Kansas donors appear willing to pay to keep Self

Updated: April 10, 2008, 4:28 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- If big bucks are needed to fend off Oklahoma State and keep Bill Self as the Jayhawks' basketball coach, wealthy Kansas donors seem ready to reach for their wallet.

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"If they're going to need to raise a lot of money, I'm sure there will be many people who step forward," Dana Anderson, a businessman/developer and prominent Kansas donor, told The Associated Press. "Bill Self is a great individual and a great coach and he's perfect for Kansas."

Immediately after Kansas beat Memphis in overtime Monday night for the NCAA championship, speculation intensified that oil and energy magnate T. Boone Pickens might be coming after the Jayhawks' coach on behalf of Oklahoma State.

An Oklahoma native who played for the Cowboys and was an assistant coach at the school, Self remains popular there.

Pickens, who once gave Oklahoma State's athletic department a $165 million donation, could probably outbid any single Kansas booster. But with an extensive alumni base and a love of athletics, the Jayhawks are not without financial firepower of their own.

Self is expected to meet with Kansas officials on Thursday to discuss his future and the program's future, the Kansas City Star reported on Wednesday.

"People may misread this," Self told the paper, "but I just want to make sure that we have the opportunity to continue to compete at the highest level. You do that with facilities, you do that with how you recruit, you do that with multiple things. There are definitely some areas that could be improved -- in large part, facilities."

Wealthy boosters are already paying for an extensive state-of-the-art football facility set to open this summer, including the Anderson Family Football Complex. Since Lew Perkins arrived as athletic director five years ago, the Jayhawks have raised millions for other capital improvements as well, including to Allen Fieldhouse.

Plus, Kansas fans are tired of losing coaches whose teams play in NCAA championship games. Larry Brown left for the NBA after winning the 1988 national championship, and Roy Williams heeded North Carolina's call just days after Syracuse beat Kansas for the 2003 title.

"I don't think people would want to see that happen again," said Monte Johnson, another prominent Kansas booster. "Everybody wants to see Bill Self stay at Kansas."

Self has said he does not want to leave Kansas but that he wants security in the way of a long-term contract. He also said he would at least talk to the Cowboys should they call.

Under a contract that was extended last year and has three years to run, Self makes $1.375 million annually. But he would be in line for a hefty raise after winning a school-record 37 games and capturing a national championship even without Oklahoma State in the picture. Income from endorsements, basketball camps and speaking appearances will also escalate.

Self was expected to meet with Perkins and chancellor Robert Hemenway soon, perhaps later this week. But Perkins said nothing was brewing as of Wednesday.

"We just got in last night from the Final Four," he told The Associated Press. "There's really nothing to comment on right now. My advice is for everybody to just relax for a couple of days and let us enjoy our national championship."

It's not the first time Perkins has faced such a challenge. While athletic director at Connecticut, he managed to hold onto Geno Auriemma, the Huskies' successful women's basketball coach.

"Lew is very competitive," said Johnson, the athletic director who hired Brown. "He will do all he can to make sure our athletic programs maintain their momentum."

After the Danny Manning-led Jayhawks won the '88 title, Johnson led a successful capital drive that brought millions into the athletic department.

"I haven't had anybody call this week and say, 'Boy, we've got to pony up and make this happen,'" said Johnson. "But I'm sure if they're called upon, our people will be there.

"If they're asked to make contributions, they will make contributions," Johnson said. "Our athletic director and chancellor know the value that Bill has to our program. Bill has created a situation where he needs to be compensated for what he's done for this university, and he's done a lot."

Anderson said from his office in Santa Monica, Calif., that Kansas fans would be ready to step forward.

"I think we'll do all we can to retain him," he said. "I'm comfortable we will do our very best."

He declined to speculate on how much it might take to keep Self at Kansas.

"All Oklahoma State has to offer him is money," Anderson said. "We're going to do our best to make him comfortable in staying. You work out a way to retain great people."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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