Archive for Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Washington not worried

KU women’s coach optimistic after meeting new athletic director

June 11, 2003

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The last time Kansas University hired an athletic director, then-football-coach Terry Allen was fired five months later near the end of his fifth consecutive losing season.

KU women's basketball coach Marian Washington wasn't going to consider any similarities between Allen's fate and her current situation after Lew Perkins was named AD Tuesday.

Washington, who has 551 career victories and seven conference titles, has been honored numerous times for her success, including a lifetime achievement award from the Black Coaches Assn. earlier this month. Over the past three seasons, though, her Jayhawks have gone just 28-60, finishing no better than ninth in the Big 12 Conference.

"I can't think like that," she said about her job security. "I have to definitely believe in myself, and lots of times you have to have outside people help reinforce that you're doing good things and that lifetime achievement award helped that."

After spending 13 years as the AD at the University of Connecticut, Perkins could be an insider who helps Washington and the women's basketball team turn into a cash cow for KU.

UConn's women's basketball team made a profit of $911,228 in the 2001-2002 season, while KU's team operated at a loss of $1,048,336.

"We've had a lot of success at Connecticut, and I'm probably the strongest supporter of women's basketball in the country," Perkins said. "Women's basketball has to be a revenue sport here. I am not just talking about gate receipts, they have to be in fund raising as well as corporate sales."

Obtaining financial support from sources other than ticket sales will be essential if the women's basketball program is to become a revenue sport. The Jayhawks finished last in the Big 12 in attendance last season and next-to-last in 2001-02.

Washington said she thought the team was well marketed, even though fans didn't show as much support for the women's program as the men's.

"This, to me, is the greatest basketball community in the country," she said. "But there's room for both."

While improvement on the court -- the Jayhawks went from five victories in 2001-02 to 11 last season -- should help create interest and revenue, Washington wasn't sure wins would equal money or support.

"I've always felt there were a few women's sports that could be profit-generating sports," she said. "Finally, I'm hearing it from someone who's going to lead us. That attitude is going to be a huge difference.

"I'm thrilled and look forward to working with him."

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