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Sunday, July 31, 2005

Mayer: Athletics big-time in Big 12

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You get a much better idea of the steep hill the Kansas University athletic program must climb when you check a list of NCAA Division I-A revenues and expenses compiled recently by Alan Schmadtke of the Orlando Sentinel. Little wonder KU tries so hard to fatten its treasury. The competition is brutal.

Schmadtke's tabulations are for the 2003-04 year, the latest data available, but they are quite indicative of what is going on. Of special interest is the gap in the Big 12 Conference between money-drenched Texas and its 11 compadres.

Total all-sports revenues for the Longhorns were just under $83.5 million. Surprisingly, Kansas was second at $59.3 million (does the term "basketball" mean anythin' to ya?). Third was Oklahoma at $57.9 million. Nebraska took fourth with an intake of $55.9 million, and Texas A&M; rounded out the "half a hundred" pack at just over $50 million. Except for KU, football is the driving force.

OK, what about the football figures for the league?

Texas not only topped the Big 12 but the nation with its football intake of $47.5 million. Next on the league list was Oklahoma with $34.3 million followed by Texas A&M; at $31.1 million and Nebraska at $30.2 million. That's all the 30-and-up schools. How about Kansas? KU stood 11th at $9.4 million, just ahead of Baylor's $6.2 million and right behind Iowa State's $10.6 million. There were two teams in the "20" category - Colorado with $23.1 in football revenue and Kansas State at $20.5 million. Missouri? Call it $15.1 million for the Tigers.

Back to Texas, which is definitely a Richie Rich of college sports.

Closest to Texas nationally in football revenue was Tennessee with $46.7 million followed by Ohio State with $46.2 million. After that we find Florida at $42.7 million and Georgia with $42.1 million. What about Michigan with that Grand Canyon called The Big House? A paltry $38.5 million. And Notre Dame, where tradition drips from the palms of a friendly Touchdown Jesus? A mere $38.6 million.

As for Texas's total revenue for all sports of $83.5 million, that's overshadowed by Ohio State's benumbing $103.8 million. Ohio State is the only $100 million-and-up school, and Texas is $20.3 million behind in second place. A million here and a million there, and pretty soon you're talking money.

The good news is that in 2003-04, Kansas's total revenues were $59.3 million and total expenses were $34.8 million - seemingly a friendly gap of about $24.5 million.

The bad news was that KU women's sports revenue was a paltry $247,354 while the women's expenses were $7,231,739. That's pushing a $7 million deficit as far as I can figure. But not one Big 12 women's program is even near breaking even. Baylor was best with a $4.7 million intake and a $6.1 million outgo.

In football, KU's intake was $9,361,531 and expenses were $7,723,233, a gain of some $1.6 million.

Football has to start producing big, fast. Basketball is maxed out on what it can produce - Allen Fieldhouse sellouts, points-system largesse, adidas contracts and television loot. This growing pressure on the football operation has spawned understandable talk that coach Mark Mangino must produce a winner, or at least a .500 product, pretty soon or athletic director Lew Perkins will start looking to a friend, Randy Edsall, now coaching at Connecticut.

As for Jayhawk sports revenue and the best ways to get more of it, my column last Sunday on the athletic department, school administration and its ongoing public-relations problems activated a batch of disenchanted people. Not one of them was defending KU.

Most asked anonymity but, thankfully, not Lawrence attorney Jerry Levy. His story is all too typical of what has happened.

Rodney Jones of KU notified Jerry it had not heard from him about his "unfulfilled Williams Fund pledge. ... Because of this the corresponding points associated with the unpaid balance have been deducted from your account, and it has been marked delinquent. Unfortunately, this situation will preclude you from ordering basketball tickets or receiving any other Williams Fund benefits in the future. ... If you have already sent your payment, please disregard this letter and accept our sincere thanks."

Levy's response was delicious. He wrote:

"Let me see if I understand what you are saying. Because I notified the Williams Fund several months ago that I would no longer honor my pledge to the Williams Fund due to the outrageous new seating policy inaugurated by the athletic director, I am precluded from 'ordering basketball season tickets or receiving any other Williams Fund benefits in the future.' That is very interesting since before I received your letter I received an electronic mail notification acknowledging my purchase of basketball tickets, and today I received my American Express bill showing a billing for $547.80, for, I believe, season football tickets. Let's see. I am good enough for football tickets but not basketball tickets. Do I have that right?

"I have been a Williams Fund member since 1984 even though your inadequate records show that I have only been a member since 1988. I am a graduate of KU. I have two sons who are graduates of KU. I presently have a granddaughter enrolled at KU. My brother is a graduate of KU. I have nieces and nephews who are graduates of KU. Where did you and the rest of the athletic director's cronies go to school, and do you get basketball tickets?

"Your new policies are despicable. They make no allowances for those who are senior citizens and have difficulty climbing steps. I know this to be true because sitting behind me at the basketball games last year was a couple who have been contributors much longer than I, and are much older. Their seats are on row 23 and it is very difficult for them to walk all the way up. Of course, you don't give a hoot. After all, look what you did to the (Phog) Allen family.

"So despite my legacy, 20 years of giving a total of $75,000, even though your records only give me credit for around $65,000, I am no longer qualified for Williams Fund benefits (excluding football). Which makes me wonder if I could get season tickets to volleyball, soccer, baseball or track. I have a hunch no one would ask about Williams Fund membership if I ordered tickets to one of those sports. Your letter to me concludes, 'As always, we appreciate your support of Kansas Athletics!' What a crock of B.S. The only thing appreciated in your office is money and a lot of it. So let me conclude by saying, as always, I will continue to be a thorn in your side until you leave, which I hope will be sooner than later."

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