Archive for Monday, December 8, 2008

In the end, Hemenway finally grasped importance of sports at KU

December 8, 2008


Chancellor Robert Hemenway's career at KU

KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway told the Lawrence Noon Rotary Club on Monday that KU underwent a fair amount of change during his tenure.

Robert Hemenway's career at KU

KU's 16th chancellor, Robert Hemenway, announced Dec. 8, 2008, that he would retire at the end of the current academic year. He's been chancellor for 14 years.

Say this for Bob Hemenway. It took awhile, but he finally wised up about the importance of athletics in Kansas University’s big picture.

When Hemenway first arrived on Mount Oread from Kentucky University in 1994, few realized he hadn’t dealt directly with UK’s athletic program, so his laissez-faire attitude toward sports caught some boosters by surprise.

No one doubted Hemenway’s academic credentials, yet his low-key demeanor suffered in comparison with Kansas State counterpart Jon Wefald, a Type A personality who made it clear he had his fingers on every piece of the KSU pie.

Hemenway’s naiveté about athletics first surfaced after the KU football team’s splendid 1995 season. That was the year the Jayhawks went 9-2 in the Big Eight and earned a bid to the Aloha Bowl.

Before the trip to Honolulu, however, head coach Glen Mason had accepted the head job at Georgia. Then a week later, on the eve of the bowl game against UCLA, Mason changed his mind and decided he wanted to remain at Kansas.

Did Mason go to Athletic Director Bob Frederick? No, he went straight to Hemenway, and the KU chancellor, without consultation, granted Mason’s request.

Bad move. Mason had already burned several bridges among boosters and, while his popularity remained high among the rank and file, many of the True Blue — the ones with the deep pockets — considered the Georgia fiasco the last straw.

Essentially, then, Mason was a lame-duck coach in 1996 and, in retrospect, he was lucky to land the Minnesota job coming off that 4-7 season.

Mason’s last year at Kansas was also the first year of the new Big 12 Conference. The addition of four Texas schools to the Big Eight meant additional revenue, mainly from television rights, yet KU was slow to recognize how the extra money would affect the league’s level of competitiveness.

Hemenway turned the hiring of a new coach over to Frederick, who chose Terry Allen, a nice guy who had been successful on a lower NCAA rung at Northern Iowa. Allen wasn’t a disaster, but it soon became obvious he was in over his head.

Allen should have been fired after his fourth season, but Frederick wouldn’t do it and Hemenway lay low. Later, Frederick would retire and Hemenway would appoint a search committee to find a successor. The committee settled on Al Bohl who, it turned out, had been poorly vetted.

Finally, in 2003 after nearly a decade as KU’s chancellor, Hemenway took the bull by the horns. He fired Bohl and announced he would seek a new AD all by himself.

Probably not without coincidence, Hemenway was chair of the NCAA Board of Directors at that time and his interaction with bigwigs from around the country must have made him realize KU’s athletic department was still operating in the 20th century.

So Hemenway opened the coffers, lured Lew Perkins away from Connecticut and turned Kansas Athletics Inc. into a thriving corporation.

All the better, say the pragmatists. Traditionalists may not agree, but you can’t win an arms race by sticking with conventional warfare.


boy_genius 9 years, 4 months ago

Here I was, wondering if I should like or dislike Hemenway, and then this convenient article comes along that tells me Hemenway is completely responsible for Lew Perkins. That's all I need to know: I hate Hemenway.

Tom McCune 9 years, 4 months ago

In the beginning, he grasped the fact that collegiate sports are bread and circuses that have nothing to do with higher education. In the end, he grasped the fact that collegiate sports are still bread and circuses that have nothing to do with higher education, but they help distract attention from falling budgets and academic performance.

babyj10 9 years, 4 months ago

College athletics brings in out of state tuition; especially with a program like KU's. College athletics gives a lot of kids the chance at a college education that normally wouldn't have the ability to go. So... it's not all bad.

chapdaddy 9 years, 4 months ago

" Allen wasn’t a disaster,"wrong, he was an abhorration......thanks to Mangenious for what he's done thus far.

