Saturday, August 14, 2010

Search for the new athletic director: ‘There are a lot of people that are going to lust for this job’


A. Drue Jennings isn’t sure yet whether he’ll help Kansas University in its search for a new athletic director when Lew Perkins retires following the 2010-11 school year.

Jennings — KU’s interim athletic director when Perkins was hired in 2003 — does know this much, though: the university won’t have a lack of suitors.

“There are a lot of people that are going to lust for this job,” Jennings said, “and out of every 100 who think they would like to be the athletic director, there’s probably one or two maybe that are qualified to be.”

Finding that perfect fit isn’t easy.

So what are the steps to hiring a new athletic director? And what should KU be looking for when choosing a new leader in the athletic department?

Let’s start by looking at the process that led to the hiring of Perkins in 2003.

A new strategy

Though KU used a 15-member committee in 2001 to hire Athletic Director Al Bohl, Perkins’ predecessor, Jennings suggested a different method to Chancellor Robert Hemenway in 2003.

Jennings believed that the chancellor should have a greater say in the candidate being selected. So Jennings and Hemenway conducted the search by themselves, using former Big Eight Commissioner Chuck Neinas as a consultant.

After receiving résumés — and seeking out some candidates — Jennings tracked down backgrounds with Neinas’ help and also checked references. Candidates were not even considered if they had any involvement in rules infractions at a previous school.

From there, Jennings conducted telephone interviews with about a dozen candidates before trimming the list down to set up face-to-face interviews. During those talks, Jennings prepared scripted questions so that the same topics were covered with each candidate.

“You try to read through voice and body language the sense of conviction they may have, the sense of interest in the job, and certainly the sense of interest in the University of Kansas,” Jennings said. “ ... Anybody can say, ‘I really want this job, and I really want to work at KU,’ but some say it with sincerity and some are doing it as part of the interview.”

KU’s wish list for an athletic director was lengthy. Jennings was looking for a “professional” athletic director who had years of experience managing a major athletic department. He also wanted someone well-versed in athletic administration, and someone who had already been an AD in another location.

The candidate also needed to have the ability to manage a budget while communicating well with coaches, university administration and elected officials.

Hemenway ultimately chose Perkins, hiring him on June 10, 2003.

The next decision

So what should KU be looking for in its next AD?

Monte Johnson, who served as KU athletic director from 1982-87, said one aspect of the job had not changed over the years: ADs still need to be good businessmen.

In the first six months of his tenure, Johnson hired a new men’s basketball coach (Larry Brown) and also a new football coach (Mike Gottfried).

“At that point I have to think there wouldn’t have been half the alumni at best that thought very highly of me,” Johnson said. “But that’s one of the things about running the business. You don’t make emotional decisions. You make decisions based on what’s best for the company you’re working with or the athletic department you’re working with.”

One of Johnson’s advantages was that he already knew a lot about the situation at KU. He had worked for the school from 1961 through 1970 in positions ranging from academic adviser all the way up to associate athletic director, and already knew many of the people who were employed in the athletic department.

“You can’t just say, ‘Hey, we’re going to give you six months to learn who the people are,’” Johnson said. “You’ve got to get started quick. But if you’re a very good manager, a good administrator, that learning curve is going to be shorter.”

Though someone with a KU connection might make the transition easier, Johnson said KU should be more concerned with simply hiring the right candidate.

Jennings confirmed that in the last AD search, having KU ties was not one of the criteria on the school’s checklist.

Overall, Johnson said the top priority for a new AD was to maintain and improve the top two revenue-creating sports: men’s basketball and football.

From there, an athletic director could work on bettering KU’s nonrevenue sports, which struggled in the 2009-10 season. KU finished 11th in the Big 12 in the Directors’ Cup standings — a measure of the best overall collegiate programs.

“We’re lucky,” Johnson said. “Right now, if you ask most of our alums, they say, ‘Boy, do we have a great athletic program.’ I think what they mean is, ‘Boy, do we have a great men’s basketball program, and hopefully we’ll bring the others up to those standards someday.’”

Dealing with adversity

Though Jennings hasn’t heard yet how Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little will conduct her athletic director search — with a small group of confidants or a large committee — he said he believes that any realistic candidate should be fully informed about what’s been reported regarding KU’s ticket scandal in the last few months.

“I don’t think you want to hire anyone who comes in with some preconceived opinion or notion about who’s right and who’s wrong and who’s guilty and who’s not,” Jennings said. “Anybody who comes in with those kind of biases are going to, I think, have a difficult time.”

With a federal investigation still ongoing, the new athletic director will most likely be called upon to help restore KU’s image.

“I’ve always operated under the premise that you can really do a good job of running a business or a company or an organization if you remove all the negatives,” Johnson said. “If we can get rid of all the negatives and just concentrate on the positives, we’ll do fine.”


