Archive for Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Transcript of Lew Perkins’ press conference

June 10, 2003


Quotes from University of Kansas Chancellor Robert Hemenway

Opening statements: "Thank you all for coming today. I think all of you know how proud we are of the University of Kansas. It's an institution that has a tradition of excellence and a goal of being recognized as one of the 25-best public universities in the country. It's that tradition and those goals that are characteristic of KU's athletic ambitions. We want to compete for national championships. We believe that if we're competitive in the Big 12, that we'll be competing at the national level. Those goals and that tradition of excellence I think are reflected in the person you will be meeting today as our new athletics director. Lew Perkins' record speaks for itself as does his integrity, his energy and his experience. Most of you know that two years ago, he was chosen as the best athletic director in America. I hope that his arrival will be considered as a signal to our student athletes, to our coaches, to our staff and to the many fans of the Jayhawks that we're very serious in moving our total program forward and in competing for championships at the national level."

Quotes From University of Kansas Athletics Director Lew Perkins

Opening Comments: "I wanted to take a couple seconds to thank the Chancellor and Dru (Jennings). First I want to thank Dru. I don't know of anybody else in the country that would come into a situation like he came into. He's done an unbelievable job. When I first met him, the first question I asked him was why aren't you going to stay on as athletics director, because they don't need anybody else. What he has done for this university and for the student athletes and coaches is as good as you can have. My first job is to try to convince him to stay on for a couple of months with me to help me through the transition, although I haven't been very successful with that. Dru, I wanted to thank you on behalf of my family and probably for all the student athletes and coaches at the University of Kansas."

"The other person I want to thank ... I understand that he has had a very, very difficult year, not only from the athletic side, but as most college chancellors or presidents ... they are never right, they are always wrong, and you have to make very quick, tough decisions and look for a lot of things. I know one of the questions that I am going to be asked, and I will address it later on, is why would I leave Connecticut to come to Kansas and to be perfectly honest with you, when I had the opportunity to meet with the Chancellor (Hemenway) it became very clear that I wanted to have the opportunity to work for him. He is a man of integrity, he handled this search process as well as anybody could handle it. I know his deadline was July 1st and hopefully he'll have that done by the end of the day. I am excited about the opportunity to work with the Chancellor. I'm excited about the University of Kansas. I do have some real strong personal feelings about leaving Connecticut. It's one of the great Universities that I have been associated with. The president there is very similar to the chancellor here and I hope that my relationship with the chancellor is as good as the relationship that I had with our president (at UConn). Obviously the coaching staff and student athletes at Connecticut will always be very dear to me and very important to me. It was time for me to make a change. As you deal in this business, and I've been in this business for 35 years, you kind of look around the country and you say that if you had an opportunity to go to a university where would you go, and there were probably about three or four schools that I looked at very hard to leave Connecticut and obviously Kansas was one of them. When I got the phone call to see if there was any interest in it (the athletics director position at Kansas), it came totally unexpected, I wasn't even thinking about it, but obviously I had to investigate it. Everything that I found led me to believe that this was a place where I wanted to be and my family wanted to be and the kind of people I wanted to work with, and it was time for somebody else to come into Connecticut and do the job that I'm leaving behind. My experience at Connecticut was probably 13 of the most wonderful years that I could ever have and I just hope that the next 13 years that I spend here or whatever I spend.... I don't have a 13-year contract ...... but I hope they will be at least close to my experiences there."

On when the phone call was originally received, inquiring if he had an interest in the Kansas job and what happened to accelerate the decision: "It was before Easter. Discussions just got further and further along and Ithink the Chancellor's goal was to get this done by July 1st, so he's met his goal."

On how much of an impact the possible Big East/ACC Conference changes had on his decision to come to Kansas: "It's very hard for people to understand and I know there will be doubters there, but it (the decision to come to KU) had nothing to do with the issues there. People who know me ... I don't walk away from a battle. But there'snot a lot of opportunities in our profession. It's not like we can pick andchoose, saying this week I'm going to pick this job and next week I'll takeanother job. Most people know that over the last five or six years, I've hadopportunities to go to other great universities and I made the strong decisions not to do that and that was when we were having difficult times getting the stadium. But Kansas is very special. It's a very unique place and it's one of two or three places that I really had thought about my whole athletic career as places I would like to be. And when that opportunity came, I couldn't say, "Chancellor, could you wait till after we resolve these Big East/ACC issues." Obviously I would have liked to have done that, but he had a timetable and I had to go along with that timetable and respect that."

On whether he was contacted by Kansas the last time the Athletics Director position was open: "No. I was contacted for somebody else, but not for me. There was somebody else that I was contacted for to see if they were interested. One of my associates."

