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Sunday, July 10, 2005

Woodling

Woodling: KU out of Big 12 cellar

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For all of you Kansas University faithful out there who have deposited -- happily or otherwise -- dead presidents into the athletic department's coffers, I have good news.

According to standings compiled by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics, KU no longer has the worst sports program in the Big 12 Conference.

Indeed, after three straight last-place Big 12 finishes in the NACDA listings, the Jayhawks have climbed to -- drum roll, please -- 11th place.

Thank you, Kansas State.

The Wildcats tumbled into last place in the 2005 rankings released late last month. The Jayhawks inched up a notch and were, in fact, less than a point away from Iowa State in 10th place.

That's the happy news. The disquieting news is that Kansas isn't close to Chancellor Robert Hemenway's oft-stated goal of making KU one of the top 25 universities in the nation in all areas, including athletics.

Four Big 12 schools can make that claim after the 2004-2005 school year -- Texas (2), Nebraska (21), Oklahoma (24) and Baylor (25). Texas A&M; just missed at No. 26. The rest of the Big 12 rankings were Missouri (41), Oklahoma State (44), Colorado (45), Texas Tech (56), Iowa State (60), Kansas (61) and Kansas State (77).

Kansas climbed only four notches from the year before when it was 12th in the league, but K-State plunged 20 rungs from No. 57 in 2003-04 to replace the Jayhawks in the cellar.

Here's how Kansas has finished in the NACDA rankings since it has been a member of the Big 12 Conference (league ranking in parentheses):

2005 -- 61st (11th)

2004 -- 65th (12th)

2003 -- 108th (12th)

2002 -- 64th (12th)

2001 -- 79th (12th)

2000 -- 82nd (11th)

1999 -- 56th (9th)

1998 -- 51st (7th)

As you can see, the Jayhawks haven't finished any higher than 11th in the NACDA rankings during the 21st Century, but it appears KU bottomed out in 2003 and is making steady progress.

Yet how high can the Jayhawks go?

Even though the KU athletic department budget will grow $5 million and hit $40 million during the next school year, no one is talking about resurrecting men's swimming and men's tennis, which would help the Jayhawks' overall NACDA standing.

In fact, you have to wonder about athletic director Lew Perkins' commitment to the non-revenue sports. All of those sports will receive budget increases in 2005-06, but most pale in comparison to the $1.6 million increase listed for salaries and fringe benefits.

Perkins has the second-highest paid senior staff in the Big 12 (after Texas) and some areas -- notably academic support and administration -- appear to be bloated with personnel. KU athletic department salaries and fringe benefits will be nearly $15.4 million in 2005-06. Compare that to 10 years ago when the entire KU athletic department budget was only $17.6 million.

Curiously, KU and Connecticut, where Perkins was AD for 14 years, finished nearly in a dead heat in this year's NACDA rankings. While the Jayhawks were No. 61, UConn came in at No. 63.

In case you missed it, Stanford wound up No. 1 in this year's NACDA rankings for the 11th year in a row. National championships weigh heavily in the rankings, and the Cardinal won NCAA titles in women's volleyball and women's tennis. The California school was also runner-up in men's water polo and men's swimming.

Texas, as mentioned earlier, was No. 2, followed by UCLA, Michigan and Duke.

Kansas lacks the resources to fund as many sports as those schools, so a Top Five finish is out of the question. Don't even consider it. A Top 10 placing is just as unrealistic.

But if Baylor can climb as high as No. 25, as the Bears did this year, there's no reason Kansas can't reach Hemenway's goal, too.

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