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Opinion

Opinion

Athletic moves

Although recently extended contracts may slow the pace, the stage still seems set for change at Kansas Athletics Inc.

July 29, 2011

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The timing of Ron Olin’s departure from Kansas Athletics Inc. is interesting and could be an indication of things to come in the department.

Last Friday, Athletic Director Sheahon Zenger, who is seven months into the job, was asked by the Journal-World about the responsibilities of some of the department’s top administrators. When it came to Olin, director of security and internal controls, Zenger said, “That’s a position that’s somewhat unique to an athletic department. He and I are talking about what that role can or may be.”

On Monday, Olin — who was Lawrence’s chief of police from 1987 until he joined KU last September — resigned. Olin said Monday, “Since day one I’ve been trying to work myself out of a job.”

Kansas Athletics has no plans to fill the position. This is likely an indication that Zenger is looking closely at department operations and making changes where appropriate for the department’s overall health.

Zenger says he wants to get to know the programs, from the perennial national champion contender men’s basketball team to the women’s rowing squad. He says he wants to make sure each program has the resources and opportunities to be successful. Then, when he is sure he has all the information he needs, he can take any appropriate action.

His hands are somewhat tied because his predecessor Lew Perkins signed several coaches of under-performing teams to new deals or contract extensions just before or after he announced he would leave his post on June 10, 2010, according to a Journal-World investigation.

This followed Perkins’ decision to fire head football coach Mark Mangino, costing the program $3 million in severance pay. The department also was stuck with Perkins’ own $2 million golden parachute when he left KU while under fire for a ticket scandal and ethical questions.

Coaching changes are likely to occur unless KU greatly improves on its last-place finish last year in the Big 12 all-sport Director’s Cup standings. Zenger has called that result “unacceptable.”

Olin’s departure and the fact that he won’t be replaced indicate that Zenger is willing to make decisions about whom he wants with him as KU works to become more competitive in the Big 12 and on the national stage.

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