Rest assured, Lew Perkins is looking forward to the end of a federal investigation and the completion of an independent review into the operations of his ticket office and Williams Educational Fund — and not just because he’s embarrassed or because he holds himself accountable.
Perkins just wants to fix the problems and move on.
“I’m not one for tolerating illegal things,” the Kansas University athletic director said Tuesday evening, during a public interview at the Dole Institute of Politics. “I try to play everything by the book. I’m not perfect. I don’t pretend to be perfect. But when we have people who have violated the law, who have done things illegally, we just don’t tolerate that, and we’re going to deal with that straight up.”
Perkins’ appearance came as part of the institute’s Leadership and Globalization in Sports series. About 150 people — KU athletes, administrators and other interested observers — attended, and several were given the opportunity to ask questions after Perkins had been interviewed for about an hour by Bill Lacy, the institute’s director.
Aside from the investigation and independent review — previously disclosed by Kansas Athletics as involving tickets to sporting events in which KU participated — Perkins touched on a number of topics:
• On whether televised KU sporting events would continue to be supported by advertising, or move more toward pay-per-view: As advertising revenues continue to dwindle, he said, other options likely will gain favor, especially given KU’s location within television markets with relatively few households. “I think pay-per-view is something we’ll see more and more of,” he said.
• On the NCAA expanding the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament to 96 teams: “I think it’s a foregone conclusion that that’s going to happen,” he said, although coaches should be careful not to rely on just “making the tournament” for job security. “Coaches think we’re dumb,” Perkins said, of guys who think being the 94th or 95th team in is golden. “That’s not going to save your job.”
• On halting the “arms race” of spiraling coaches’ and administrators’ salaries, especially in relation to those on the academic side: “Sometime, the bubble’s going to break, it’s going to burst,” Perkins said, but curbing salaries isn’t all that simple. College presidents want to win, he said, and often don’t hesitate to approve large salaries. At least for now. “There will be a time when the money runs out,” Perkins said.
Asking the “arms race” question was Neal Malicky, former president of Baldwin-Wallace College, a Division III school in Ohio, who suggested that athletic directors or the NCAA could get together and put a stop to salary buildup.
“It’s out of control,” said Malicky, who also served previously as dean and acting president of Baker University.
After his talk, Perkins mingled with people in the crowd, including Malicky, former KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway and soon-to-be-NBA player Cole Aldrich.
Perkins already had told the crowd about the five internal audits, conducted by outside auditors, which had not uncovered the problems in his department that had drawn the attention of federal investigators. He’d also explained how he often comes into work wanting to “do A, B, C, D and E” to address those problems, but instead holds back, preferring to wait for the review to be complete.
“It’s very painful to go through, but I believe we’re going to be a better athletics department,” he said, leaving the institute. “We’re going to find out what our weaknesses are, and we probably wouldn’t have learned that. And when we find out, we’re going to be better.
“It’s what it is, and now it’s up to us to make it better.”