Lew Perkins abruptly steps down as KU athletic director

LAWRENCE, Kan. — University of Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins has retired effective immediately, according to a university release issued Tuesday afternoon.

Perkins announced in June that he would retire on Sept. 4, 2011. He was scheduled to receive a $600,000 retention bonus if he remained athletic director until June 30, 2011. The university said in its release that Perkins would still be paid the full amount due to him if he had stayed on through Sept. 4, including the retention bonus – a total of approximately $2 million. That amount will be paid to Perkins by Kansas Athletics Inc. (no taxpayer or tuition dollars will be used).

“There is no question that Kansas Athletics benefited from Lew Perkins’ leadership,” Gray-Little said. “One need only look at the academic success of our student-athletes, at KU’s trophy cases and at our state-of-the-art athletic facilities to see those benefits. I appreciate his service and understand his decision.”

Sean Lester, KU’s associate athletic director for external relations, will take over as interim athletic director. Lester came to KU from Connecticut with Perkins in 2003.

“I’ve enjoyed my seven years here at KU,” Perkins said. “What I’ve cherished more than anything is the opportunity to work with our coaches, student-athletes, staff, alumni, Williams Fund members and K-Club members.”

Perkins’ final year in Lawrence has been a turbulent one. Six former members of his athletic department are currently under federal investigation for their involvement in a ticket scandal worth at least $1 million. Later, Perkins was accused of accepting a loan of $15,000 exercise equipment from a Kansas Athletics vendor in exchange for improved seating at Allen Fieldhouse for the vendor. The matter was brought to the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission for review.

Perkins’ retirement comes just days after the Kansas football team lost to FCS program North Dakota State 6-3 in its season opener. Perkins hired KU coach Turner Gill to replace Mark Mangino, who resigned in December after Perkins launched an investigation into his treatment of players.