Perkins hire met with enthusiasm

When the University of Kansas landed Lew Perkins as its new athletic director on Tuesday, Chancellor Hemenway wasn't the only one smiling.

Jayhawk boosters were pleased, the media was impressed and a lot of Jayhawk coaches were excited as well - especially those who lead women's sports at KU.

Hemenway listed Perkins' support of women's athletics as one of the key reasons he was hired and Perkins, himself, was quick to echo that in his first meeting with the media.

In his introductory press conference Perkins made his feelings about women's sports and particularly women's basketball very clear, "We are in full compliance of Title IX and I am a strong believer in that." He added, "I am probably the strongest supporter of women's basketball in the country."

As Perkins later noted, it's easy to be a big women's hoops supporter when you're coming from one of the best women's programs in the country. Perkins has dreams of Kansas having that kind of program some day, but for now he'd just settle for one that generates revenue.

"Quite honestly, women's basketball has to become a revenue sport here. As you look at sports or revenue sources we don't have a lot here at Kansas." Perkins added, "Women's basketball, men's basketball and football are three sports that have to generate income. I am not just talking about gate receipts, they have to be in fundraising as well as corporate sales."

Head coach Marian Washington welcomes that kind of thinking. She's excited to have a leader who puts so much emphasis and importance on her sport. That was obvious on Wednesday when she talked about Perkins on Rock Chalk Sports Talk.

"It's just wonderful to have someone come in who not only has the attitude and philosophy, but also has set the example of supporting a broad-based program.

He's had some great successes with his men's programs, but it's obvious also that he's had great success with his women's program. When you're able to bring that type of experience to this university, it's very exciting and I think we're very fortunate."

Washington thinks women's basketball and other women's sports at KU have had teams capable of producing revenue in the past and it's especially possible now that Perkins is aboard.

"We've had some women sports here that have had the potential to generate revenue, I've told people before to just go back and look at the archives and read some of those articles. It's just nice to now have someone here in that leadership role who embraces the same sentiment."

Both Perkins and Washington would like to see increased attendance at women's games. They're best draw last season was when Kansas State came to Lawrence and brought several hundred purple people with them. Washington thinks basketball fans in Kansas can support both men's a women's hoops.

"I really feel that this community, being so appreciative of the sport of basketball and having such incredible men's basketball teams, we really have the opportunity here to embrace both."

Next year's team will be much better as freshman stars like Tamara Ransburg, Crystal Kemp and Erica Hallman become sophomores and McDonald's All-American Lauren Ervin debuts at the Fieldhouse.

With the improving talent, more wins and a new vision atop the athletic department, Washington feels the women's program with really start to take off.

"We're now in a situation where we're trying to get that product back to where's it's been and even surpass that point, and I just think that with good leadership it's really going to happen."


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