Jeff Long Steps Down as Kansas AD After Les Miles' Departure

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 10, 2021

New Kansas athletic director Jeff Long speaks during a news conference in Lawrence, Kan., Wednesday, July 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

The University of Kansas announced Wednesday athletic director Jeff Long has stepped down from his position.

"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," Chancellor Douglas A. Girod said in a statement.

Long also addressed his decision:

"Last night, Chancellor Girod and I met and both agreed that it was in the best interest of our student-athletes and program for me to step down as of today. 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. I have done everything in my control to move Kansas Athletics forward in a positive manner, that’s what makes this most difficult."

Girod said Kurt Watson will serve as the interim athletic director:

"We will immediately begin our search for a new athletics director. I will lead the process with the assistance of a search firm and four alumni advisors, each of whom have experience in collegiate athletics: Linda Ellis Sims, Ray Evans, John Ballard and Wayne Simien. Each of these Jayhawks will bring tremendous expertise and passion to the search, and I know their counsel will benefit the process. We will move quickly but judiciously, and my hope is to have a new athletics director in place within the next few weeks.

"Once a new athletics director is in place, that individual will determine next steps related to our football coach position. To assist the new athletics director make that determination once he or she arrives, I am assembling a committee of advisors who will be ready to help when called upon."

Jayhawks basketball legend Danny Manning expressed a desire to The Athletic's CJ Moore to succeed Long.

Under the separation agreement Kansas signed with Long, he will collect his usual salary through the end of March and receive a $1.4 million payout.

Andy Staples @Andy_Staples

Kansas will pay fired athletic director Jeff Long $1.375 million to not work. https://t.co/86BnoqrRGo

This move comes two days after the school and head football coach Les Miles mutually agreed to part ways.

Kenny Jacoby, Nancy Armour and Jessica Luther of USA Today reported last week that LSU investigated allegations of sexual harassment by Miles toward female students in 2013 when he was the Tigers head coach.

The investigation found Miles acted inappropriately, and he was reprimanded and banned from contacting or spending time alone with female students. Kansas placed Miles on administrative leave in the wake of the USA Today report.

Long addressed Miles' departure Tuesday in a press conference that may have done more harm than good to his job security. He told reporters he asked Miles before hiring him in 2018 whether he had done anything in the past that would reflect poorly on Kansas, and the former coach responded, "No."

Long said Tuesday it was "debatable whether that was a lie."

Beyond the scrutiny directed toward that hiring process, some questioned whether Long should be leading the search for a new coach:

Mike Vernon @M_Vernon

Jeff Long speaking @mellinger: you're Arkansas hires weren't succesfull Long: in what regard? Mellinger: ...... on the field

Stewart Mandel @slmandel

Jeff Long insists he will be leading the coaching search. Took exception to a reporter's question that characterized his Arkansas hires (Petrino, Bielema) as not having had "success," and pointed to his long history working in college football.

During his tenure, the crown jewel of the athletic department has been mired in its own controversy. Kansas men's basketball was part of the FBI's investigation into corruption in college basketball. A former Adidas employee testified to paying representatives for Billy Preston and Silvio De Sousa as a way to get them to sign with the school.

The Jayhawks face five Level I violations, which the NCAA described as "egregious" last May. The case is in the hands of the Independent Accountability Resolution Process.

Long was also in charge when the university fired Miles' predecessor, David Beaty. Beaty filed suit against Kansas, alleging the school attempted to fire him with cause by claiming the football program was potentially guilty of NCAA violations.

The sides reached a $2.6 million settlement last June.