Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Donors ‘ecstatic’ about hire


Some of Kansas University's biggest boosters never had heard of Lew Perkins prior to Monday, but Laird Noller could only boast about the KU athletic department's new director.

"I was pretty ecstatic," said Noller, a Williams Fund donor, former member of the Kansas University Athletic Corp. board and Lawrence businessman. "I had heard about Lew Perkins for years from (former Kansas athletic director) Bob Frederick. Bob was high on him, so I think he will be outstanding."

Similar sentiment was shared from several Jayhawk benefactors, even if Perkins wasn't the popular pick of local rumor mills.

"I don't know that much about the UConn man," said Bill Penny, a former KU track standout and local construction company owner. "But I'm sure he'll do a real good job.

"I'm excited. He's someone who can stabilize the situation, sounds like a

gentleman and will bring good professionalism to the job."

Mike Maddox, who played basketball for the Jayhawks from 1987 to '91 and is president of Intrust Bank in Lawrence, also was in the dark about Perkins, but said he sounded like a great person.

"I don't know much, only what I read about him today in the paper," Maddox said. "He sounds like an impressive man who has great experience. I think it was important they got someone with experience, and he sounds like a great option."

While the Jayhawk alumni praised Perkins' moving the Huskies' football program to Division I-A, and his work with Title IX at the school in Storrs, Conn., they said Perkins' personality was of utmost importance.

"I always heard very glowing adjectives about the guy," Noller said. "He's known for being a good administrator, surrounding himself with very capable people. That's going to be beneficial."

New Kansas University athletic director Lew Perkins had little to say on the eve of a 2 p.m. news conference to announce his hiring."Tomorrow we'll talk," Perkins told 6 News sports director Kevin Romary after checking in at the Spring-Hill Suites hotel on the riverfront.Asked by Romary why he was in Lawrence, Perkins smiled, pointed to a window and said, "I just like the river here."

Besides the continued objective of rejuvenating KU's football program, Penny said he was eager to see Perkins' work with women's sports.

"It's obvious this university needs a level of emphasis in football, which all universities need to be successful at the Division One level, but he's done a wonderful job in other areas," Penny said. "I think he emphasizes women's sports as much as he does men's."

No booster contacted Monday by the Journal-World thought Perkins would incur permanent damage from former athletic director Al Bohl's bizarre tenure or the recent emotional departure of basketball coach Roy Williams.

Maddox said it was time for KU's athletic family to move on.

"I think anybody new coming in is going to have to rebuild those relationships," Maddox said. "That's going to take some time. But he will come in and evaluate everything, make a determination, and move on."

Los Angeles-based benefactor Dana Anderson was surprised by Perkins' hiring Monday and said, "I was totally ignorant to the whole situation."

But both Noller and Maddox had heard rumors as early as last Thursday.

"I didn't ever think they would go the local route," Noller said, referring to the possibility Kansas officials would hire from within either senior associate athletic director Richard Konzem or associate athletic director John Hadl. "I always thought they would bring somebody in from the outside.

"To get a guy with this man's stature is a testament to Hemenway and Jennings," Noller said of KU's two-man search staff of Chancellor Robert Hemenway and interim athletic director Drue Jennings.

And what does Frederick -- who Noller said molded his opinions about Perkins -- feel about his second successor?

"I'm really excited," said Frederick, who met Perkins when each were athletic directors in the Missouri Valley Conference -- Frederick at Illinois State and Perkins at Wichita State. "Lew's a great person, and an outstanding athletic director. I think it's great for the university."

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