Following a particularly embarrassing week for the Kansas University athletic department, in which police responded to two incidents involving fighting between members of the school's football and men's basketball teams, KU athletic director Lew Perkins has found himself in the middle of a national story that has placed a harsh light on an otherwise promising sports season.
Speaking with members of the media prior to today's football game against Southern Mississippi at Memorial Stadium, Perkins shed little light on the details of the past week, but insisted it was a matter being handled with the utmost importance.
"I've been doing college athletic administration for over 40 years," said Perkins, "and I've never experienced anything like this."
"This might be the most complicated thing I've ever dealt with in my whole life," he added. "There's all kinds of different issues involved, all kinds of different people involved, and every time we kind of get where we are, another thing pops up."
As of this morning, no players had been publicly disciplined for their roles in the fights, despite witness accounts that multiple football and basketball players had thrown punches during a Wednesday morning scuffle outside of Wescoe Hall on the KU campus, a popular gathering place for students. The night before, police had been called to the Burge Union, where another fight — reportedly involving up to 30 or 40 people — had apparently broken out due to a dispute between a football and basketball player over a woman. The Tuesday night fight left Taylor, a starting guard, with a dislocated left thumb that could sideline him for up to four weeks.
Kansas football coach Mark Mangino, who has already held standout receiver Dezmon Briscoe out of one game this season, said Wednesday he hadn't been presented with information that would warrant suspensions, while men's basketball coach Bill Self indicated the following day that any disciplinary measures involving his players would be handled internally.
Perkins said today that he's always allowed coaches to handle disciplinary issues on their own, though, he added, he wouldn't hesitate to step in if he felt the situation warranted it.
"I've always had a policy that I've allowed our coaches to handle dicipline the way they want to with their teams," Perkins said. "Now, if it would ever escalate, or anything should escalate over and above what I would think coaches should be doing, then I would want to step in and deal with it. We're still gathering information, to be honest with you. We have to be very very careful with what we say and what we can't say and what we know and what we don't know, because if we're wrong for one reason or another — not that we're afraid of lawsuits, but we don't necessarily want lawsuits."
Perkins also addressed reports that a feud between the school's football and basketball teams had been festering for some time. Both Self and Mangino said this week they don't believe this to be the case, though a former football player on Wednesday told the Journal-World that issues between the university's two major programs have been evident in recent years, including an incident last year that began at a local bar and resumed at the Jayhawker Towers, where many of the school's athletes reside.
"There's been some discussion that maybe this has been going on for a long time," he said. "I'm quite honest as I am always, we did not know if it was factual, if it was, in fact, going on. And I honestly wish if some people knew, I wish they would have come told us so we could have dealt with it ... Right now, I would ask them to come talk to us."
At the moment, Perkins is working with university and law enforcement officials to piece together the particulars of the week's events, though he admitted specifics might never be pinned down.
"Will I ever know what the total story is? I don't think anybody will, the police, (anybody)," Perkins said. "I don't think the kids know. You talk to one kid that was there, you talk to another kid that was there, and you maybe get something similar, but it's not all similar. I think it happened so quickly, it happened so spontaneously, that it just got out of hand."