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Archive for Saturday, August 16, 2003

Perkins ranks funding top priority

August 16, 2003

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Six weeks as Kansas University athletic director haven't changed Lew Perkins' mind about the department's No. 1 priority.

"Funding," Perkins said Friday. "We're very far behind most of the people in the Big 12."

When Perkins left Connecticut after 13 years, the UConn athletic budget was around $40 million. KU's athletic budget is about $27 million.

"Now 27 million is a lot of money, don't get me wrong," Perkins said. "We really have very good facilities if you compare them to, say, Miami or Boston College, but not compared to Oklahoma or Nebraska. If you take us out of the league, we're OK."

Kansas isn't about to leave the Big 12, of course, not with the conference funneling about $5 million in football bowl and television money into each school's athletic department coffers annually.

In a decision aimed at enhancing donor funding, Perkins spent his first two weeks as Kansas AD visiting alumni groups around the state, thumping the tub for bringing the Jayhawks up to parity with comparable Big 12 schools.

Since then, Perkins has spent most of his time assessing the athletic department he inherited from Al Bohl who was fired in April after just 20 months on the job.

Whole infrastructure

"If you ask me what has surprised me the most," he said, "it's the whole infrastructure of the department. There are no policies, no guidelines. It's all helter-skelter. We need stadium plans. We have no long-term budget, either. You have to do research on those things."

The man Perkins will entrust to strategic planning -- a newly created position -- is Brandon Macneill, who will leave his job in the Princeton University marketing department in October and begin compiling information that will enable Perkins and other staffers to establish those policies and guidelines.

Macneill is married to one of Perkins' two daughters and, since Perkins is classified as a state employee, it would appear he violated the state's nepotism laws by hiring his daughter Amy's husband.

However, Perkins has avoided a nepotism infraction, he says, by having Macneill report to Jim Marchiony, a former UConn aide under Perkins who started work this week as KU's associate AD for external affairs.

"I checked into that and I cleared it," Perkins said.

Keating hired

Perkins also announced the hiring Friday of Larry Keating, a former athletic director at Seton Hall and currently assistant commissioner of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

Keating also has a background as an assistant basketball coach.

"He's a coach's coach," Perkins said of Keating. "Coaches will come to him. He's like a magnet."

Perkins says he believes college coaches need someone they can go to with major or minor problems.

"We have to service our coaches and our student-athletes," Perkins said. "We're a service organization. We need to be sensitive because these coaches have a tough, tough job, and the kids do, too. We need to listen to their needs and communicate with them."

Perkins has already placed additional personnel in the area of student support, a department headed by associate AD Paul Buskirk and located in the Hale Achievement Center on the second floor of Parrott Complex.

"Paul Buskirk is as good as anybody I've been around," Perkins said, "but he needs more space, and that's a priority."

Two departures

Since his arrival, Perkins has lost two staffers -- senior woman administrator Janelle Martin and senior associate AD Richard Konzem -- and hired three -- Marciony, Keating and Macneill. Perkins still needs an SWA and he also may have to replace Doug Vance who is expected to leave his post as associate AD for communications.

In other words, Perkins' staff remains in a state of flux and probably will for an undetermined time. Once he has a full boat, Perkins says he will take everyone on board into a room with no phones and no distractions, and hash out the restructuring of the department.

"Absolutely," he said, "but can I tell you what they'll all be doing? No. I don't put names up on the board. I put up blocks. We'll find out who fits into those blocks."

But it won't happen tomorrow or the next day, he stressed.

"It'll be six or seven months from now," Perkins said. "I wish I could do it faster, but you can't."

Asked if he would add any more personnel slots to the athletic department bureaucracy -- Macneill's position is new -- Perkins replied: "Probably not. I'd like to streamline, but I'd like to get things done, too."

September move

During his first month and a half on the job, Perkins and his wife Gwen have been living in an apartment. They've bought a house, however, and will move in next month.

"The people have been great, the chancellor has been great, everybody has been great," Perkins said. "Every day I've been finding out things ... a lot of them good things. But we have a lot of issues, and I don't know half of them now."

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