Here we are early in the fourth year of Lew Perkins’ five-year strategic plan for Kansas University athletics, and, in many ways, the KU athletic director’s grand vision appears on target.
When Perkins announced the plan in January of 2006, he said, “You will note that many of our goals are quite ambitious — a deliberate decision on our part — and we expect you to hold us accountable.”
Officially, we can’t hold KAI accountable until January of 2011, but we can provide an update. Here are some of the basics:
• Significantly increase individual, corporate and philanthropic support in order to fulfill the plan.
Done, and then some. Turning Allen Fieldhouse into a cash register provided the impetus, then the 2008 NCAA men’s basketball championship and back-to-back football bowl trips spurred additional wallet emptying.
• Being a national leader, never a follower, in setting the highest standards for academics, athletic competition, ethical behavior and fiscal responsibility.
On track on every count except athletic competition, but more about that later.
• Providing KU student-athletes with the best college experience in the country through improved support programs and a re-dedicated focus on the specific needs of our student-athletes inside and outside of athletics.
You won’t hear any KU student-athletes complaining about the department’s academic and life-skills support. Nor should they because KAI spends well over a million bucks each fiscal year to implement those programs.
• Being responsible to our fans and the community at large, providing a family entertainment experience unparalleled in the country, and an extensive commitment to service and outreach outside our campus borders.
Right on. KU’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, for example, is actively involved with city schools, promoting reading and fitness and providing role models.
• Achieving a Top 25 ranking in the Director’s Cup, the annual rating of the best overall NCAA Division One athletic programs in the country.
With about two years remaining in KU’s strategic plan, the Jayhawks haven’t made much headway in their bid to reach the coveted Top 25 as compiled by the National Association of College Directors of Athletics (NACDA).
Six months after Perkins announced his strategic plan, Kansas finished 60th in NACDA standings. The following year (2006-07), KU dipped to 66th. Last year, however, KU climbed to 54th, thanks in large part to those memorable men’s basketball and football seasons.
NACDA publishes updates as the school year progresses, and the 2008 fall standings are out. They show Kansas in 56th place.
Will the Jayhawks climb any higher when the winter and spring updates are released? Not likely. Men’s basketball will score high, but most of the other men’s and women’s winter and spring sports are projected as second-division finishers in the Big 12 with little chance of compiling bonus points for NCAA postseason participation.
Unparalleled Excellence is the official name of Perkins’ five-year plan. Unparalleled, however, means the best, and that’s difficult to determine. Certainly KU is parallel in many areas, but not in athletic competition.