Yael T. Abouhalkah

Reject KU’s extravagant housing plan for basketball players

Updated: 2014-01-11T23:53:02Z

By Yael T. Abouhalkah

The Kansas City Star

State officials need to rein in University of Kansas athletic leaders who have endorsed plans to build an extravagant apartment complex for KU’s male and female basketball players.

The proposal to build this Taj Mahal of student-athlete housing shows a callous disregard for common sense and for other students at KU, students who have no chance of living in such opulent quarters.

The Kansas Board of Regents should use its power to kill this $17.5 million plan, then tell KU officials to bring back a much less over-the-top idea of how to keep its precious basketball players happy.

Here’s the figure that will pop out at anyone who isn’t a KU homer: The estimated construction cost per resident of the apartment complex is $265,000.

Make no mistake: KU takes pride in its basketball programs but especially the men’s team, led by $5-million-year head coach Bill Self, who took the Jayhawks to the 2008 NCAA national title.

Every year, after yet another horrendous football season, KU students and alums (including me) look forward to watching the Jayhawks beat up on other Big 12 teams. KU has won nine straight conference titles and is going for its 10th in a row in the current season.

But the latest way to keep Self and his team happy is embarrassing. And it’s not made any less embarrassing by a few supporters who trot out the “space race” analogies — that KU has to keep pace with other schools that also overspend on their athletic programs. KU officials also lamely say private funds, not taxpayer-supplied funds, will pay for the apartments — something that has nothing to do with the issue of creating this kind of special housing for basketball players.

“We have one of the very elite basketball programs in the country, and we want to do everything we can to stay there,” KU associate athletic director Jim Marchiony said in The Star. “Not only that, we need to, and housing is part of that.”

Read The Star’s article closely, and you also note that KU is making a mockery of NCAA rules that are supposed to prevent athletes from getting special treatment not given to other students.

No problem, say KU athletic officials: They will build the housing complex and let a few dozen other students also have access to it. As if that makes everything all right.

It doesn’t.

Tough as it might be to do, the Board of Regents has a clear duty to prevent this kind of glorification of student athletes at the University of Kansas. Rejecting the current apartment construction plans would be an appropriate way to do that.

To reach Yael T. Abouhalkah, call 816-234-4887 or send email to abouhalkah@kcstar.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/YaelTAbouhalkah.

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