DISCLAIMER: THE THEORIES LAID OUT BELOW ARE PURELY WILD, UNINFORMED SPECULATION INTENDED TO BE SATIRICAL. IF ONE OF THEM TURNS OUT TO BE CORRECT, HOWEVER, I WILL BRAG ABOUT IT UNTIL THE END OF TIME.
Mizzou Athletics announced a record 62 million dollar donation Monday earmarked for the Memorial Stadium renovations and the Tiger Fund. The gift is easily the largest in school history, over twice as large as the previous gift.
According to J-School alum and current Post-Dispatch sportswriter Eli Hoff, the gift is more money than the total amount of fundraising the athletics department brought in during 2022 and 2023 combined.
And it was donated anonymously. “Who would donate such an absurdly large amount of money to an athletics department and not take credit for it?”, you might ask.
There are two main reasons I can think of that someone might not take credit. One: they want to maintain their privacy and don’t need the glory and credit for making the donation. Two: the donation would draw so much attention or controversy that it is best for the department and the donor to keep things quiet.
Option number one is much more plausible. But option number two sounds like way more fun, so we’re going to go down the rabbit hole here.
Below, I introduce you to my four main suspects and why I believe they could have made the donation. The theories will become more wild and unlikely with each suspect.
Suspect #1: Stan Kroenke
Enos Stanley Kroenke. One of the most infamous Mizzou alums (something I’m sure the University tries to avoid bringing up like it’s a deadly virus). Famous for moving the Rams back to Los Angeles (and the way in which it was done), despite being from the state of Missouri himself.
Given that he owns the Rams, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, and Arsenal F.C. in the English Premier League and is a multi-billionaire, he certainly has the financial means to make this donation. In addition, he married into the Walton family, owners of Walmart.
Various members of the extended family tied to the Walmart fortune have made several significant donations to the athletic department over the years. In 2001, the Laurie family donated $25 million to help fund Mizzou Arena, originally named Paige Sports Arena after their daughter until it was reported that she paid her roommate $20,000 over nearly four years to do her schoolwork at USC.
The naming of the arena, which was one of the conditions for the gift, was originally controversial among Tigers fans because Laurie attended USC, not Mizzou. In a much less controversial donation, Audrey J. Walton (wife of Walmart founder “Bud” Walton, whose name you might recognize from Arkansas’ basketball arena) donated $1 million to help build Mizzou’s soccer/track and field stadium, which was then named in her honor.
There are multiple reasons Kroenke might make such a donation. As noted above, he has extensive family ties to Mizzou. Josh Kroenke, his son, was a role player and occasional starter on the men’s basketball team from 1999-2004. Josh’s time at Mizzou may be most remembered for partying with family friend and then-Iowa St. men’s head basketball coach Larry Eustachy after a game, creating a scandal that would lead to the coach’s resignation from the program.
He is related to current Mizzou women’s basketball player Averi Kroenke.
Despite the thoughts of our Slack channel, he may also feel remorse for how the Rams situation played out. It was an ugly breakup that made Kroenke persona non grata in his home state.
A large donation to his home-state school and alma mater could help ease his conscience, giving back to a community he took something (possibly) irreplaceable from. However, both he and the athletic department would know the ridicule and social media firestorm a public announcement would create.
There was an uproar after Mizzou Athletics congratulated Josh Kroenke on winning the NBA title with the Nuggets on social media. Imagine the reaction to Kroenke being announced as the donor.
Suspect #2: Taylor Swift
We’ve all heard lots of news about Taylor Swift over the past year, especially about her relationship with Chiefs star Travis Kelce in the sports media world. Everyone has seen the cutaways during broadcasts to her in the suites at Arrowhead or other NFL stadiums.
She is starting to establish closer ties to the KC area, and has become just as synonymous (if not more) with this Chiefs run as Patrick Mahomes, Andy Reid, and Kelce. What if, as part of becoming familiar with the area, she came to love Mizzou and its football team?
Maybe Nick Bolton and Blaine Gabbert have been really nice to her? Maybe her budding friendship with Andy Reid got her thinking about supporting the black & gold? How does Andy Hill figure into this equation? Maybe someone she sits with in the suites at Arrowhead is a Mizzou alum. Maybe she’s met some kU people and just really disliked them.
Swift definitely has the money to make the donation. She is now a billionaire after the wildly successful Eras Tour. She also likes to stay fairly private, the kind of person who would not take credit for such a large donation.
Suspect #3: Jason Sudeikis
Almost everyone loves Jason Sudeikis. His wholesome title character in Ted Lasso and various comedy roles have brought him both critical acclaim and many fans. He seems like a genuinely cool and decent person.
And yet, he’s also a big kU fan. A combination that seems highly unlikely. Even suspicious. I don’t buy it.
A Kansas native, Sudeikis attended and played basketball for Shawnee Mission West High School in Overland Park and then Fort Scott Community College. Living so close to the state line, he surely knew many Mizzou fans and was familiar with the university.
What if he has been pretending to like kU all this time? Maybe he’s secretly a Mizzou fan, and has been plotting to take down Jayhawks basketball from the inside for years. It’s a theory that seems just as likely as him actually rooting for kansas, a decidedly not wholesome basketball program.
Revealing himself as the anonymous donor would ruin his elaborate plan and everything he has worked for so far. Keep going strong, Jason. We all know that your efforts will be recognized when the time is right.
Xaviar Michael Babudar, aka “ChiefsAholic”
When I mentioned the donation news to one of my suitemates, they said the money must have been stolen or otherwise gained illegally. That led me to my final suspect.
ChiefsAholic was, very briefly, a Z-list celebrity.
Then, he was charged with robbing a bank in Oklahoma, stealing $150,000. Arrested and released on bond, he removed his ankle monitor and went on the lam for four months before being caught by the FBI in California.
He was then accused of an additional string of robberies taking place across the Midwest, bringing the amount stolen over $800,000. But what if that’s not the real total?
Let’s go way out of the box here. The total was much higher, but the true number has been concealed because the money has not been recovered.
“But how would he donate the money if he’s in prison?”, you might be wondering. What if he had an undiscovered partner?
If ChiefsAholic was a huge Nick Bolton fan and looking for a way to get rid of some evidence, he can combine two of his passions together: crime and football. The donor, of course, would want to avoid as much scrutiny as possible. Meanwhile, the athletics department is none the wiser, still celebrating the record donation.
This completes my increasingly unlikely and absurd suspects list. Let us know who you think the donor is below in the comments!