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2005
16
Jul

Lewfreid and Roy

It was certainly an eventful weekend around the ACC’s Ground Zero, the RTP. News broke late Friday afternoon, from Kansas, of all places, that there had been NCAA violations authorized by former KU basketball coach and current Carolina Next Big Thing Roy Williams. The Jayhawks were engaged in the self-flagellation of turning themselves into the NCAA. Kansas AD Lew Perkins donned a hair shirt and solemnly informed the assembled media multitudes that the ‘numerous’ infractions committed by the ‘former’ regime included, gasp, cash payments. Uh-oh. Say it ain’t so, Roy.

The news quickly spread via the Total Sports and Scandal Network to that North Carolina megalopolis-in-the-making and basketball Mecca known as the Triangle, where all hell broke loose. Message board loons of various school stripes leaped for their keyboards to immediately begin pounding out denunciations and defenses. A serious amount of bandwidth and bile was consumed and produced as the loons pounded away.
There were the usual shrill claims from the Loonpack that this was just the tip of a scandalous iceberg that would make any of the regime of JimmyV seem the very model for NCAA compliance. The only course of action was a major investigation on the scale of the Watergate one which, if all were handled fairly, would no doubt result in the public execution of Roy at center court of the Pork Palace shortly before tip-off of the next State-Duke game. The Tar Loons responded that Savior Roy couldn’t possibly have cheated since he was one of THEM and even if he did, so what, the rules were stupid; how was anybody to know that NCAA rules prohibited cash payments to players? Savior Roy couldn’t be expected to know everything. Others cried, ‘So what? It was only money, not anything serious like impermissible tutoring.’ Very few seemed to pay any attention to the actual violations.

The violations themselves involved Kansas boosters checking with Roy to make sure it was okay, apparently receiving an answer of, “Yeah, whatever,” then presenting graduation gifts ranging from $20 to $400 to seniors who had exhausted their eligibility. It would seem safe to assume that the largesse, such as it was, didn’t go to those Jayhawks who were headed from Lawrence straight to the NBA. Those guys, otherwise known as ‘the stars’ had already signed with agents and already acquired the requisite SUVs and jewelry and would have only paid attention had an alumnus offered them twenty thousand rather than a measly twenty bucks. The paucity of zeros would have caused those guys to toss the offerings back into the face of the presenter; plus, I doubt many of those were planning on attending graduation ceremonies, anyway. The small-potatoes nature of the gifts would seem to indicate they were going to what is known as ‘the guys at the end of the bench,’ the handful who spend their practices simulating the upcoming opponent, only see the floor during mop-up time and actually go to class, graduate and then enter a world a bit more real than that of the NBA. It was not exactly an Alabama booster buying himself a running back.

After getting a great laugh from the sanctimonious message board howling, it popped into my mind the question of just why Kansas had chosen to handle this in the manner that they did? Usually this sort of thing is relegated to a line or two in the ‘In Brief’ sections. Their administration probably didn’t put on this kind of media dog and pony show when Phog Allen retired. I suspect the answer can be found in the name of their Athletic Director, Lew Perkins.

Perkins had formerly held gainful employment as Athletic Director at Connecticut. There he had supervised the construction of a couple of pretty good basketball programs. He was also a pretty smart guy who was quick to notice that in the future the really big bucks in college athletics would come from football. He then spent a decade wheedling the CT state government for enough tax dollars to build a brand spanking new state-of-the-art football stadium [meaning lots of luxury boxes he had forgotten to include when he built UConn’s Gempel Arena. He wasn’t going to make THAT revenue-costing mistake again] and sufficient seed money to grow a respectable Division I-A football program. After a few false starts and quite a bit of grumbling from New Haven as to whether this constituted a legitimate use of tax dollars, Perkins got his loot and stadium. Then something happened.

It finally occurred to Perkins that the Dwarf Dyke of Miami might not have been altogether truthful as she kept earnestly assuring him and UConn’s other brass that she had no intention of leaving the Big East and neutering both the conference’s football viability and UConn’s grandiose dreams of football glory and profit. There was trouble coming and it did.

The first lawsuit had barely been filed when Perkins surveyed the landscape and with visions of ‘taxpayer boondoggle’ being attached to his hard-earned stadium, reacted much like George Costanza yelling “fire” and racing for the nearest escape, trampling small children and shoving little old ladies on walkers out of the way.  Perkins ran away, not stopping until he had put half the North American landmass between him and the looming disaster in New England. Kansas was where he finally stopped running and Perkins set up shop at KU, where he could be relatively assured that his conference was not going to dissolve underneath him. It might have been tough for UConn, but at least he landed on his feet. Since the Big East was turned into the Li’l E, AD’s at what are now known as Those Left Behind have been treating the league the way rats treat a sinking ship; Perkins was the first out the door.

