Kansas' blue-blood matchup against Kentucky on Jan. 30 was a big turning point in the season for Kansas basketball.
Not only was the game a pivotal midseason matchup between ranked teams, but also the Jayhawks' overtime win began a winning streak of nine games.
The matchup on the court, however, wasn't the only blue-blood matchup Kansas won that night. The other one may have been won years earlier, but it was celebrated at halftime in Allen Fieldhouse on Jan. 30.
"Rock Chalk Jayhawk" were David Booth's last three words as he unveiled the original rules on basketball, penned in 1891 by James Naismith before a crowd of 16,300. Booth, a donor to the University, gifted the rules to Kansas basketball after he bought them.
"I think all of us at the University and KU fans everywhere should be thankful to David Booth for being willing to go over and above what someone would normally do and take the initiative to purchase the rules and make them available to KU," Jim Marchiony, said assistant athletic director of KU Athletics. "I think that all KU fans and citizens of the state of Kansas feel that if the rules belong anywhere, they should be at KU."
Those rules returning to the place where Naismith coached from 1898 to 1907 was a landmark in the history of college basketball, as well as American sports. However, if David Booth had not purchased the rules, they likely could have been unveiled at Duke University, an elite program that Kansas fights most seasons for national supremacy.
In fact, Booth later learned how real the possibility would have been. An ESPN "30 for 30" film documents Booth's decision to purchase the rules from Sotheby's, a New York City auction house. The documentary explains that Booth had been bidding against a Duke booster for the rules, but Booth said he didn't know this during the auction.
"He emailed me the next day after the auction and said that he was the guy on the other end and said 'I think I may have cost you some money,'" Booth said. "It cost me a lot of money, and I said he’ll have to buy me dinner."
Booth, who graduated from the University in 1968 with a bachelor's degree and in 1969 with a master's degree, is currently the co-CEO and co-founder of an investment firm called Dimensional Fund Advisors. He grew up in Lawrence, graduated from Lawrence High School, and grew up just down the street from Allen Fieldhouse. His address: 1931 Naismith Drive.
"It was meant to be," Booth said, after pointing out that James Naismith signed the rules in the year 1931. Even though the document was written in 1891, Naismith didn't sign it until 1931.
Now that Booth has given the original rules to the University, a new building is being constructed directly next to Allen Fieldhouse to house them. Funded by another University donor, Paul DeBruce, construction of the DeBruce Center could be completed by April.
While his parents didn't attend college, University traditions were important for the Booth family. His parents had always been fans of University sports and Booth, his brother, and his sister all graduated from the University. Booth said his contributions to the University, the rules and the Booth Family Hall of Athletics, are ways of thanking his parents, who have a connection to the University through living in Lawrence. He added that his contributions also symbolize what it means to have college sports: the connection it creates with students, alumni and locals who may not have ever enrolled in the school.
Booth also said he enjoyed the reaction the rules received at the halftime ceremony.
"Everybody stayed," Booth said. "It was halftime and the stands were packed and they dimmed the lights and all that. That’s a good memory. But the support of the people was really important to me. I would have hated to go through all this effort and have everybody go, 'Ho-hum.'"
He added: "It was pretty clear people appreciate it so that was pretty cool. That’s why you do things like this, right? Hopefully somehow, someway, it will make things a little better. You can tell from the crowd’s reaction that it was really appreciated, which, that’s what it's all about."
As for basketball, Booth said he has made it to four or five games this season, plus a trip to Hawaii early in the season for the Maui Invitational. He didn't have an outright prediction for the end of the season, but said he expects the highly-ranked Jayhawks to be up there with the top teams by the end of the season.
"They're a great group of young men and they're fun to watch," Booth said. "It makes me proud to support them."
— Edited by Brendan Dzwierzynski