KU's Perkins runs up big bills on private planes

Sunday, August 15, 2010 | 8:02 p.m. CDT

LAWRENCE, Kan. — University of Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins billed the athletics department more than $150,000 for 22 flights on university-owned and leased planes from July 2008 to May 2010, far more than his counterparts at Kansas State and Missouri spent during the same period.

That doesn't include 23 other private flights he took during that time, The Kansas City Star reported in a story Sunday.

According to the newspaper, which examined Perkins' travel vouchers, the Kansas official also spent thousands of dollars on car services, rather than renting vehicles at much lower rates.

In February 2009, Perkins flew from Lawrence to Columbia by executive-style jet to attend the Kansas men's basketball game against Missouri. Meanwhile, coach Bill Self and the defending national champions rode a bus.

For that one night, Perkins spent $1,983 on the flight and $380 for ground transportation.

"In my world, time is very important," Perkins told the newspaper. "I consider my time very valuable. That's one of the reasons why we have planes, to help us get places quicker."

He earned $4.4 million last year, with bonuses, at Kansas, and charged the athletic department at least $107,000 for 22 private flights. In some cases, he flew when he could have driven in three hours or less to places such as Wichita, Hutchinson and Lincoln, Neb.

In comparison, Kansas State athletic director John Currie has taken 10 private flights costing $28,430 in his 15 months in that position.

Records show Perkins spent about $7,000 on ground transportation during the 22-month period reviewed by The Star, including $1,827 during two days in New York.

Earlier this year, Perkins took the university's jet for a 139-mile trip to Pittsburg, Kan., to attend the funeral of former Kansas State quarterback Dylan Meier, whose younger brother Kerry had just finished his career at Kansas.

Kansas State coach Bill Snyder also flew to the funeral on a university plane from Manhattan. But the big difference was that Snyder rented a car for $44 to take him from the airport to the funeral, while Perkins spent $425 for a car service.

Missouri athletic director Mike Alden said he usually uses commercial airlines or drives when he takes trips outside of Columbia. The university doesn't own a plane, and instead uses private planes provided by donors.

Alden said he uses private planes fewer than five times a year, and when he does take a donor plane to a men's basketball game, he goes only when invited on already-planned flights.

Perkins uses planes owned by Tim Fritzel, a major donor, and Ren Newcomer, both of whom give at least $50,000 a year to the Williams Educational Fund. Boosters at Kansas who donate flight hours can be reimbursed for the cost or earn priority points for their Williams Fund accounts, which helps them get good seats at Kansas athletic events.

Records show Perkins often flew on executive planes up to three times a month, and on at least five of those flights he or he and his wife were the only passengers on a six- or eight-seat plane.

Perkins' employment contract allows him to fly first-class on university business, but he rarely does so.

On one trip, he flew on US Airways for $1,883 to Phoenix for the "Fiesta Frolic," an annual golf retreat for college football coaches. For another, he flew on American Airlines for $720 from a Kansas baseball game in Raleigh, N.C., to Dallas for a Big 12 Conference meeting.

He took a university plane from Dallas to Lawrence at a cost of $3,397.

"Going commercial is an option," Perkins said. "But there's a lot of places we can't get to on commercial flights. You can miss flights, all of those things. Please understand: I don't look at it as a luxury. It's just a convenience."

The 65-year-old is scheduled to retire in September 2011. If he remains athletic director until June 30, 2011, he will receive a $600,000 retention payment.

Perkins said he likes to attend every basketball game, and during a three-week period of the 2008-09 season, he took private planes to games at Iowa State, Nebraska and Missouri.

"The team buses or drives to Iowa State, it's a five-hour drive each way," he said. "I can get in and leave right away. It definitely is, from a business standpoint, a time-saver for me."

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Kevin Eppinger August 17, 2010 | 12:49 p.m.

Funny thing...I have no problem with him wasting ku's money.

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