Opinion Columns & Blogs

What Dave Stallworth still means to Wichita

Dave Stallworth (42) was Wichita State basketball’s first consensus All-American.
Dave Stallworth (42) was Wichita State basketball’s first consensus All-American. File photo

In March, Wichita State basketball legend Dave Stallworth died – too early at the age of 75. Shortly thereafter, his teammates from his final team, the 1965 miracle group that made it to the NCAA Final Four without Stallworth because his eligibility ran out in January, announced plans with several others to raise funds to build a statue of “Dave the Rave.” It will ensure Stallworth’s permanent presence at the house he helped build, Koch Arena.

Stallworth, as the university’s first consensus All-American, put Shocker basketball on the national map. Although the Shockers have had ups and downs since, there is no question that the successes were made possible because great coaches, including the greatest one of them of all, Gregg Marshall, and great players have come here because Stallworth paved the way.

The economist within me is prompted to ask a different question: What economic contribution did Stallworth make to Wichita? I ask because I’m privileged to be part of that group, headed by one of Stallworth’s former teammates, Bob Powers, that is seeking to raise $250,000 to fund the statue and a scholarship fund at WSU in Stallworth’s name. Is there a strictly economic benefit that Stallworth conferred on this city that would justify such an endeavor, beyond the non-quantifiable benefits of reminding everyone who attends Koch Arena events of his importance to Shocker basketball and the city?

It’s an impossible question to answer with any precision. But here’s a try. Next spring, Wichita will host two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. That event will bring visitors who will spend money on hotels, restaurants, and retail items. This spending, in turn, will have multiplier effects as money received disperses throughout the local economy.

It’s reasonable to expect at least 10,000 out-of-towners for the three days of the tournament, spending an average of $800. That’s a direct impact of $8 million. Multiply that by a conservative 1.25, to capture the second and later rounds of spending by those who receive additional tips and profits, and the total benefit to Wichita hits $10 million.

How much of this can be attributed to Stallworth’s pioneering achievements 50 years ago? Of course, the lion’s share of the credit goes to Marshall, his remarkable players and those before them who helped cement the legacy of Wichita as a great basketball town. But is it so unreasonable to say that Stallworth deserves at least 5 percent of the credit for the prominence WSU and our city has earned since he was here? I don’t think so. And if that’s right, then his benefit to this city from this tournament alone comes to $500,000.

Now compare that to the $250,000 fund-raising goal to honor Stallworth for all time. Not a bad return on the investment. If you agree and would like pitch in, you can send a tax-deductible check to the WSU Foundation, Dave Stallworth Memorial, 1845 Fairmount, Wichita, 67260.

Robert Litan is a Wichita attorney-economist and lifelong Shocker fan.