Tuesday’s surprise announcement by Lew Perkins that he is resigning after seven years as Kansas University’s athletics director is good news.
In fact, it should have come much sooner.
At this time, it is not known whether Perkins’ actions were his decision or whether he was fired.
Whatever the case, the university and the Athletics Department has been disgraced by the recent ticket scandal and the ongoing investigations by the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Prior to these situations, the manner in which Perkins initiated a “point” system to allocate priority seating in Allen Fieldhouse caused tremendous ill feelings toward the university as well as the Athletics Department. Perkins’ personal manner was arrogant with little concern, interest or appreciation for the long and generous support and help given on behalf of the university.
Perkins was brought to KU by former Chancellor Robert Hemenway to raise more money for the Athletics Department, improve facilities and improve the records of KU intercollegiate teams. He was successful in raising money and he made major improvements in facilities, but he did so at an expense. Increasing numbers of faculty members and alumni became upset at the millions upon millions spent on athletics facilities when university officials were being asked to trim expenditures for academic purposes and cutbacks in faculty and support staff. Consider the huge debt Perkins is leaving for someone else to pay.
The records of KU teams did not show significant improvement despite KU basketball continuing to be a conference and national leader. In fact, the overall record of KU teams dropped.
There was major concern about Hemenway’s role in the generosity of Perkins’ contract and whether in the latter years he was as knowledgeable as he should be in contract extensions and bonuses paid for Perkins serving KU for certain lengths of time. In fact, much was made of Perkins’ receiving more than $4 million for one-year’s service, clearly the highest salary paid to any athletic director at any U.S. university.
Now that he has submitted his resignation, it is important that all present investigations of Perkins’ actions be continued. These investigations should be deep and thorough so that all questions about actions of those in the department, or actions by Perkins, are fully answered.
In a recent Journal-World article, several former athletics directors said it would be a serious mistake for Perkins to have any voice or role in selecting his successor. He should not select members of the search committee nor the individuals he wanted to succeed him.
Was Perkins’ resignation a “package deal” in that he would resign if KU associate athletics director and now interim athletics director Sean Lester was hired as his replacement? He has been pushing Lester’s appointment for some time.
KU has enjoyed a proud record of men who have served as athletics directors. There have been ups and downs but nothing compared to what the department and the university have been exposed to during Perkins’ tenure.
Questionable ethics, investigations by the IRS and FBI, egos and displays of high temper were not part of the previous athletics department actions and behavior.
KU, its faculty and students, alumni and friends and the state of Kansas deserve much better.
Far greater care and attention to members on the selection committee must be given than has been the case in recent selection committees for important and senior KU positions.
Perkins’ departure is just part of the story. Now, a superior successor must be selected to make this a successful story.