TopJayhawk 9 years, 4 months ago

The BEST thing he did was hire Lew Perkins.The ascendence of the athletic program does help pay professors' salaries you moron. It does so by bringing in out of state kids, and increasing enrollment all the way around. You guys don't understand this because you don't want too. It you did, it would give you one less thing to compalin about.

compmd 9 years, 4 months ago

Just reading this headline makes me depressed.

Warren6032 9 years, 4 months ago

BabyJay10 says... .College athletics gives a lot of kids the chance at a college education that normally wouldn't have the ability to go. Warren6032 says... Book smarts, hard work, and intelligence is what most student use to get a higher education. Athletes are a very small percentage of the student population. Most of us don't have 7ft kids or 350lb kid. Perkins should leave with Hemingway

Jim Williamson 9 years, 4 months ago

Some of you need to go hang umbrellas in trees and fight progress downtown.If KU -- or any other major institution of higher learnining -- did away with athletics, enrollment would be about 8,000 and no one would know who or where they are. It's a part of modern higher education. The days you're pining for are over.

Sharon Aikins 9 years, 4 months ago

I do like athletics but it's seems that athletics just need a school to support them. The university itself is secondary to sports these days. I noticed an article about the debate team doing well this year. Bet no one really cared about that. Anything to do with academics seems moot. Are our kids being educated at universities these days or are they just places to go party for a few years on Daddy's money? I for one liked Hemenway better when he was Chancellor and not a puppet. When I read about all the money being spent on sports facilities, I have to wonder if the same amount is spent updating buildings and labs, luring better teaching staff, etc. Most likely not. Before you start blasting me, I have a relative working for KUAD. And a spouse who played sports at KU where only a very small percentage of the athletes graduated.

Linda Aikins 9 years, 4 months ago

I for one love that we have a great sports program. And I'm grateful to Chancellor Hemenway for making sure that happened. Thanks to Chuck Woodling for pointing this out. Folks - the athletic department and the university are two different entities. There will NOT be the same amount of money being spent on sports facilities as buildings and labs because they are TWO SEPARATE UNITS!!! And there are tons of athletes that graduate - that is how their college was paid. They went on to become business people / teachers / CEOs because of that. They put in lots and lots of hours in their sports and earn their degrees. Do you know how tough it would be for a football player right now - training for all these games with all the pressures and have finals right around the corner? I would guess lots more kids would not be going to college if they did not have their sports scholarships...I have a current spouse who did play sports at KU and graduated with a degree. And he worked and supported a family (wife did not work) at the same time. And he's an amazing person now. He would not have had the money for college I would bet, had he not gotten the scholarship. Yes, TOB, Allen was a disaster. My son played for him and would say the same thing...

d_prowess 9 years, 4 months ago

Seriously, when will the Athletic vs. Academic spending arguements end. People continue to point out that they are seperate entitites, but others still blame athletics for spending money, like if they didn't, it would go straight into the university's account. People need to stop blaming athletics for being successful in what they do, which includes fundraising!

WilburM 9 years, 4 months ago

Most scholars find no relationship between athletic success and academic fund-raising, especially at state universities. And the risks of building large, financially-larded programs is substantial, in that revenue streams are difficult to predict. That doesn't mean that big-time college sports (e.g., two pro sports franchises) can't be entertaining, fun, and useful. But they have no impact on academics and academic fund-raising.There are lots of studies here -- some facts might be worthwhile. One summary article:

Daniel Kennamore 9 years, 4 months ago

WilburM,So What? As others have pointed out, athletics and academics are two seperate entities at KU. Surely you are not going to contend that the athletic dept HURTS the academic fund-raising.Hemenway over saw increased donations for academic facilities AND hired the man responsible for turning around our football program (not just hiring Mangino, but raising funds for newer facilities).This whole "debate" reaks of busy bodies looking for something to complain about.

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