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Jeff Long steps down as athletic director at Kansas

News comes 2 days after Les Miles' firing
Jeff Long
Posted at 3:05 PM, Mar 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-10 17:20:35-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jeff Long is no longer the athletic director at the University of Kansas.

Long said he made a decision “ in the best interest of our student-athletes and program for me to step down” after meeting Tuesday night with KU Chancellor Doug Girod, according to astatement posted to the KU athletics website.

“It is not easy, but I leave KU with a heavy heart and profound confidence that I have always acted in the best interests of Kansas Athletics,” Long said. “I have done everything in my control to move Kansas Athletics forward in a positive manner, that’s what makes this most difficult.”

Girod confirmed that Long informed him of the decision to step down during a meeting Tuesday, according to his own statement that was posted online.

“Jeff and I spoke at length last night, and while I know he would have loved to stay here many more years, I respect his selfless decision to step down so that we can move Kansas Athletics in a different direction,” Girod said.

Brett McMurphy of Stadium Network broke the news Wednesday on Twitter that Long was no longer the AD. The Associated Press later confirmed Long's ouster before the dueling statements went online.

The news comes two days after KU fired football coach Les Miles.

Long insisted he knew nothing about allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct toward female student employees against Miles during his tenure at LSU, reports that ultimately led Miles and KU to "part ways" on Monday.

Long said Tuesday that he was “going to take my time ... to find a great leader for our football program,” but he won’t get the chance.

He was hired in July 2018 to much fanfare.

The former chairman of the College Football Playoff Committee, Long brought a strong background as a football athletic administrator to the job and he understood his primary mission to be turning the Jayhawks around on the gridiron.

He signed a five-year deal worth $1.5 million annually, tied for the third-highest salary among ADs nationally at the time, to replace Sheahon Zenger, who was fired in May 2018.

Long said he was “at peace with this decision” and thank Girod for the opportunity with the Jayhawks.

Girod reciprocated that appreciation.

“I want to wholeheartedly thank Jeff for his service to KU,” the chancellor said. “When we hired Jeff, he was charged with modernizing our athletics department and ensuring our coaches and student-athletes continue to have the resources they need to succeed. This was no easy task, and he far exceeded our expectations."

Ahead of the Big 12 Men's Basketball Tournament, which tipped off Wednesday at the T-Mobile Center in downtown Kansas City, Bill Self issued a statement on Long's departure.

This has certainly been a challenging time for all of us who love KU and I recognize that change can be difficult. Jeff and I enjoyed a good working relationship and I wish him well in all of his future endeavors.

I have the utmost trust and respect for Chancellor Girod and I am confident that he will find us a tremendous new leader of our athletics program. I look forward to what the future holds in store for Kansas Athletics.
Bill Self, Kansas men's basketball coach

Kurt Watson will serve as interim athletic director as the search for Long’s replacement — and Miles’ successor — gets underway.

Girod said he will lead the process along with four alumni advisers — including former KU basketball star and Leavenworth native Wayne Simien, Linda Ellis Sims, Ray Evans and John Ballard. Kansas also will hire a search firm to assist with the hiring process.

After the 2018 season, Long fired David Beaty and hired longtime friend Les Miles, a former BCS championship coach at LSU, as a splashy hire.

Miles was fired Monday after going 3-18 overall in two seasons with Kansas after details of a sexual harassment investigation involving female student employees at LSU surfaced last week.

“I know the past week has been challenging for those of us who love Kansas Athletics, but I am heartened by the passion of our university community,” Girod said.

The firing of Miles naturally led to questions about Long’s job security, which he addressed Tuesday during a press conference about Miles’ departure.

“I focus on these student-athletes,” Long said. “I got into intercollegiate athletics for what athletics did for me. I know how important this experience as a football student-athlete or a rower or a tennis player is, so really my focus is on them. I use them to guide me in making my decisions and I have continued to work in their best interests, so that’s the way I look at that and understand the question.”

Long said he hoped to speak with Jayhawks athletics’ prominent backers soon to shore up support. He lauded his efforts to build up infrastructure and its impact on recruiting, noting that he felt the football program — despite going 0-9 last fall — had made progress during his tenure.

“I’m happy to have those conversations with them,” Long said of KU’s donors. “Certainly, we need their support more than ever. This is not a change that we obviously anticipated.”