LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins will
retire next year, ending a highly successful but sometimes-stormy
43-year career in sports administration.
The 65-year-old Perkins made the announcement in a statement
released through the school, one day after he was cleared of
accepting free use of gym equipment in exchange for favors and the
same day the Big 12 began to break apart with Colorado's defection
to the Pac-10.
Perkins plans to remain at Kansas until September 2011 so that
he can help the school through the thorny issue of conference
realignment. Nebraska is reportedly heading for the Big Ten and
several other schools are being courted by other conferences.
"I have loved my time here at the University of Kansas and I
will continue leading Kansas Athletics over the course of the next
year," Perkins said in the statement.
"My greatest priority is working on conference alignment
issues, and as I've committed to the chancellor, I will work
tirelessly on these efforts."
Since Perkins arrived from Connecticut in 2003, Kansas has
experienced unprecedented growth and success but also angered many
alumni by putting in a "points system" that gives favorable
seating to people who contribute the most money to the school.
Two years ago, after the Jayhawks won the Orange Bowl and the
NCAA basketball championship, Perkins was named by Time Magazine as
the No. 1 administrator in college sports. Seizing the good will
brought by the school's greatest year in athletics, Perkins
launched a building program that brought facilities out of the
1960s -- including a $31 million football facility.
Yet, recent months have been taxing on the Chelsea, Mass.,
native. Besides the charges of a former employee regarding free use
of gym equipment, the university has been rocked by a federal probe
into a widespread scam involving the sale of basketball and
Five employees, including some of Perkins' closest aides, have
been fired. An independent investigation commissioned by the school
said the scam went on at least from 2005-10 and may have cost the
school $3 million. The FBI is investigating the allegations and
Perkins had to testify last week before a grand jury.
Perkins has not been implicated, but many have called for his
firing for lack of oversight.
In addition, Kansas suffered through an embarrassing football
season that ended in a long losing streak and the firing of coach
Mark Mangino, two seasons after he had been voted the consensus
national coach of the year.
About the same time, Perkins' sister died, adding more grief to
what he told The Associated Press has been the worst year of his
In a conversation with an AP reporter last week, Perkins began
weeping and said the support of family and friends had enabled him
to get through it all. "I hate to use the word 'victim,' " he
said, dabbing at his eyes. "People think I've done something
wrong. But I'm the victim here."
In fact, Lawrence police are now investigating Perkins' charge
that he was blackmailed by a former employee in connection with the
gym equipment incident.
The employee had alleged Perkins received the equipment at his
home in 2005 in exchange for giving the owners of Medical
Outfitters, of Lenexa, preferential treatment for men's basketball
tickets. Perkins and a company co-owner denied it, and Kansas said
Wednesday its internal investigation found no evidence of
wrongdoing. Perkins recently paid a $5,000 rental fee for the
equipment, which was removed from his home by 2009.
On Thursday, the athletics department released invoices showing
it purchased $280,000 worth of equipment from Medical Outfitters in
The invoices, released in response to an Associated Press open
records request, show the department bought nearly $91,000 worth of
X-ray equipment and $189,000 worth of whirlpools, machines, player
taping stations, cabinets and other items. The records show the
equipment was discounted about $41,000, for a total cost of
Perkins was not available for comment Thursday evening. A
telephone message was left at the home of Medical Outfitters
co-owner Mark Glass.
Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said she was not aware
of the purchases until Thursday afternoon.
"Whether it constitutes a conflict of interest depends on the
reason for the spike in business," she said. "That occurred
during a time of expansion in athletics."
Gray-Little, who has been a staunch ally of Perkins, said
earlier that he led the school "during a time of remarkable growth
and success" and called his decision a surprise.
"I have not asked him to retire, and I have not asked him to
resign," she said.
Perkins had a meeting with her Thursday at which she expected
him to talk about Big 12 matters and conference realignment.
Instead, she said, he told her of his plans to retire.
"I was not expecting this," she said. "I was surprised by
Jayhawks basketball coach Bill Self said Perkins had mentioned
the possibility of retirement to him over the past year and seemed
in good spirits and at peace with the decision.
Asked if he might leave because of Perkins' retirement, Self
emphatically said no.
"His situation is totally independent of mine and vice versa,"
Board of Regents member Ed McKechnie, a former Kansas House
member, said Perkins' decision allows him to focus on conference
realignment, which he called "the biggest issue we have right now
"There've been a lot of distractions in the past month,"
McKechnie said. "Lew's very talented. Whether he was distracted --
I couldn't go to Bob's Grill without having people talk to me about
McKechnie said Perkins has made a good decision.
"I know Lew's a fighter," McKechnie said. "I knew he would
have stayed and fought if he thought it was the right thing."