When hired, he was quoted as saying, "Kansas needs to get its swagger back." And, under his reign, indeed it did as the University of Kansas had its most successful football season ever in 2007 capped with a BCS bowl win in the Orange Bowl in January 2008. Three months later, a victory parade in Lawrence brought out 80,000 fans to pay homage to their national champion Jayhawks--victors over Memphis in the 2008 NCAA Mens National Championship game. Swagger? You bet!
That swagger became a part of business at the Kansas Athletic Department. A points system for tickets was instituted, donations swelled, facilities were built, and giving increased KU's athletic budget so that the school better competed with the big boys. Yes, Lew Perkins was all about swagger.
The swagger backfired, however. What was swagger was really hubris. And, hubris translated to a lack of management, budget and institutional control. There's no need to recount the sins here--suffice to say that Lew (even the one-name moniker is about swagger and BIG) did many things wrong and ultimately is paying for those mistakes by resigning twice. Perkins' first resignation was to say he'd exit a year from now. Yesterday, it was a resignation which reported that he was gone immediately.
Now what? For we Kansas alumni and fans, the peak of 2007-2008 is fading rapidly in the rearview mirror, replaced by the following uncertainty:
- On the basis of the outcome of one game, Perkins made an awful hire for his new head football coach.
- The most important guy in the athletic department will have a new boss by the "middle of the spring semester," according to the University's chancellor. And, we all know what happened between Perkins' predecessor and the then head mens basketball coach--he didn't get along with his new boss and left.
- The publicized Gridiron Club--a project led by Kansas great Gale Sayers--isn't even being talked about anymore.
- A ticket investigation is still underway.
- And, for all of the fundraising and facilities improvements, Kansas athletics did not crack the top 50 in last year's Athletic Directors' Cup competition, which measures success across all sports. (Only Kansas, Kansas State and Colorado, among Big 12 schools, didn't make the top 50.)
The responsibility for "what's next" falls on Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. If the athletics department is indeed the "front porch" into a university, then her upcoming decision on a new athletic director, and the new A.D.'s actions after that, will dictate much about the future success of the University of Kansas.