Paul Van Saun was a solid starting defensive tackle for Kansas University's football team as a junior back in the mid-70s.
Prior to his senior year, however, I wrote that Van Saun was in danger of losing his job to a junior named Mike Butler. I remember the article because Van Saun's wife reacted at the time by informing me in no uncertain terms that I didn't know what I was talking about.
That was my introduction to Debbie Van Saun. Eventually, Butler not only won the starting job that year, he earned first-team All-Big Eight honors. A year later, the Green Bay Packers selected Butler in the first round of the NFL Draft.
Time had vindicated me, but I wasn't about to lord it over Debbie Van Saun. I admired her moxie. Most women don't display that kind of stand-by-your-man passion. In fact, over the years, I've probably had only a handful of females complain about something I penned concerning either their boyfriend or husband.
Sure, I was surprised when the KU athletic department hired Van Saun as senior woman administrator. Most people were. Heck, her only real experience with athletics came when the two Van Saun children competed in high school and college swimming.
She has spent most of her working life with the City of Lawrence, most recently as assistant city manager. But if you're wondering whether Van Saun is qualified for the highest post a woman can attain in a college athletic department short of becoming the AD, don't.
Van Saun is no yes-woman. By the force of her personality, she could make an impact on the KU athletic department's burgeoning bureaucracy. She should be a vocal advocate at a time when KU women's athletics needs more than a hug and a wait-'til-next-year.
KU women's sports are treading water. With an occasional exception, they are not competitive in the Big 12 Conference and, in large part, that's because of inferior facilities.
A year or so ago, the current regime convinced KU students they needed to increase their fees to pay for a new boathouse for the rowing team.
Parenthetically, rowing is very important to KU athletics because it attracts women in sufficient numbers to help maintain the mandated Title IX equality skewed by the 100 or so football players.
Clearly of lesser importance to KU athletics are women's soccer, softball, swimming and tennis. KU has an unfinished softball diamond, a sub-par soccer facility, an outdated pool and no indoor tennis building.
Even though contributions to the Williams Fund have nearly doubled over the last four years - thanks mainly to the merciless gerrymandering of Allen Fieldhouse for men's basketball - not enough of that additional money has trickled down to women's athletics.
When the NCAA mandated the creation of the SWA post in the early '90s, the message was clear. The NCAA was serious about equality. But how serious is Kansas?
No one knows how long it will take Van Saun to adjust to the athletic department atmosphere, but I sure hope it doesn't take long.
Hopefully, she'll hit the ground running.