Woodling: KU still playing catch-up

Spin doctors at Missouri University sent an e-mail to alumni members not too long ago trumpeting the Tigers’ success in athletics during the 2007-2008 school year.

Missouri finished – fanfare, please – 38th in Director’s Cup standings compiled by the nation’s athletic directors (NACDA). Big deal, huh? Thirty-eighth in the nation. Whoopee.

Looking at it another way, while Kansas University fans are still trumpeting the school’s NCAA title in men’s basketball and the Jayhawks’ best football season in modern history, Missouri is ballyhooing a 38th place finish in the NACDA rankings.

Yeah, yeah, I know Missouri beat Kansas in football last fall – and soundly at that – but Kansas had the last laugh by securing a more prestigious bowl bid. Then the Jayhawks left Missouri in the dust during men’s basketball season.

Kansas didn’t have to announce its NACDA ranking, and didn’t. With good reason. After winning the Orange Bowl and the school’s third NCAA men’s basketball title, why spoil the euphoria by dispensing negative news?

The Jayhawks were 58th on the NACDA chart, or 20 points lower than Missouri. That hardly seems like a chasm, yet in the provincial picture it was the difference between sixth place and 10th place among Big 12 Conference schools.

Still, 10th place in the Big 12 isn’t where Kansas wants to be. Chancellor Bob Hemenway made that clear five years ago when he hurled multiple dollar signs to lure Lew Perkins away from Connecticut with the express purpose of upgrading the overall athletic program.

“We don’t want to be in the bottom quarter of the Big 12 Conference,” Hemenway said at the time.

And yet, based on the NACDA standings – the official measuring stick – Kansas is still a bottom-quarter Big 12 school despite a dramatically expanded budget fueled by Perkins’ transformation of the athletic department from a quasi-business into a functioning corporation.

On a positive note, that 58th place finish is the highest in the last five years, but it’s really just a baby step because KU ratings during that period were all in the 60s. And, the Jayhawks probably would have landed in the 60s again last year if not for the national basketball title.

It’s no coincidence Kansas enjoyed most of its success in the only two sports that generate real revenue. That’s where the money is and that’s where Perkins has placed the bulk of his resources.

For instance, the new football facility at Memorial Stadium is officially known as The Anderson Family Football Complex. It could also be called The Anderson Family Taj Mahal. Upgrades are coming for men’s basketball, too.

It’s no secret women’s sports have been a drag on the Jayhawks’ NACDA standing. KU’s women have had a few moments in the sun, but generally the school’s female athletes have not been competitive in the Big 12.

Hemenway has often said he wants KU to rank among the top 25 schools in the nation, both in academics and athletics. Academic rankings are based mostly on guesswork but, thanks to NACDA, athletics can be ranked.

And Kansas, as you can readily see, has a hill much higher than Mount Oread to climb.