Philip Bowman 3 years, 8 months ago

This discussion about whether KU teams did better under The Big Spender is pretty silly. Big Lew had nothing to do with winning. The coaches and players do that. But I think his conduct last year turned a 5-0 football season into the 5-7 season we suffered.

Yes, he brought a lot of money to the programs by sucking up to fat cats. He cared nothing for the folks that couldn't afford to make big contributions and it showed. If you need proof, look no further than the condition of the mens toilet in the upper part of the west side of the stadium.

Perkins is an embarrassment to the school and state and should be dismissed immediately for his improper use of state money. Here's a guy being paid millions (not to mention all the other income he has) who stooped so low as to charge KU for private jet trips for person purposes. He says his time is valuable; too bad he didn't use it to do his job--managing his employees. I mean, couldn't he at least use a taxi once a while? Gray-Little needs to go too.


jaymar74 3 years, 8 months ago

He probably isn't ready yet, but Jacque Vaughn would make a great AD. Talk about a smooth, intelligent, business smart voice to raise donnations. When he left here I told my wife he would someday be somebody big, much above an NBA player or coach.


COjayrocks 3 years, 8 months ago

Blackhawk, you are just wrong. The AD's job is to create an environment where winning is fostered. How do you do that?

-Bring in more money to the Athletic Department to allow them the luxuries that 21st century athletic departments need -Increase the quality of facilities to provide everything and then some for our existing student athletes as well as to encourage a higher level of recruiting in future -Fundraise. Fundraise. Fundraise. Schmooze with existing big donors and bring in some new ones that are just waiting for the right time for it to seem like a good investment.

How are these illustrated in Lew's tenure:

-Doubled our athletic revenue, and as a previous link indicated, is one spot away from getting us into the top in total revenue -Brought in elite facilities for our revenue sports and did it in only 7 years. When fundraising and generating interest in the endowment and investors that is a very, very fast timeline. Ask KState how fast those things go, they are still waiting on a football facility upgrade that has been on the table since before Lew arrived at Kansas. Not only that, he has a vision for where he wants to go, we just need Gill to spark us and then the ball gets rolling again -Again, the fundraising numbers are mentioned above. He raised our athletic department revenue to $27.2 Million in 2003 to over $50 million currently.

I hope our next order of business is to go after Bud Adams, Anschutz again, and maybe Alan Mulally (Ford CEO...then again, maybe he should be our new AD :)) These results can be shown in our new $30-some million and $40-some million facility upgrades.

And just as a quick sidenote, to prove you wrong on on fronts I looked at the win percentage of our major sports over the last 4 AD tenures because before the 80's people rarely held the job for more than a 2 years. Here are the results:

Football Record/Basketball Record/Win % of combined records

Monte Johnson: 21-42/134-63/.596 Bob Frederick: 69-98/407-111/.695 Al Bohl: 11-25/89-19/.694 Lew Perkins: 48-38/172-32/.759

So as you can see, your "number-one priority: create winning programs" theory goes right out the window. Everyone just think about what you post before you post it.

After seeing this all laid out the real question is, how can we not say that Lew will go out as the best AD in the modern era of Kansas Athletics?


blackhawkjayhawk 3 years, 8 months ago

Wow.....the AD isn't measured by the success or failures of the programs he/she oversees? By the idiotic measures listed by many above, the AD job is simply a Development job. I can't tell you how proud I am of Lew for raising so much money. Makes me want to buy a shirt with his picture on it. Rock Chalk Jayhawk! Let's sing a song about the new facilities!

An AD has a single, number-one priority: create winning programs. The AD has many other responsibilities but as anyone who didn't graduate from K-State make money.

Also, I believe that KU had a pretty solid winning tradition in basketball for at least a couple of years before Lew arrived. Our football program is only marginally better. So......forgetting all of those unimportant sports......Lew managed to stay out of Bill Self's way and oversee a marginal improvement in football.

This is the problem....many of you think that this qualifies as great.


mulaza 3 years, 8 months ago

maybe we should hire the University of Buffalo's AD.


Mark Wooden 3 years, 8 months ago

The coaches work for the AD and the University. That decision is above their paygrade.


thekansasboy1987 3 years, 8 months ago



Jack Wilson 3 years, 8 months ago

Kman_blue: What your are missing is that there are some that cry and whine "racism" anytime the person who is criticized is black. The merits don't matter. It is a national pasttime for some.