On what he sees as some of the challenges he will face at Kansas: "I think the University of Kansas has lost it's swagger. It's lost some things... maybe it was when the moved from the Big 8 to the Big 12. I don'tmean cockiness or arrogance. I mean swagger. I was telling a group this morning that I met with that when I was at Wichita we hated KU. We hated them with respect because they were so good at everything that they did and we were very envious. Now with Connecticut, we have that same situation where people are envious of the success at Connecticut. My hope is that during my tenure we can resolve that (losing swagger) and get that kind of attitude back where people will be positively negative about us. We want them to say, 'What does Kansas got that makes them hard to compete with?' We have to develop that swagger of confidence."

On what he will do about programs being underfunded at Kansas: "I can only speak from experience and when I took the job in 1990 at Connecticut, our budget was 7 to 8 million dollars and today it's 40 million dollars and about 70-75 percent self-sufficient. We understand that we need to strengthen the university budget and we have to do a better job increasing that budget. And there's no reason why in the state of Kansas and at this great University we can't go out and get more funding."

On whether he's received a commitment to go out and get more funding: "Absolutely. In fact, that's one of the things that the Chancellor said to me right away that attracted me to the job."

On his plans for the football program: "I wish I could give you a plan, but this has only happened in the last 48 hours so that's very difficult for me right now. Football at Kansas is going to be extremely important, but not at the expense of obviously men's basketball, women's basketball ..... there's no reason why we can't have a total athletic program. One of the jobs that I have is to help educate the people of Kansas and the alums that football is very important. You run out of revenue sources after a while. When you can't sell any more basketball tickets you have to look for other revenue sources and football is obviously a place where we could generate a lot more revenue. One of the things people need convincing of is that a true Jayhawk fan will do anything for the University. They have to understand that we have to be very, very supportive of football and all the other sports. You just can't pick one sport and tell me you're a supporter. A real supporter is someone who's committed to all the athletic programs at the university."

On having to drop the football program as the Athletics Director at Wichita State: "It was probably, from a professional standpoint, one of the most difficult decisions I've had to make. Ultimately, I had to make a recommendation to the president. And people forget, our job is to make recommendations, and unfortunately guys like this (points to chancellor) have to make decisions. They're hard decisions, but it was the right decision at Wichita State. I might be the only person in the history of college athletics that has dropped football and has taken a football program to (Division) I A. It's not me personally or philosophically, it's what the institution (needs), the goals of the institution... Personally it was very hard on me. It was a very difficult time and something that I'm not very proud of. But it was something that had to be done."

On if there are any concerns with working with current KU administrators who were also in the hunt for the Kansas A.D. position: "I think you take a look at my track record at Connecticut, there are still a lot of people out there now. Most of the people that left Connecticut left because they got better jobs in terms or promotions. The second part of that is retirement. Coach Geno (Auriemma) and ... , they were there before I came so I don't take credit for hiring them, but I do take credit for keeping them there. That may have been more difficult. I'm not interested in coming to clean house or anything like that. I met with the staff or themajority of the people and I was very direct. We talked about what parameters I liked. I like loyalty, hard work, ethical compliance, and we'll get goals and objectives. It's about accountability. So if everybody does there job and everybody does what they're supposed to be doing. I think its going to be more of an issue to for them (KU employees) than it is for me. ... I need everybody, especially people who have been here a long time, I need their advice. I don't have all the answers. I told the staff today and I told the chancellor, I can only come in and implement and help and make recommendations, but we're in this all together. I've been very fortunate to be surrounded by great people. In fact, in the Big 12 Conference, the Commissioner and the Associate Commissioner were people that worked with me. The Athletic Director at Kansas State worked for me. Of a lot of things I've been able to do, I take great pride in mentoring people. And having a great network and giving them the ability to do their job, to be there to support them."

The biggest challenge faced at UConn and what challenges lie ahead at Kansas: "The battle at Connecticut was for about ten years. The peaks and valleys of that really centered around the football stadium. I was really committed because I thought that was the right thing for our university. We never let go of it, even on the darkest days. There were a lot of difficult days but there were a lot of great days with the stadium."

"Its hard for me to measure the situation here at Kansas. Again I can only go back to when I was here at Wichita. My wife's sister is a KU grad. I played for a KU grad, Ralph Miller, in college, so I remember the great glory days. How can you guys forget Gale Sayers and John Hadl and some great football players that were here. I understand that kids are a little bit different that they were then, but there is one thing that you can't take away (and that) is tradition. History and tradition tells you that if you can do it once, you can do it again. I think history is a plus for us, tradition is a plus for us. I met Mark (Mangino) for the first time. People here feel that he's an excellent football coach. I obviously did my homework and every place and everybody I talked to has assured me that in their minds, he is the guy that can get the job done here. I'm excited about working with him and look forward to helping him develop a football program."

