Woodling: Perkins holds hammer

Kansas University Chancellor Robert Hemenway, left, Head Football Coach Mark Mangino, and Athletic Director Lew Perkins surround the Orange Bowl trophy at midcourt during a halftime recognition ceremony for the football team at Allen Fieldhouse in this file photo from 2008.

Kansas University Chancellor Robert Hemenway, left, Head Football Coach Mark Mangino, and Athletic Director Lew Perkins surround the Orange Bowl trophy at midcourt during a halftime recognition ceremony for the football team at Allen Fieldhouse in this file photo from 2008.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Lew Perkins has Kansas University's students between a rock and a hard place.

Perkins, the man who operates the Kansas Athletics Inc. gold mine, controls the price of the all-inclusive ticket that admits students to the only sports they care about - football and men's basketball.

Perkins says he'll maintain that ticket price at $150 as long as the students continue to pour $1.9 million in fees into Kansas Athletics Inc. coffers. Specifically, each KU student pays $40 a semester to fund women's and non-revenue sports.

What's 40 bucks when you're paying almost $400 a semester in fees on top of about $3,000 in tuition - IF you live in Kansas - and a few thousand more for room and board? Forty bucks. Heck, that's chump change in the overall picture.

And yet some students are beginning to grumble. According to the University Daily Kansan, a resolution proposed last week to rescind that fee barely failed in a Student Senate finance committee ballot. The vote was 11-5 to drop it, but by-laws require a two-thirds majority. In other words, one more vote would have done it.

Looking at it another way, 11 committee members obviously didn't give a hoot whether Perkins raises the cost of the sports ticket while five members were plainly worried.

Should KU students have to pay $40 a semester to fund women's and non-revenue sports? Of course they shouldn't. It's an archaic fee that has been in force since the days when KU athletics was burdened by Title IX requirements.

Today, Kansas Athletics Inc. is a multi-million dollar corporation fueled by lucrative television and apparel contracts, buckets of cash from the Big 12 Conference and barrels of dollars from donors eager to secure the privilege of buying a ticket.

Befitting its status as a corporation, Kansas Athletics Inc. is a top-heavy bureaucracy with multiple high-salaried executives who operate under the titles of coach, assistant coach and associate athletic director.

If Kansas Athletics Inc. were required to field only football and men's basketball teams, oh my : what a bonanza. But, darn it, in order to maintain its status as an NCAA-affiliated school KU must fund a minimal number of men's and women's programs, too.

In essence, Job One of any university athletic director is to enhance revenue, and no Kansas AD has milked the forces of supply-and-demand economics the way Perkins has. Kansas Athletics Inc. is raking in the dough.

Interestingly, for example, the corporation spent about the same amount on its journey to the Orange Bowl - around $2 million - as it receives from those student fees, according to figures released by KU as a result of a Journal-World/6News Freedom of Information request.

Among those comped were members of the Kansas Board of Regents, deans and their spouses, professors, other coaches and the majority of athletic-department staffers, as well as children.

If I were a student, I wouldn't be very happy about those perks. So you have to admire those 11 members of the Student Senate finance committee for attempting to right a wrong. Yet even if they eventually reach the necessary two-thirds majority and wipe out that fee, they can't possibly win.

Not as long as Perkins holds the student-ticket hammer.