beaty and suck so much that they can move the team to play at Rock Chalk Park for a couple seasons while the Stadium gets rebuilt. KU MIGHT sell out Rock Chalk Park, Might!

Jeremy Wilhm 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Didn't Mangino win an Orange Bowl with facilities at or below their current level? The facilities story is just an excuse. They're only trying to save their jobs instead of doing them.

Charlie Gaughn 10 months, 2 weeks ago

I don't recall hearing a single fan complain about facilities when we were competitive under Mangino. Then when we had the '07 season it turned into a bigtime environment. We'll just look that much more ridiculous after spending all of this money and still struggle to beat NDSU.

Joe Ross 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Baty: "...and there has never been a commitment to football in the past."

"If you want to be part of the problem in the last 65 years, then we fire David Beaty. If you want to be part of the problem, don’t come to the games. If you want to be a part of the problem, don’t give to 'Raise The Chant,' the capital campaign. Don’t support this. Talk negatively about them. But if you want to be part of the solution, buy season tickets."

Mark Mangino was committed to football. If you want to be part of the problem in the last 65 years--since he cast such wide a net--force the resignation of a winning coach. If you want to be part of the problem, stop acting like the pu$$ification of young men in America is not a problem, and don't resent a head coach for toughening them up. If you want to be part of the problem, keep losing coaches around after they've proven they can't develop talent.

I guess no matter how it's spelled--whether "B-e-a-t-y" or "B-a-t-y"--when the name rings in your ears it's gonna induce nausea. He's right about one thing though: the stadium NEEDS a renovation!

Brad Watson 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Stadium renovation?....really?.....Let it least until we have a new AD and Head I have said many times in here...Beaty and Zenger are nice people...I have met them and they are decent folks...but its a results business...and they have there needs to be a change...I think what the Athletic Department needs is a former D1 coach as AD...someone that the new coach can go knock on the door and get advise from...I think a team of Mack Brown as AD and Gene Chizik as Head Coach would bring competitive football back to KU....we don't need to win National Titles...just field a decent team that is good enough to win most weeks and is capable of pulling an upset from time to time...give us alumni a reason to come to Lawrence on Saturdays in the fall we want to...but to continue to field teams that are worse than 99% of the all of D1 is not worth supporting with our time and money...please get with the PROGRAM ..the regents need to step in right a way and clean far as renovations go to the stadium....find other places to spend the money...but it will be OK to get rid of that ridiculous south end zone not change the traditional/old school/raccoon coat look of the classic stadium...and quit worrying about people viewing from the hill...field a decent team and people will come...I have found that the university crowd are some of the stupidest people in the world...ignorant about most things...especially the pulse of the alumni....

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