Kansas will find another good choice for athletic director

Kansas University didn’t get its first choice for athletic director, but you can remain confident the school will land a quality person with high integrity and deeply rooted NCAA connections to handle conference realignment issues when they inevitably resurface.

But first, the unrealistic clauses — you can only use a private plane under these specific circumstances; you must detail every small gift given you, etc., — that were in the first employment agreement shown to Bubba Cunningham must be softened. You can’t legislate morality, and excessive effort to ensure there will be no more scandals runs the risk of insulting the integrity of any candidate worthy of an offer.

That hurdle easily can be cleared, and once it is, Kansas still offers an elite job.

Look at its perks:

• Working closely with Bill Self, a scary bright guy who not only leaves everybody he talks to feeling better about themselves, but also goes out of his way to help the football program grow.

• Getting credit, deserved or not, for cleaning up a department socked by scandal.

• Inheriting a program that already has upgraded facilities.

• Having the opportunity to do what’s necessary to help the women’s basketball program double its attendance.

Sure, it has its challenges. Particularly without a Big 12-caliber quarterback, football doesn’t look like a quick fix. Coach Turner Gill’s $2 annual million salary, guaranteed for four more years, will seem even bigger if attendance falls before winning seasons return.

Still, it’s a premium job and the phones of those on the search committee will light up in the coming month or so, before a permanent replacement for Lew Perkins is named. So if it’s such a great job, why didn’t Bubba Cunningham take it?

Here’s what happened:

Cunningham and his wife Tina were in Lawrence for the Old-Fashioned Christmas Parade on Dec. 4 and they had an enjoyable dinner that evening. Bubba shared that Lawrence made a great impression on Tina. Who wouldn’t love a lit-up Mass Street during the holidays?

KU chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little completed interviews with Cunningham and Notre Dame AD Bill Scholl and agreed with the search committee’s recommendation that Cunningham was the clear-cut first choice. In a phone conversation with Cunningham, believed to be on Friday, Dec. 10, the chancellor offered him the job. Before coming to Lawrence to finalize the deal Tuesday, Cunningham told his staff at Tulsa he was going to take the job at Kansas.

A salary figure was agreed upon, but when Cunningham absorbed all the unrealistic clauses in the employment agreement unique to Kansas, he uttered the words “I can’t sign this” on Tuesday. He was told the language could be changed. Once he left town without signing, he was vulnerable.

The Cunninghams have four children and moves are never easy on families. That’s the reason Cunningham gave the chancellor for rejecting the offer. Tulsa University president Steadman Upham, with whom Cunningham is close, offered him a new contract and in so doing trusted his integrity enough to leave out clauses detailing what, how and with whom he could and couldn’t do things.