Kivisto assists KU again

By Tom Keegan,, Saturday, February 4, 2006

Tom Kivisto holds the Kansas University single-game assist record. You don’t get 18 assists without being able to see the whole picture in front of you, reading it properly and making the right decision. Kivisto’s biggest assist for his university didn’t come until more than 30 years later, when he donated $10 million toward the new football facility.

Again, Kivisto saw the whole picture, read it properly, and made the right decision. He could have given $10 million to the basketball program, but that wouldn’t have helped basketball as much as giving it to football. Lawrence and the entire university benefit as well.

Better facilities beget better recruits, which means better teams, which translates to more sellouts, which generates more business for bars, restaurants, bars, hotels, bars, gas stations, bars, etc. And did I mention bars? Nothing markets a university better than big-time athletics. The better the football team, the greater the pool of applicants, the more the prestige of the university grows.

It becomes tougher for negative recruiters to put down KU as a “basketball-only” school once the football offices aren’t in a basketball building. The locker room, players lounge, training room, meeting rooms and practice fields all will be up to Big 12 Conference speed. And the players won’t have to get their ankles taped on one side of campus and bus to the other side to practice at Memorial Stadium.

It’s unfortunate that it could take spending up to $40 million just to keep up with Big 12 competition, but it’s also reality. It’s too bad vegetables taste lousy and are good for you and brownies taste great and are bad for you, but that’s life. Pick your poison. Do you want to enjoy brownies and suffer the consequences of buttons flying off your shirt, or do you want to wince through your vegetables and look sharp? Do you want to spend $40 million toward building a big-time football program, or do you want to spare the expense and tread water in a football pond full of sharks?

KU coach Bill Self isn’t one of those big-time college basketball coaches who wants to overshadow the rest of the athletic department. “Nothing generates enthusiasm on campus in the fall like football,” he said, noting football helps him recruit. “Nothing. I don’t care if the team is preseason No. 1 in basketball, nothing generates enthusiasm like great football.”

Self also referenced how crowded things are for other sports. Once football vacates the Anderson Strength Center, it will be easier for everyone else to work out. The biggest benefactor of that strength center, by the way, was the rowing team. The old weight room was converted into a rowing center.

Dana Anderson, a big backer of the football facility, will be on hand with Kivisto at Sunday morning’s press conference to announce the plans. Shortly after that, fans will begin walking through the Booth Family Hall of Athletics on their way to seats for a great college basketball matchup with Oklahoma. Later, somewhere during the hours of Super Bowl coverage, they might even see a clip of former KU football star Mike McCormack presenting the George Halas Trophy to the Seahawks for winning the NFC championship game.

Sunday should be a fun day.