Wednesday's announcement that Kansas University athletic director Lew Perkins topped the public-voting standings in Time Magazine's look at the top sports executives of the world is no shocker. The Kansas fan base is a passionate one and went to bat successfully for the boss of the athletic department.
The more interesting news came later in the day and for Perkins should be an even greater source of pride. Four hours and 19 minutes after KU publicists released the news of Perkins winning the election came the stunning announcement that Saturday's football game against Sam Houston State is a sellout.
Repeat: The Sam Houston State game is a sellout.
Not Ohio State. Not Penn State. Not Kansas State. Not Florida State. Not Oklahoma State. Not even Fresno State or Boise State. The outcome in all of those games wouldn't be a foregone conclusion. A blowout wouldn't be in the forecast.
Sam Houston State, even with ex-Oklahoma quarterback Rhett Bomar at the controls, clearly isn't the draw here.
Kansas football fans didn't pony up here to see a great game. They did it because they are jacked about this team, especially this team's quarterback, junior Todd Reesing. The public knows missing one of Reesing's games could mean being left out of the conversation Monday morning at the office.
The sellout is a loud statement that Kansas has arrived as a football school, one of Perkins' chief goals when he left UConn to take the job at a perennial national basketball power and anonymous football program.
Sure, two key components that set the foundation for reaching the day KU could sell out a Sam Houston State game were put in place by Perkins' predecessor, Al Bohl, who brought back tailgating in 2001 by allowing alcohol in the parking lots for the first time in 10 years and hired Mark Mangino to head a foundering football program.
It has been proven Perkins was the right guy to move the chains forward from there. For one thing, Perkins had the wisdom to avoid the temptation so many athletic directors in college athletics and general managers in professional sports succumb to when they get blinded by their hire-my-own-guy egos. Second, he didn't balk when Mangino asked for a state-of-the-art football complex. Instead, he went to work and put tree-shaker extraordinaire John Hadl to work. The $31 million project not only helps recruiting and developing players, it gives fans the feel of backing a big-time football program.
The luxurious trappings of the complex don't sit well with some concerned about structures elsewhere throughout the university badly in need of repair. Here's what's wrong with comparing the two: The money Kansas Athletics, Inc., uses to build buildings and pay coaches comes from private contributions. Perkins, as did Monte Johnson in his days in charge of the athletic department, knows how to raise money. That can rub some people the wrong way. So what?
Sports beyond football and basketball, which have gone a combined 51-5 since the uniforms started sporting the Trajan font, continue to struggle as a whole, but with facilities upgrades under way, the excuses for failing are disappearing one at a time.