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Archive for Sunday, July 6, 2003

Interim AD: Perkins will be ‘a hero’

July 6, 2003

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Drue Jennings believes Kansas University's athletic department is about to embark on a period of unprecedented success.

"I think the next guy here will be a hero," Jennings, KU's interim athletic director of the past three months, said of Lew Perkins, who takes over as AD Monday after working the past 13 years at the University of Connecticut.

"There's a community out there -- not only KU alums and supporters that have been generous over the years -- but I think we've only scratched the surface in terms of our ability to raise funds external to the department.

"There is revenue-improving capacity in several of our sports -- football is one, women's basketball is another," Jennings added. "I think we've got no place to go but up. There is so much upside, so much potential."

Jennings said KU's athletic department does have needs that will have to be addressed.

"We've got some areas where people are understaffed, areas where people are overstaffed. That needs to be brought into balance," Jennings said.

Jennings didn't talk specifics, but it's believed KU is vastly understaffed in the area of athletic department fund-raising.

"We need to put more attention to our operating budget and beginning to build some reserve. We need to budget for a reserve," Jennings said. "I'd love to see us endow some scholarships. I'd love to see us have moneys available for special activities, some type of incentive pay raises for coaches whose teams perform at a level we think we are.

"We are OK in terms of scholarship money, but we raise that money each year. We have to go out and raise just about every nickel for scholarships every year. That's what the Williams Fund does. It does a wonderful job of it, but in my judgment it's a bit of a hand-to-mouth existence. It'd be nice to have a lot more of our annual scholarship requirements endowed.

"And we have some salary inequities that exist in departments that need correction."

Again, he didn't list specifics, but it's widely believed KU's Olympic sports coaches and athletic department support staff personnel are underpaid compared to rival institutions.

As far as facilities ...

"It'd be nice to have a scoreboard, we could use that," Jennings said of a new basketball videoboard, awaiting funding.

"I think it is important. I don't know about urgent. I do think it's important the project that coach Mangino would like to see materialize over at the football stadium progress. I'd rate that a higher priority (than scoreboard) just because of the identity it helps bring to the football program and the space it creates for our student-athletes."

Football coach Mark Mangino would like football offices and weight areas built at Memorial Stadium, with plans for the football team to practice there on a regular basis.

"There would be built-in conveniences and logistical efficiencies that would become available to them over there," Jennings said. "If we get that done, it not only does a lot for football but opens up 7,000 square feet for enlargement of our student support area (where football offices are now), study area and computer lab space for our student-athletes. They are pretty cramped now."

Some sports facilities need some tinkering, Jennings said.

"Our new strength and conditioning center is world-class," Jennings said. "Our indoor (football) practice facility ... there's never enough of that. They are never big enough, never enough hours in a day for all the people who use it.

"Baseball is ample now. If coach (Ritch) Price continues to show improvements in his team like he did this year, we're going to be stuck with a great problem. It's inadequate seating out there (at Hoglund Ballpark). I think we can do that (expand) if we demonstrate the need.

"We could use soccer fields. The softball field is under renovation now. We can improve all our facilities, but if I were Lew I think I'd focus on getting our operating budget up to a level of sustainability and work on building up budgeting for some cushion reserve in there, get my personnel salary and pay inequities worked out in the budget, get my people reorganized in a fashion that everybody can better do their jobs."

¢
Media frenzy: Jennings reflected on a wild April in which he was hotly pursued by reporters for comment on Roy Williams' leaving and Bill Self's hiring.

"I had absolutely no experience in that sort of thing. Even in the most brutal days of hostile mergers that I was involved in at one time did I ever have news reporters and photographers waiting at my parking spot when I got to work and follow me into the building," said Jennings, former CEO at Kansas City Power and Light. "I shouldn't have been surprised by it.

"The attention we give sports and athletics in the country ... I don't complain about it because I am a sports nut. I love 24-hour ESPN, Metro Sports in Kansas City showing the Royals. I love it all. And with all the great interest in the University of Kansas, I should not have been surprised at all."

¢
Now what: Jennings will help out in Perkins' transition at KU and has been asked to be an informal adviser to Chancellor Robert Hemenway. Jennings also will continue to serve on a variety of boards of charitable organizations.

