Lawrence Journal-World. February 6, 2021.

Editorial: It is the wrong time to spend $600K on an assistant football coach at KU

On Feb. 3, members of the Kansas Athletics Inc. board were told the sobering news: The University of Kansas’ athletic department is now expecting about a $30 million decline in revenues for its current fiscal year.

But on Feb. 4, surely they were cheered up if they took the time to read the Journal-World’s article detailing the contract of new KU football offensive coordinator Mike DeBord. He will be paid $600,000 a year. The guy he is replacing on the KU football staff was being paid $250,000 a year.

Ah, now that’s more like it. Somebody bring us another $15 platter of nachos from the concession stand and we can get back to living the good life.

Except, life is not good at the University of Kansas right now, and the situation above encapsulates it pretty well.

On Feb. 3, Kansas Athletic board members weren’t just told of the $30 million shortfall, but also were told that it is likely Kansas Athletics will have to start tapping its line of credit to make up for cash flow shortfalls. In other words, the organization will need to borrow money just to pay its basic bills. Yet, one position is getting a $350,000 pay increase.

Meanwhile, on the rest of the KU campus, if there is any talk of increases, it almost certainly is a reference to anger levels. KU already has cut jobs to deal with budget shortfalls, and now it is considering a plan that would allow those cuts to spread into the tenured faculty ranks. To no one’s surprise, the faculty is outraged. Faculty members certainly have good reason to be outraged at the Kansas Board of Regents. It was shameful how the board approved the idea for these types of cuts. It did so without having advertised that the decision would be up for a vote on its board agenda. (The Journal-World was at the meeting and covered it, but certainly there would have been more stakeholders there if the action had been listed on the agenda.)

KU officials are still crafting how they may use the newly granted authority, so it may be too early to pass judgment on that part of the topic. But it is not too early to pass judgment on the terrible optics that the situation above creates. It is just gut-wrenching to see a department that basically is in charge of extracurricular activities give a $350,000 raise to a midlevel staff position — borrowing money to cover its bills in the process — while the academic foundation of the university is attacked with a jackhammer.

Some may cast their anger toward Athletic Director Jeff Long. That’s probably misguided. For one, it should be noted that Long has been a better fiscal steward of athletic department resources than his predecessor. There have been cuts during this pandemic. It would have been wise for Long to veto the $600,000 hire, but if you put yourself in his shoes, you can see why he didn’t. Long is a smart man who surely understands that KU has to start winning some dang football games not just to placate fans, but to ward off the day that KU gets kicked out of the Big 12 Conference. If that day comes, the athletic department easily could become a financial burden to the university. It would have facility debt and expenses minus the revenue stream of a power five conference. That would look ugly.

The man whose shoes don’t fit for these times is Chancellor Douglas Girod. As the leader of the entire university, it should have been an easy call for him to quietly tell the athletic department that the budget for an offensive coordinator is far below $600,000 right now. Perceptions matter in situations like these, and Girod is not doing a good job managing them.

On Super Bowl Sunday, perhaps a quarterback analogy is appropriate. Good quarterbacks know you can lose a game and still win the season. But they also know that once you lose your huddle — the respect of those who gather around you waiting for direction — all is lost.

Girod is a quarterback who hasn’t been given good field position to work with. State financial support has been lacking, his state’s demographics are poor for a university, and a pandemic has created financial havoc. He can’t change that. You have to play the ball from where the referee spots it. But you can win your huddle. It is critical that the chancellor start doing so — much more so than winning actual football games.


Topeka Capital-Journal. February 5, 2021.

Editorial: Proposal to tie Medicaid expansion to medical marijuana just makes sense for Kansas

The jokes write themselves. Pot for all that ails you. Marijuanicaid.

But Gov. Laura Kelly’s latest proposal in the lengthy fight to expand the Medicaid program in Kansas is serious, and sensible besides. No doubt smarting from the failure of her compromise bill last year with (now-departed-from-Legislature) Sen. Jim Denning, Kelly has joined two popular proposals in this new offering.

