Kansas City, Mo. The $4.4 million that Lew Perkins earned last year leading the sports program at Kansas University appeared to make him the highest paid athletic director in the nation, according to a published report.
Perkins’ salary is reported to be the equivalent of $85,000 a week. The Kansas Department of Administration, which handles payroll for state employees, provided the salary information in response to an open records request.
Perkins said that his compensation is all based on the deal he received to leave Connecticut and come to Kansas.
“Hopefully, people will accept that we’re working hard to try to keep Kansas competitive in one of the most, if not the most, competitive conferences in the country,” he said.
University spokeswoman Lynn Bretz also defended Perkins’ 2009 compensation, saying it was inflated that year because of a special retention bonus negotiated earlier.
This year, his pay will revert to about $900,000, which would still make Perkins one of the highest paid athletic directors.
In 2008, a national survey of athletic directors’ pay by Bloomberg News listed Perkins’ annual pay at $900,000, saying it ranked as the nation’s second highest, behind Jeremy Foley of the University of Florida.
“It’s utterly outrageous,” said Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economist at Smith College in Massachusetts. “I can’t believe he’s worth that kind of compensation in the marketplace. It strikes me as a hideous compensation level.”
Only $194,000 of Perkins’ 2009 compensation came from taxpayers. Bretz said most of it came from Kansas Athletics Inc., a nonprofit organization that promotes Kansas athletics.
“During Perkins’ now almost seven years, Kansas Athletics has seen unparalleled fundraising, an unparalleled period of renovation and construction of facilities, a national basketball championship, back-to-back bowl victories, nationally competitive student-athletes both on the field or court and in the classroom, and improved student-athlete graduation rates,” Bretz said.
“All of these are measures of success by any standard.”