On why he came to KU: "The history and tradition, the coaching staff. For me to have the opportunity to work with Bill (Self) and Mark (Mangino) and some of the other people. Some of my very closest friends have been athletics directors (at KU). I was looking up at the office and they had pictures of all the athletics directors and I probably knew four of them. There are a lot of people. I knew when they were here, they did great jobs. You know when you have a great feel about something? KU has a great feeling. I know Roy (Williams) very well, so I spent some time talking to Roy. Guys like Roy Williams and Bill Self, people like that; they don't come to Kansas to lose. So there has to be something very successful about this program."

On why KU has lost its swagger and what it needs to do to get it back: "That's a great question. That's going to be one of the first things I have to find out. Some would tell you (it happened) maybe when they went from the Big Eight to the Big 12. All of the sudden they get these southern schools (added to conference) and they weren't quite ready for that. I don't know. You can assume ... but one of the things I won't do is speculate. But one of the things I have to do is find out then is why and find out what we have to do to make it better. So that's what they pay me to do."

On if coming to KU provides a comfort zone personally, being in the Big 12 Conference after leaving the problems with the Big East Conference: "I want to address that issue right from the beginning because I think a lot of people will assume that I've left for that reason, and I can tell you unequivocally that there's was no decision, no reason in my decision to do that. You leave that problem and I'm going to come to Kansas and I'm going to find another hundred problems here. So it's trade-offs. People who know me well enough, I'm not afraid to take on a battle or fight. Everybody can have their opinion on why ... there's only one or two people that know why; that's my wife and I. It has nothing to do with the Big East and ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference). It's not about Connecticut or the Big East or the ACC, I took the job because I wanted to be at Kansas. That was important to me. No other reason."

On if it will hurt to not be able to see the opening of the new 90 million dollar football stadium he helped UConn attain: "I would be lying to you to tell you that it wouldn't be nice to be there to see it open. But you know what? I have to tend to Kansas now. If the new Athletics Director (at UConn) wants me to help him. For Phil Austin (UConn President), I'll do anything in the world for him. But today I am the new Athletics Director at Kansas."

On possible repercussions for the Big 12 if the ACC is able to acquire the three Big East Schools: "Personally I don't. I do see, unfortunately, another change. Probably in the early 90's, I predicted something like this was going to happen. I did think it was going to happen in the Big East to be perfectly honest with you, and that was one of the reasons why we made a decision to move to Division I A football because we didn't want to be left out. So if I think there's going to be another wave: if it happens this week, next week, a year from now, or ten years from now, I don't know. But one of the things that I learned from my experience at Connecticut, which would be (to be) prepared. I thought we prepared, but I don't think you're ever prepared. So you take all the experiences that you have ... I look at Kansas as one of the great universities in the country both academically and athletically. I really believe Kansas will have a future wherever it is. Hopefully it will be in the Big 12."On approaching the KU Athletics Director position as a career-ending job:"I think it is. But the chancellor might decide that he doesn't like bald-headed guys. I wanted to be here. I love Lawrence. It is a lot different than Storrs, Conn., not to say that Storrs, Conn. isn't good. I shouldn't say this but Connecticut just took a kid away from Coach Self and Kansas. I told him that if I was the athletics director that would not have happened."

"I was talking to one of my former coaches, one that I played for. He called me this morning and said he was shocked that you would leave Connecticut. I told him that a lot of people are. He then said that Ralph (Miller) always said that if you stay in one place more than five or six years it gets tough. I think that the average tenure of a president is about four and a half years. You are at eight right now. (to Chancellor Hemenway) I am going to make sure that it is forever. I told the chancellor, 'my job is to protect you.' I mean that very much. I work for him. There has to be a very strong relationship both personally and professionally. That is what we had at Connecticut and that is what we are going to have here. We are all in this together, we are a family. When I have a bad day and I have to pick up the phone and call the chancellor and say that I have to have a cup of coffee, just to vent something, I need him to be there."

On Athletics Director's tenures: "In terms of tenure in the administration at Connecticut, I have the longest. Nobody else has been there 13 years. I called Phil Austin when I had a bad day and asked him if I could come over to his office. He said to come over about six o'clock so I went over around six o'clock. He asked, 'why don't you have a drink with me?' I said okay but I don't drink. I figured that he was going to put a little scotch in there and a little ice in there and a lot of water or club soda. Huh-uh! I was having my first real important meeting with the president. I took about three gulps, I don't know how to drink that stuff but he drinks very well, and about five minutes into the conversation I was absolutely (expletive removed). I went through the meeting and I had to call one of my associate AD's because he lived about thirty miles away. I told him he had to come get me because I can't see and can't drive. So I hope we have coffee chancellor."