The specifics are simple enough. Take the basic expansion proposal from last year, which would allow more than 150,000 low-income Kansans to receive health insurance coverage through the Medicaid program. Add to it, as a funding stream, legalized medical marijuana in Kansas.

The situation isn’t complicated. At this point, 38 states and the District of Columbia have passed expansion. Twelve states, including Kansas, have not. As for medical marijuana, 36 states have approved its use. Many of those states have gone further, and legalized cannabis altogether.

Kansas is in the minority here, and for no good reason.

Polling shows wide support for both policies in the state. Medicaid expansion even passed the Senate and House a few years ago, only to be vetoed by then-Gov. Sam Brownback. It could well be that many legislators also support medical cannabis.

So why aren’t both of these proposals already law? Politics, pure and simple. Hard-right Republicans like Brownback decided to fight expansion tooth-and-nail, mostly because it was proposed and enacted by a Democratic president. As for medical marijuana, old habits and failed war on drugs rhetoric die hard.

Unfortunately, the fact that Gov. Kelly, a Democrat who will be up for re-election next year, is making this proposal, means that few Republicans at the Statehouse will give it a fair hearing.

You’ll hear nonsensical rhetoric about how Medicaid is used by people who don’t work (in fact the majority enrolled do work — they just don’t make enough money to afford health insurance). You’ll hear overinflated fear-mongering about cannabis, as though the plant isn’t used safely by millions already in this country.

The trends are clear. Legalized marijuana — either medical or recreational — is on the way. Kansas can decide to join the trend now and establish a new revenue stream, or simply give up the money our of spite. Likewise, Medicaid expansion is here to stay. We can either cover the tens of thousands of Kansans who need it, or we can continue to reject the program over ancient grudges against Barack Obama.

The commonsense choice for Kansas is clear.


Wichita Eagle. February 5, 2021.

Editorial: Cut it out: Kansas should ban racist rules against Black hairstyles

The way people choose to wear their hair — long, short, up, down, straight or curly — should not affect their prospects for jobs, promotions or school activities.

That’s why the Kansas lawmakers should support a bill re-introduced by Wichita Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau that would prohibit bans on specific hairstyles, especially traditionally Black hairstyles such as dreadlocks, twists or braids.

Faust-Goudeau and other supporters call it the CROWN Act, which stands for “Create a Respectful and Open World (or Workplace) for Natural Hair.” It died in committee last year when COVID-19 halted business, but the Kansas City Council approved a local version last fall.

The reason is simple: Targeting a group of people that wears a particular hairstyle is discrimination. Period.

And if you think such things don’t happen — this is 2021, after all, right? — just observe what happened to an Ottawa University cheerleader last month:

Talyn Jefferson told The Kansas City Star that she refused to remove a hair bonnet during a cheerleading practice because she worried her long braids might hit a teammate in the face. Her refusal led to a racist rant from her coach, Jefferson said. She was kicked out of practice — and then kicked off the squad.

In 2018, a video of a referee cutting the dreadlocks off of a New Jersey high school wrestler went viral and drew widespread debate about policies that prohibit certain hairstyles.

Faust-Goudeau, who is Black and wears her hair down and natural, said she was distressed to learn that some workplaces require women to alter their natural hairstyles.

Those policies, which are aimed at traditionally Black hairstyles and hair textures, are rooted in racism and must stop — in workplaces as well as in schools, where dress codes often label dreadlocks, hair extensions, mohawks, or stylized fade haircuts as “inappropriate.”

A nationwide CROWN Act measure passed the U.S. House by a voice vote last fall. The U.S. Senate hasn’t acted.

Kansas, though, could — and should — make a statement against racism and discrimination by passing the law.

Hairstyles are a form of cultural and individual self-expression. For too long, Black people — and especially Black women — have been punished or penalized for simply being themselves. That seldom happens with man buns, hipster beards, dyed hair or other typically white fashion statements.

Passing the CROWN Act and ending hair discrimination is a small but important step toward combating racism, and the Kansas Legislature should make it happen.