All I have to say is that Coach Self should have absolute veto power over any prospective AD.


stravinsky 3 years, 8 months ago

Lew, as CEO of KU Athletics, doubled the athletics budget and has provided us with tremendous upgrades in our athletics facilities. That's his job. And he did it particularly well. It's silly to try to give him either credit or blame for our athletic successes and failures over the last few years, especially considering he didn't hire either Self or Mangino. I think we'll see in the future more about the ticket scandal, but I really don't think Perkins is to blame for employees finding loopholes and breaking the law. We hire entire companies to deal with oversight and it would be extremely unrealistic to try to pen the blame on the AD. As a businessman, Lew was a success. He did what he was brought here to do.

As for Gill, we'll see how that goes. I think Gill has the potential to do very well. But seriously naysayers, it's not like KU is USC. One BCS bowl win and consecutive bowl appearances for the first time in program history does not equal power program. I love this school, but it's ridiculous to assume that KU could just snap its fingers and pull in a Nick Saban or Pete Carroll quality coach, or even a Houston Nutt. There was no way Harbrough was leaving Stanford for KU. I'd bet that Tuberville would have taken TTech over us if it came down to it. Betting that Gill has the chops to succeed at the Big 12 level was our best bet.


jayhawkinnebr 3 years, 8 months ago

I hope that the new AD looks good and hard at the new football program and the first time Gill steps out of line, he nails him.Perkins did KU a poor job for hiring Gill. KU will regret it later.


Justin Lindsley 3 years, 8 months ago

Kevin Pritchard.....COME ON DOWN, your the next AD at KU!


jayhawkinATL 3 years, 8 months ago

And where is this 11th place data you speak of, blackhawk???


mulaza 3 years, 8 months ago

i bet jaybate applies. can you imagine how long his cover letter would be


hawkfan20 3 years, 8 months ago

blackhawk, few people care about the director's cup where the swimming national championship means as much as the basketball national championship. The Director's Cup also penalizes schools with fewer sports like KU. No one in their right mind thinks a swimming national title is as valuable as a football or basketball national championship and if you do, thank God you're not running this university because you would have run us broke and into the ground a long time ago.


number1jayhawker 3 years, 8 months ago

Too bad Drue Jennings wouldn't be interested in the job.


blackhawkjayhawk 3 years, 8 months ago

Yes....Lew brought us a long way - all the way to 11th in the Big 12 in overall athletic performance. The good news, in another year, after we agree to give more of our money to Texas, because everyone knows how much Texas needs more money, we'll finish no worse than 10th. So, by default, Lew will have moved us up yet another notch.

One national championship, balanced out by three second round exits, and an Orange Bowl win, balanced by no bowl game last year, do not qualify an AD as a great AD. Lew and great should never appear in the same sentence. Not to mention a million-dollar ticket scandal.

I'd like to see someone get this position who can be far more effective with the enormous resources provided them. KU should be a perennial top-20 program in every sport. When we do that, I'll be the first to call the AD great.


jayhawkinATL 3 years, 8 months ago

I agree, CaliHawk33.

Yeah, some embarrassing things happened on his watch, but Lew brought KU athletics a long way...a very long the classroom, on the playing field, and in the pocketbook.

Thanks, Lew!!!


Joseph Kuebel 3 years, 8 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.


Janet Scott 3 years, 8 months ago

Bernadette Gray-Little will surely include on any KU AD search committee Oprah, Dr. Phil, Bernie Madoff (retired), Mark Mangino, Terry Allen, ex-KU chancelor Robert Hemenway, KSU football coach Bill Snyder, and Al Bohl; and for international flavor and diversity, she may add Mahmoud Ahmadinajad and David Cameron (British PM). Rumor has it Nelson Mandella and Jimmy Carter may be interested in serving, as well.

Candidates for AD? Well, perhaps the NBA's David Stern is looking for a change; or perhaps North Korea's Kim Jung Ill would like to make a move to Lawrence, with the assistance of the UN and the Kansas Board of Regents. Shoot, it may be time for Kentucky's John Calipari to move up to athletic administration.


Torisen 3 years, 8 months ago

Actually, I agree with him.

It's like reading a newspaper that always refers to the President as "Barry Obama". These guys are supposed to be professional journalists, they should act like it and use the official university name.

If you go to, the title of the page is "The University of Kansas". The address that is listed is "The University of Kansas". The official logo has the text "The University of Kansas" in all caps Trajan bold. There's no real excuse for using "Kansas University" unless they're deliberately trying to be insulting.


JBurtin 3 years, 8 months ago

You all heard it, jhawkrulz has spoken from on high and you are to do his bidding.

For God's sake....WHO CARES!!!


jhawkrulz 3 years, 8 months ago

I know there have been some comments about whether the correct term is "The University of Kansas" or Kansas University. I think it is important to note that whenever the LJW quotes personnel involved with the University, these quotes always have "The University of Kansas". I think it would be respectful, to align the practice of the Journal World with the alliance of how the University would like to be referenced.

Please update your records in the future to follow "The University of Kansas".


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