Alumni, locals react to Perkins’ retirement
Dana Anderson, a major KU booster whose contributions have helped establish the Anderson Family Strength Center and the Anderson Family Football Complex, said that Lew Perkins had mentioned the “concept” of retirement several times during the past year.
Even so, Anderson said, Thursday’s revelation that Perkins would leave at the end of the upcoming academic year came as somewhat of a surprise.
“I think he’s done an incredibly good job, in many many ways, for the university and for bringing the athletic program to a whole new level — obviously in the revenue we’ve generated, and in some of the things that needed to be done that have been done, like the renovation of Allen Fieldhouse,” Anderson said. “A lot of people said, ‘Oh, it doesn’t need anything.’ But you look at it now and, obviously, it did need it.
“Those people couldn’t see that, and Lew saw that.”
While some people indeed “were rubbed the wrong way” by Perkins and some of his plans, Anderson said, Perkins “by and large deserves a tremendous amount of credit.
“I think we’ve done the right thing with Allen Fieldhouse, and the strength and conditioning center, and the football complex. All those things have helped us. I’m convinced of that. I don’t think we could have attracted the football coach we attracted if we didn’t have those facilities.
“He’s made great progress.”
Larry Sinks, a former downtown T-shirt shop owner whose store closed following a lengthy court battle with Kansas Athletics over trademark infringement issues, declined to comment on Perkins’ resignation.
“Believe me, there’s a lot I’d like to say, but my settlement with the university won’t allow me to say one word,” Sinks said.
Jerry Neverve, owner of the downtown Red Lyon Tavern, said he had initially been upset with Perkins and the athletics department after moving the KU-Missouri game outside to Kansas City.
“We were upset because they were taking the one big game a year out of Lawrence and Columbia,” Neverve said.
However, once the football team became more successful, and attendance swelled to 40,000 to 50,000 people per game, the loss of downtown revenue was offset.
“Hopefully the new person can continue on that trend,” of football success, Neverve said.
Max Falkenstien, who retired in 2006 after 60 years as the voice of the Jayhawks, said he would be sad to see Perkins leave.
“I will hate to see Lew go because I think he has done great things for KU,” Falkenstien said. “The facilities he’s improved are as fine as any in the country. And he really cares about the student-athlete. That’s been his plan his whole time here — even more so perhaps than appeasing alums.”
Falkenstien also said he could understand Perkins’ decision to retire.
“I can understand that, perhaps, at his age he may be ready to retire — after this past few weeks, even this whole year. We have seen some crazy things.”
Drue Jennings, an alumnus who served as KU’s interim athletics director before Perkins was hired, praised Perkins for his fundraising abilities and the improvement of facilities under his watch.
“I think Lew has done a wonderful job for Kansas Athletics,” Jennings said.
Jennings, a KU kingmaker who hired basketball coach Bill Self and was chairman of the search committee that hired Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, said the chancellor was handling the athletics crisis well, and in a “cool and collected” manner.
“It’s a ‘so-far’ for her, because things still have to play out,” Jennings said. “But so far, she has performed exactly as advertised. She’s been extremely cautious, very careful to put her facts together and avoiding making decisions on raw emotions.”
Jennings said it was highly unlikely he would be needed to serve in an interim role again given the time frame stated for Perkins’ retirement.
“I’m glad they’ve allowed themselves enough time to go through that process,” which would likely involve consideration of both internal and external candidates, Jennings said.
William Tsutsui, a KU professor of history and associate liberal arts and sciences dean for international studies, criticized Perkins and the athletics department for an eroded relationship with the school’s faculty and the broader community.
“I hope the next A.D. and our current chancellor really look at the structure of oversight in the athletics program,” Tsutsui said. “There’s a very small group of people at the top.”
As it stands now, he said it is too small of a group, and doesn’t include substantial representation from the faculty or the community as a whole.
Tsutsui, who is leaving KU for a new position at Southern Methodist University, served on Kansas Athletics’ Chancellor’s Advisory Board, which he said “really served as just dressing.”
Though the group would be served lunch, and would get to meet wonderful student-atheletes, if anyone tried to ask tough questions, they would “hit a wall head-on,” Tsutsui said.
The relationship between athletics and academics became strained under Perkins’ tenure, as faculty members complained that academics suffered budget reductions while athletics facilities prospered.
“What I would like is a sense that, really, the faculty have not gotten the attention and respect they deserve,” Tsutsui said.