On his feeling about the future of the Big East Conference: "We were asked at Connecticut, when all of this was starting in the Big East, if we were one of the schools would we leave. Without thinking one second I answered saying that absolutely no way would we leave. I can only speak from Connecticut's standpoint, the Big East has been absolutely awesome to the University of Connecticut. It has opened up the doors for so many things we have done, six national championships, 37 Big East championships, a zillion All-Americans, 600 some Big East academic performers. It has been really good for us. I am a traditionalist, tradition means a lot to me. Connecticut was born a raised to be put in the Big East. I am very, very disappointed that this is going on. I think that it is very unfortunate for college athletics. Not a lot of people have talked about the main issue - the student-athletes. Nobody has walked into those three schools and talked to them. They were recruited to play one place. I am the only person in that room, in the ACC and Big East, that has been in both leagues. I know the ACC, I spent four years there, and I have spent 13 years in the Big East. I know both leagues pretty well. I think that we forget about the student-athletes. I worry about what is going to happen, if it does happen or if it doesn't happen. It is another little dent in college athletics that we are going to have to get over."

On his timetable and approach to the job:"I honestly do not have a timetable. Once I get here permanently I will know a few more things. The position is very difficult. The good things is that my kids are married and grown up so we don't have to worry about schools. The last move I made, my younger daughter did not talk to me for six months. People want to know why you make moves or you get paid a lot of money. There is a lot of price you pay in this business. I am a grandfather, and you will here that until you are blue in the face. You will find out that I am a very family-oriented person. Both to my personal family and to my extended family. We are not going to rush anything, we are going to take our time. One of the things that I talked to the staff about was that I don't want to hear about yesterday, two weeks ago or six weeks ago or what promises were made and what promises weren't. I can't control that. I can only tell you what I am going to do today and what we are going to do tomorrow. We talk about W.I.N. and winning. W.I.N. stands for What's Important Now. There is nothing more important than winning. We are going to win. When you write a story you want to have the best story you can write. That is very important. Somebody in the business world wants to have the best business. The chancellor wants to have the best university and we want to have the best athletic department. Obviously academics and compliance are the most important things. We want to win but never at the expense of the institution and never at the expense of the student-athlete. We will never compromise ourselves. Now does that mean we are not going to have violations? Absolutely, yes. Are we going to correct those violations? Absolutely, yes. I am a very student-oriented person. I have a background in student life. I have a master's degree in counseling. I promise you it is on my resume correctly. Winning is important and I only want to be around positive people."

On Memorial Stadium and Allen Fieldhouse: "We played here when I was at Wichita State. I haven't been in Allen Fieldhouse in a long time. When I was the associate AD at the University of Pennsylvania all I heard about was the Palestra and what a wonderful place it was to play in. They took me in for my interview and I walked in and I said holy Jesus this place is awful. After watching two basketball games there, it is the greatest venue in the history of college basketball. I am excited to get back in Allen Fieldhouse because I hear it is the same way."

On Kansas' new coaches and its women's basketball program: "I have worked with Jim Calhoun who will be a hall-of-famer and is one of the best basketball coaches in the country. Sometime down the road Jim is going to retire. In the next few years I would have got on the phone and called Kevin Weiberg and Mike Tranghese and all my other friends around the country and we would talked about great coaches that you could call. Sometime they get jobs and you can't get them. I told Bill (Self) this the other day that he would have been a candidate for our job if Jim Calhoun would have retired. The same thing with Mark (Mangino), he has not made his mark yet. He is going to make his mark and he is going to be a terrific coach here. One of the things that you have to understand, we are going to do it here and we did this at Connecticut. We are not going to take any shortcuts. If it means going through a couple of difficult years together we are going to do that. You don't build football programs on shortcuts, it takes time. One thing that I sense is that there has not been a lot of strategic planning and that is very important. We have a lot of success in women's basketball at Connecticut. I am probably the strongest supporter of women's basketball in the country. Obviously it has been very good for that institution. We are in full compliance of Title IX and I am a strong believer in that. I believe it is the right thing to do."On generating revenue with KU's women's basketball program:"What I will do is sit down with the coach and talk about strategies. Quite honestly, women's basketball has to become a revenue sport here. As you look at sports or revenue sources we don't have a lot here at Kansas. They have done an unbelievable job with what they have in women's basketball. Women's basketball, men's basketball and football are three sports that have to generate income. I am not just talking about gate receipts, they have to be in fundraising as well as corporate sales. We have one of the largest television contracts in college basketball with our women's basketball at Connecticut. It generates an enormous amount of money. I am not saying that we have to do that here but it has to be a revenue generating sport. The University of Miami was 1.5 million dollars in deficit this year yet they were one play away from winning the national championship. Now their basketball team is very important to them because they got the new facility. You can only do so much when you are filling all the seats. Everyone has to have a successful program but nobody wants to pay for it. Unfortunately those are the decisions that we are going to have to make. If you want to be competitive and you want to win you are going to have to spend money."

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