Kansas Athletics Mourns the Passing of Former AD Lew Perkins

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Former Kansas Director of Athletics Lew Perkins died Tuesday, July 18, in Lawrence, Kansas, his family has confirmed. Perkins was 78 years old.

Perkins served as Director of Athletics at KU from June 2003 until June 2010. His career in college athletics spanned more than 40 years. He arrived at KU after achieving nationally recognized success as athletics director at the University of Connecticut. In the summer of 2008, Perkins topped the public voting in TIME Magazine’s online poll of the best sports executives in the world. He was the only college sports administrator to make TIME’s list of 35 individuals, which included team owners, team managers, league commissioners and other executives from around the world.

“Lew made an indelible impact on Kansas Athletics and served his role at KU with passion and vigor on a daily basis,” current Director of Athletics Travis Goff said. “We will forever be grateful for his dedication to this university and athletic department. We are thinking of Lew’s amazing family during this time and sending our deepest thoughts and sympathies.”

Kansas Athletics experienced tremendous growth and success during Perkins’ tenure. Some athletics highlights included:

  • The KU football team won consecutive bowl games — the 2008 Orange Bowl, which capped a school-record 12-win season, and the 2008 Insight Bowl — marking the first time in school history that KU has played in bowl games in back-to-back seasons. KU football was bowl-eligible in five of the last seven seasons in Perkins’ tenure.
  • The Kansas men’s basketball team won the 2008 NCAA National Championship, reached the Elite Eight of the 2004 and 2007 NCAA Championships and the Sweet 16 in 2009. KU men’s hoops won the seven-straight Big 12 Conference regular-season championships, as well as four Big 12 Tournament titles.
  • The Kansas women’s volleyball team appeared in three NCAA tournaments, reaching the second round in 2003 and 2004.
  • The KU women’s soccer team participated in three NCAA tournaments, reaching the Sweet 16 in 2003.
  • KU softball won the Big 12 Championship in 2006 and reached the NCAA tournament in 2005 and 2006.
  • Kansas baseball won the Big 12 Championship in 2006 and reached the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1994. Baseball also earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament in 2009.
  • The women’s basketball Jayhawks reached the championship game of the 2009 Women’s National Invitation Tournament, drawing a then-Big 12 record crowd of 16,113 for the game. The team also competed in the 2006, 2008 and 2010 WNITs.
  • Several KU track-and-field student-athletes won NCAA titles, and many won Big 12 titles and received All-America honors.

“Lew did a lot of good things in his time here at KU,” Kansas Men’s Basketball Coach Bill Self said. “He was a big contributor in us changing the mindset of the athletic department and also competing for championships on a more consistent level. Our hearts go out to Gwen and the family. The one thing I will remember most about Lew was he always put the student-athletes first, and the student-athletes that got to know him well, all loved him.”

Perkins served on many NCAA, Big 12 Conference and other prestigious committees, including the Basketball Issues Committee. At the conference level, Perkins served as Chair of the Big 12 Board of Athletics Directors and as a member of the Big 12 Television Committee. In spring 2005 he was named to the Board of Directors of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Additionally, he was a member of the Gatorade Board of Directors.

At Connecticut (1990-2003), Perkins was instrumental in guiding UConn athletics to impressive growth – athletically, academically and financially. His leadership influenced six NCAA Division I National Championships. He was rewarded in 2000 as the inaugural winner of the National Athletic Director of the Year Award as selected by Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal, in conjunction with the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA).

A native of Chelsea, Massachusetts, Perkins was inducted into his high school Hall of Fame in 1989. A highly recruited basketball player, he played at the University of Iowa (1965-67) for Hall of Fame coach and KU graduate Ralph Miller. Perkins earned his undergraduate degree there in 1967.

Perkins served as Director of Athletics (1969-80) and head basketball coach (1969-79) at the University of South Carolina Aiken as that institution grew from a junior college to a four-year institution. He received his master’s degree in education (1975) from the University of South Carolina. Perkins delivered the commencement address and received an honorary Doctor of Education degree at USC Aiken in May 2005. Perkins also served as athletics director at the University of Maryland and Wichita State University, and associate director of athletics at the University of Pennsylvania.