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Perkins' sudden retirement could tarnish legacy

On Tuesday, Kansas announced that athletic director Lew Perkins would be calling it a day a year early. Instead of retiring in September of 2011 -- after the 2010-11 football and basketball seasons had totally run their course -- Perkins would be retiring immediately. At the time, neither Perkins nor Kansas chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little made themselves available to reporters, leaving pretty much everyone wondering the same thing: Why?

The answer would seem to be obvious. Kansas spent most of its offseason looking into a rather disastrous ticket scandal. According to an internal investigation and an ongoing federal probe, Kansas employees illegally stole and sold as much as $3 million worth of tickets off the books. Perkins wasn't implicated, which is, um, good. But the thefts did happen on his watch, and Perkins called the news the most embarrassing episode of his long and otherwise successful career.

Put all that together, and the answer to "why?" seems pretty easy to deduce.

Which is probably why Gray-Little spoke with the Associated Press today. She didn't really answer the question, but she did tell the AP that the federal probe and ticket scandal had nothing to do with why Perkins retired a year early. This is pretty much all we got:

The chancellor at the University of Kansas says the abrupt retirement of athletic director Lew Perkins was not connected with a federal investigation into a ticket scam.

That's not really much to go off, and most cynics probably won't believe it, but it's better than no answer at all, I guess.

Whatever the reason, the quick, surprising retirement is an unfortunate way for Perkins to end his career. In toto, Perkins' tenure at Kansas was wildly successful. He retained Bill Self when other programs -- including the ultra-rich, T. Boone Pickens-backed Oklahoma State Cowboys -- were moving in for the poach. He expanded the Kansas athletics budget from $27 million to $55 million during his time at the school. He built new athletics facilities. He oversaw a resurgent football program and then handled that resurgent program's coach -- remember the Mark Mangino meltdown? -- in commanding fashion.

And, oh yeah, the Jayhawks won a national title on his watch. There's that, too.

Because of the sudden retirement, and the ticket scandal, and whatever relation those two have to each other, Perkins will be remembered for far more than his successes. That's only fair. Still, Kansas fans would probably do well to remember Perkins' better moments, too. The good times were far more common than the bad.