When Lew Perkins announced in June that he planned to retire next year as athletic director at the University of Kansas, the only regret was that he wasn't leaving sooner. So Tuesday's early exit was a relief, at last allowing KU and Kansans to view Perkins' tainted era as a thing of the past.
Perkins still will be paid about $2 million, including a $600,000 retention bonus he wasn't due until next summer — galling for Kansans, with KU having raised tuition 30 percent over five years and suffered $42 million in state budget cuts.
But at least he's gone and KU can get moving on its search for an athletic director who isn't as arrogant and unaccountable.
Let it be said that Perkins demonstrated his ability to raise and spend funds at KU, doubling the operating budget in seven years and building impressive new facilities. He helped sustain KU's reputation as a basketball powerhouse and claim another national championship in 2008. His tenure even saw the KU football team achieve greatness, however briefly.
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But Perkins made a poor fit at a public institution, spending lavishly with little transparency, shaking down season ticket holders for donations, sparking federal investigations and ultimately shaming a great university.
Perkins' actions were enabled by others, of course, including former chancellor Robert Hemenway.
In 2005, the Kansas Legislature even had to force some sunlight on Perkins' obscenely rich compensation package — passing what is popularly known as the "Lew Perkins Law."
Last year, in the wake of the revelations of irregular financial practices at Kansas State University, KU chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little seemed unconcerned about Perkins' own secretive style.
Where KSU president Kirk Schulz committed to The Eagle editorial board that KSU would be more transparent about its operations and spending, Gray-Little pointed to a largely clean Kansas Board of Regents management audit of KU as reassurance that there was "good management and attention to detail" under Hemenway.
Just months later, Kansans would learn about the scandal in which KU athletics insiders allegedly skimmed as much as $3 million in KU tickets, which Perkins said caught him "totally off guard."
Then came revelations of Perkins' private airplane use and other travel excesses and the exercise equipment on "loan" to him.
Winning isn't everything when it comes to athletics programs at state universities. If an institution expects the enduring trust and support of lawmakers and the taxpayers they represent, it needs to make transparency and accountability as important as the quality of its sports teams.
Under Perkins, KU didn't.