Saluting success and a Champion of Women's Sports

Dec. 18, 2008

Dear Jayhawk Fans:

Our student-athletes are closing out another terrific fall athletic season, and I am confident that spring is shaping up to be equally as memorable.

Coach Mark Mangino’s football team just won its second straight bowl game with a 42-21 victory over Minnesota. KU upended Missouri 40-37 to end the regular season in one of the most thrilling Border Showdown games ever played. Bill Self’s young squad is prepared to make a strong statement nationally, despite having lost five players to the NBA in a National Championship season.

But particularly delightful has been the success our women’s programs. Coach Mark Francis led Kansas Soccer to 13 victories this fall and KU’s first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since making back-to-back trips in 2003 and 2004. Following an impressive run to the semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament, three Jayhawks earned spots on the All-Big 12 Tournament Team, the most ever by a Kansas team. With many players returning next season for Coach Francis, including freshman all-American Emily Cressy, I believe the best is yet to come for Kansas Soccer.

Volleyball player Katie Martincich was honored in December as the Big 12’s Sportswoman of the Year, and Nicole Tate was named to the Big 12 Volleyball All-Freshman team.

Head Coach Bonnie Henrickson has Bonnie Ball in full swing, having posted impressive wins over Iowa, Creighton, San Jose State, New Orleans and Sacred Heart, just to name a few. The victory over Iowa – televised nationally on ESPN – was witnessed by nearly 4,000 screaming Lawrence-area schoolchildren, bused to the Fieldhouse through a cooperative effort by Kansas Athletics Marketing and the Lawrence School System. Kansas Women’s Basketball is quite literally up and running. This is without a doubt one of our most energetic teams in recent memory, and I encourage you to enjoy a game in Allen Fieldhouse and be a part of the excitement.

During the last weekend in February we will take time to celebrate a major milestone – the 40th anniversary of women’s athletics at Kansas. That Saturday night, February 28, our women’s basketball team takes on Nebraska at Allen Fieldhouse. Please join us as we salute the talented, dedicated and unselfish individuals who championed the birth and growth of women’s athletics at Kansas. That same day, appropriately, we will celebrate the dedication of our sparkling new Boathouse in Burcham Park in Lawrence.

As I sat down to write this column, my sole intent was to rave about the increasing success our women student-athletes have begun to experience in their respective sports. But permit me a small digression. There is an unmitigated champion of women’s athletics on this campus who has largely gone unheralded and who deserves to be acknowledged.

Critical to the success of KU’s women’s athletics program is and has been Chancellor Robert Hemenway. Chancellor Hemenway will step down from his post on June 30 after 14 years of expansive vision for our wonderful institution. All of us – and most importantly the students at KU – will continue to benefit from his decision to remain here on the faculty. He will be remembered as a great leader who brought immense academic prestige to the University of Kansas. He also leaves another legacy. Those of us in Kansas Athletics know he should be remembered as one of KU’s greatest advocates for women’s sports.

When the chancellor first approached me about becoming the Jayhawks’ athletics director, he stressed that he wanted Kansas Athletics to become the national leader, not a follower, in setting the highest standards for all our student-athletes academically, competitively and ethically. And he insisted that KU become a national leader in Title IX compliance. As the construction crews on campus and in Burcham Park indicate, we are well on the road to doing just that.

Kansas Athletics is currently at the mid-point of a five-year trek designed to take our Jayhawk sports programs – both men’s and women’s – to new thresholds of success. Unquestionably, Chancellor Hemenway’s support is helping us achieve a deserved place among the most respected, well-rounded athletics programs in the country. His vision has helped ensure that KU’s proud heritage of success – both academically and athletically – will continue well into the future for all Jayhawks.

And that, I believe, is quite an enviable legacy.Rock Chalk Jayhawk!

Lew PerkinsDirector of Athletics