He will concentrate on spending time with his family -- he has a new granddaughter -- while not ruling out doing some case work in his role as an attorney.Drue Jennings believes Kansas University's athletic department is about to embark on a period of unprecedented success.

"I think the next guy here will be a hero," Jennings, KU's interim athletic director of the past three months, said of Lew Perkins, who takes over as AD Monday after working the past 13 years at the University of Connecticut.

"There's a community out there -- not only KU alums and supporters that have been generous over the years -- but I think we've only scratched the surface in terms of our ability to raise funds external to the department.

"There is revenue-improving capacity in several of our sports -- football is one, women's basketball is another," Jennings added. "I think we've got no place to go but up. There is so much upside, so much potential."

Jennings said KU's athletic department does have needs that will have to be addressed.

"We've got some areas where people are understaffed, areas where people are overstaffed. That needs to be brought into balance," Jennings said.

Jennings didn't talk specifics, but it's believed KU is vastly understaffed in the area of athletic department fund-raising.

"We need to put more attention to our operating budget and beginning to build some reserve. We need to budget for a reserve," Jennings said. "I'd love to see us endow some scholarships. I'd love to see us have moneys available for special activities, some type of incentive pay raises for coaches whose teams perform at a level we think we are.

"We are OK in terms of scholarship money, but we raise that money each year. We have to go out and raise just about every nickel for scholarships every year. That's what the Williams Fund does. It does a wonderful job of it, but in my judgment it's a bit of a hand-to-mouth existence. It'd be nice to have a lot more of our annual scholarship requirements endowed.

"And we have some salary inequities that exist in departments that need correction."

Again, he didn't list specifics, but it's widely believed KU's Olympic sports coaches and athletic department support staff personnel are underpaid compared to rival institutions.

As far as facilities ...

"It'd be nice to have a scoreboard, we could use that," Jennings said of a new basketball videoboard, awaiting funding.

"I think it is important. I don't know about urgent. I do think it's important the project that coach Mangino would like to see materialize over at the football stadium progress. I'd rate that a higher priority (than scoreboard) just because of the identity it helps bring to the football program and the space it creates for our student-athletes."

Football coach Mark Mangino would like football offices and weight areas built at Memorial Stadium, with plans for the football team to practice there on a regular basis.

"There would be built-in conveniences and logistical efficiencies that would become available to them over there," Jennings said. "If we get that done, it not only does a lot for football but opens up 7,000 square feet for enlargement of our student support area (where football offices are now), study area and computer lab space for our student-athletes. They are pretty cramped now."

Some sports facilities need some tinkering, Jennings said.

"Our new strength and conditioning center is world-class," Jennings said. "Our indoor (football) practice facility ... there's never enough of that. They are never big enough, never enough hours in a day for all the people who use it.

"Baseball is ample now. If coach (Ritch) Price continues to show improvements in his team like he did this year, we're going to be stuck with a great problem. It's inadequate seating out there (at Hoglund Ballpark). I think we can do that (expand) if we demonstrate the need.

"We could use soccer fields. The softball field is under renovation now. We can improve all our facilities, but if I were Lew I think I'd focus on getting our operating budget up to a level of sustainability and work on building up budgeting for some cushion reserve in there, get my personnel salary and pay inequities worked out in the budget, get my people reorganized in a fashion that everybody can better do their jobs."

¢
Media frenzy: Jennings reflected on a wild April in which he was hotly pursued by reporters for comment on Roy Williams' leaving and Bill Self's hiring.

"I had absolutely no experience in that sort of thing. Even in the most brutal days of hostile mergers that I was involved in at one time did I ever have news reporters and photographers waiting at my parking spot when I got to work and follow me into the building," said Jennings, former CEO at Kansas City Power and Light. "I shouldn't have been surprised by it.

"The attention we give sports and athletics in the country ... I don't complain about it because I am a sports nut. I love 24-hour ESPN, Metro Sports in Kansas City showing the Royals. I love it all. And with all the great interest in the University of Kansas, I should not have been surprised at all."

¢
Now what: Jennings will help out in Perkins' transition at KU and has been asked to be an informal adviser to Chancellor Robert Hemenway. Jennings also will continue to serve on a variety of boards of charitable organizations.

He will concentrate on spending time with his family -- he has a new granddaughter -- while not ruling out doing some case work in his role as an attorney.

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