Jeff Long hired as KU’s new athletic director

New AD agrees to 5-year contract, worth $1.5 million per year

FILE - In this Sept. 15, 2014, file photo, former University of Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long speaks during a news conference in Little Rock, Ark. Long was named the new athletic director at the University of Kansas, on July 5, 2018. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston, File)

The search for the next athletic director at the University of Kansas is over.

KU Chancellor Douglas Girod officially named former Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long to the position on Thursday afternoon, a day after Long signed a five-year contract.

Long, 58, brings more than two decades of experience in athletic administration at the Division I level, most recently at Arkansas, where he led a program comprising 19 sports and 460 student-athletes from 2008 through 2017, before the university fired him last November.

Long will be officially introduced in Lawrence at a news conference on Wednesday, at a time and location to be determined. He will start his role Aug. 1.

Long replaces former KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger, whom Girod fired in May.

“Jeff Long has tremendous leadership and administrative experience in major college athletics, and he is a terrific fit for Kansas Athletics as we work to ensure our student-athletes succeed on the field and in the classroom,” Girod said in a KU news release. “Those who know him describe him as a man of character who cares deeply about higher education and the student-athletes he serves. For all these reasons, we are thrilled to welcome him to the University of Kansas.”

Long’s contract with Kansas Athletics will pay him $1.5 million per year for five years. Of that amount, $1.3 million is paid by private funds from Kansas Athletics Inc., with the remaining $200,000 paid by the university.

According to a recently published list of salaries for Big 12 athletic directors from Spencer Fane LLP, Long’s contract would pay him more than Texas Tech’s Kirby Hocutt, who made $1.45 million for the 2017-18 academic year — the highest salary in the conference among public institutions for that academic year (salaries for TCU and Baylor were not available). Long’s deal is currently the second-largest contract for an athletic director at a public Big 12 institution, behind the $1.55 million-per-year extension to which Oklahoma’s Joe Castiglione agreed this past May.

“My family and I are thrilled to join Chancellor Girod’s leadership team at the University of Kansas,” Long stated in the release. “It was clear from the moment I met with the chancellor and his search committee members, they have a deep love for the university and understand and appreciate the positive role intercollegiate athletics plays in the university community. Through our conversations, it became evident we share a common belief that the student-athlete experience prepares young people for the challenges they will face throughout life. I am excited to work with the student-athletes, coaches, staff, the community of Lawrence and the incredible fan base to build on past success and create a shared vision for the future of Kansas Athletics.”

Long’s contract states: “Should the university be placed under any federal, state, NCAA, or conference investigation leading to restrictions or probation for its football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball or women’s volleyball athletic programs for matters occurring prior to (Aug. 1, Long’s start date), the term of the contract shall be extended equal to the length of the penalties.”

Should Long opt to terminate the contract before it expires, terms state the buy-out obligations that Long would be responsible for paying to the university: $3 million before the start of the third year; $1.5 million after the start of the third year, but before the start of the fourth; $1 million after the start of the fourth year, but before the start of the fifth.

If KU were to terminate the contract without just cause, Long would receive payment of unpaid salary and vacation pay to the date of termination, as well as release payments, payable on a monthly basis, equivalent, in sum total, to the remaining base salary guaranteed on the contract.

The contract also states if Long is terminated for any other reason — including death, disability or just cause — he would receive payment of unpaid salary and vacation pay to the date of termination and no other compensation or severance other than minimum payments (if any) required under applicable employment standards legislation.

During Long’s tenure at Arkansas, Razorbacks teams captured 34 conference championships and advanced to 139 postseason competitions, including the school’s first Bowl Championship Series appearance in football and national titles at the 2013 NCAA Men’s Indoor and 2015 NCAA Women’s Indoor Track and Field Championships, as well as the 2016 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

In 2016-17, Arkansas finished No. 20 in the Learfield Directors’ Cup, which measures universities’ success across all sports, marking the university’s eighth top-25 finish in the previous 10 years. Long also launched a $160 million renovation to Razorback Stadium. In the classroom, the Razorbacks posted a school record student-athlete GPA and exceeded the national APR multiyear rate in all 19 sports, including posting the school’s highest program average ever.

Prior to leading Arkansas, Long served as athletic director at the University of Pittsburgh. Additionally, he held administrative roles at Oklahoma, Michigan, Virginia Tech, Eastern Kentucky and Rice. He held coaching staff positions at Duke, Michigan and North Carolina State. In total, he has been an athletic director and administrator in five of the six Bowl Championship Series conferences — the Big 12, Big Ten, Big East, ACC and SEC.

Additionally, Long served as the chairman of the inaugural College Football Playoff selection committee for 2014 and 2015 and remained a member of the committee through 2017.

Long comes to KU after a seven-week search process headed by Girod and KU alumnus Drue Jennings, who served as KU’s interim director of athletics in 2003.

“We are thrilled to have someone of Jeff’s caliber joining the University of Kansas,” Jennings stated. “Jeff has a record of integrity, experience in hiring coaches, ties with other Bowl Championship Series schools, effective fundraising and a willingness to lead on national issues affecting college athletics. We can be proud that he’s joining us at KU, and we can be confident that Kansas Athletics is in good hands under his leadership.”

KU basketball coach Bill Self in a statement described Long as “among the best and most respected” athletic directors around.

“He has great experience, a great pedigree, and he knows what it takes to succeed at the highest levels,” Self said. “While I’m just getting to know Jeff, I’m impressed that he’s universally described as a high-character guy who will provide strong support for every sport across the entire athletics program. From my perspective, he’s exactly the type of leader we need. Our fans can be excited about the future of Kansas Athletics.”

Fourth-year KU football coach David Beaty tweeted out his comments on Long’s hire Thursday afternoon.

“I am excited to have Jeff Long joining the Jayhawk family,” Beaty wrote. “I have heard many wonderful things about his leadership style and I look forward to working with him.”

An Ohio native, Long and his wife, Fanny, have two daughters, Stephanie and Christina.

— Check back in for more on Long’s hiring throughout the day.


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