Perkins had barely enough time to outfit his new office, unpack all of those framed newspaper articles describing him as a ‘visionary’ [he certainly was!] and exclaim, “Whew, that was a close one!” when he started glancing around his new domain and noticing that he had a fairly popular basketball coach around. It was now time to define the relationship between Athletic Director and coach. There are a couple of models.

A ‘good relationship’ between a coach and an Athletic Director generally comes from one having hired the other. An excellent example of this is Duke’s ‘Lackey’ Joe Alleva. Lackey Joe lucked into his job at Methodist Flats one day when Nan, after waiting for the retinal security scan to be disengaged, entered the Fortress of Solitude, bowed down at the foot of the throne, kissed Coach K’s championship ring and asked him to name his boss. In return for a promise to vote against any damfool expansion, Coach K did, deciding the most qualified candidate was the guy whose chief responsibilities had been to make sure there were ample supplies of Grecian on hand and to keep a lustrous sheen on the Royal Beemer.

Then there are the ‘working relationships.’ This happens when an AD is hired at a place where in residence is a coaching legend. The new guy understands his place in the pecking order and decides that continued generous contributions to the 401K involve keeping incumbent legend happy. This is the case at Virginia Tech, where a ‘working relationship’ mostly involves Frank telling jimmy, “I’m too busy to talk to you now but if you call my secretary to make an appointment I’m sure she can fit you in for a few minutes sometime during the next few weeks. In the meantime, how about re-seating Lane to bring in a boatload of new cash because, let’s face it, you can’t expect me to keep working for this chump change. Also, I want a huge OOC annual rivalry along the lines of Southern Cal- Notre Dame that will generate huge interest, somebody like East Carolina. Get right on that will you? Talk to you later.” The nature of this ‘working relationship’ might have not been clear to jimmy at first, but it was explained to him in detail with no room for interpretation shortly after the end of the 2000 football season.

The relationship between Perkins and Roy never quite fit into either of the above categories. After all, the CT papers had described Perkins as a ‘genius’ for seeing the future of football, at least until Lew skipped out on them during their darkest hour. Perkins was used to running things. Roy, on the other hand, was accustomed to having an AD around of the jimmy type, a guy who would do what he was told. That had been the case with the previous KU AD, but he was no longer around after deciding that he was finally going to do something about competing with that football JUCO Jubilee Bill Snyder was running over at Kansas State.

The job had been botched to a degree one generally associates in these parts with the overall ineptness of DickieB or Craig “Darn it, Tubby promised” Littlepage sitting around the posh conference room at Grandover telling Little Johnny Swofford and the rest of the ACC ADs, “Of course my President will support any expansion that screws Tech. You have my word on it.” The general housecleaning at Kansas following the failed football experiment had opened the escape hatch for Perkins.

It would seem that Roy and Perkins had difficulty establishing exactly who was in charge of things at Kansas. There had been a Lawrence newspaper column shortly after Perkins took over claiming that Roy wasn’t pleased with what had happened to his previous boss and he and the new guy were not getting along at all. It alerted its readers not to be surprised if Roy checked out of town and state at the end of the year. This was considered a preposterous notion by the Jayhawk variety of message board loon who loudly claimed that Roy would never leave. Loons are loons.

All of this was taking place around the time Rashad was telling DickieB at Carolina that the whole Matt thing wasn’t working out and ordering him to change coaches. The next thing you know, Roy is Savior Roy and cutting down the nets at a Final Four. Perkins, on the other hand, became known as the guy who ran off a championship coach, perhaps not the best position for an AD to occupy.

There are cynics who might suggest that the huge media show put on by Kansas in announcing it was placing itself on probation was an attempt by Perkins to re-position himself from the dunderhead who couldn’t hold on to a great coach to the white knight who came in and cleaned up the mess left by Cheating Roy. You are reading the musings of one of them. Perhaps those finely tuned instincts for self-preservation possessed by Perkins have kicked in again.

Bear in mind when reading anything that comes out of Kansas that it is coming from Lew Perkins. This is the guy who, when the going got tough at UConn, promptly ran away, leaving the Huskies in the lurch. He is perhaps not the most trustworthy guy around.

Roy broke the rules at Kansas, a situation that will likely create much amusement in the coming days as he and DickieB swear on a stack of UNC Faculty manifestos that he really didn’t mean to and is an all-around swell guy. I suspect the sales of brooms and rugs along Franklin Street have been brisk. Few of the true believers will be bothered at Carolina. Give them a national championship and they wouldn’t care if Roy had gone with Perry and Dick and murdered the Cutlers.

I get the feeling that Roy and Lew won’t be exchanging Christmas cards. The Great One down in the basement of Dean’s Dome probably isn’t too thrilled with his alma mater these days, either. Those watching with delight are also getting another look at the entertaining spectacle of DickieB standing in front of cameras with his usual befuddled look on his face. All things considered, you do have to tip your hat to Lewfreid and Roy for attempting to liven up the Dead Zone.

Jim Alderson

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