Kansas AD Jeff Long fired after Les Miles debacle

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Kansas has fired athletic director Jeff Long less than two days after mutually parting with Les Miles amid sexual misconduct allegations dating to the football coach’s time at LSU, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Kurt Watson will serve as the interim athletic director as the school begins searching for both a new AD and new football coach, according to the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because the school had yet to announce the firing.


Long’s dismissal came one day after he vowed to lead the search for Miles’s successor, a move that drew significant backlash from Kansas alumni. It was Long who had hired Miles, his friend of more than 30 years, despite questions that ultimately led to his firing Monday night.

The move also comes as the Jayhawks’ storied men’s basketball program, which is awaiting the decision of an independent arbitrator on what could be severe NCAA sanctions for rules violations, prepares to open the Big 12 Tournament on Thursday with the NCAA Tournament on tap next week.

“You know, I focus on these student-athletes,” Long said Tuesday. “I got into these intercollegiate athletics for what they did for me. I know how important this experience is for a football player or a rower or a tennis player. … I have continued to work in their best interests. That’s the way I look at that.”

One day later, Long was fired from his second consecutive job leading a Division I athletic department. He was let go by Arkansas in 2017 after a tenure that included the scandal surrounding the firing of football coach Bobby Petrino.

Long was hired by Kansas to help rebuild a football program mired firmly in the Big 12 cellar. His charge was to find a coach who could take the Jayhawks back to relevance while also persuading donors to open their checkbooks in support of upgrades to the practice facility and aging Memorial Stadium.

Instead, his roughly three-year tenure was filled with bumbling missteps.

After firing former football coach David Beaty, Long informed him that it would be “for cause” due to a relatively minor NCAA investigation into a non-coaching staff member and that his $3 million buyout would be withheld. A 15 month-long court case followed, embarrassing the university that wound up paying $500,000 in legal fees before ultimately agreeing with Beaty on a $2.55 million settlement.

Long also was criticized in 2019 for bringing Snoop Dogg to Late Night in the Phog, the annual kickoff to basketball practice. The rapper’s performance included four scantily dressed dancers doing routines on stripper poles and the firing of fake $100 bills into the crowd, an apparently flippant reference to the NCAA’s investigation into allegations that Kansas basketball coaches funneled money through an Adidas rep to potential players.

“I take full responsibility for not understanding what acrobatic dancers are in today’s entertainment world,” Long said in response to the backlash, “and offer my personal apology to anyone who was offended.”

But the biggest embarrassment for Long, whose five-year deal paid him $1.5 million annually, came on the football field, where the hiring of Miles resulted in just three wins over two seasons and ended in disaster.

After firing Beaty, Long claimed to have cast a wide net in search of a replacement, even though he later admitted in a deposition that Kansas had hired a documentary film crew to shoot Miles before he had been hired.

Last week, LSU released a pair of reviews conducted by separate law firms into allegations Miles had made sexual advances toward two female members of the program while coaching the Tigers. Miles was placed on administrative leave by Kansas, and the two sides agreed to a $2 million settlement to terminate the remaining years on his contract.

Long said a series of background checks took place before the Jayhawks hired Miles in 2018, and that nobody within the LSU athletic department raised any red flags. Asked why he was unaware of the allegations against a friend of his dating to their days at Michigan in the late 1980s, Long offered little explanation.


“We ran multiple background checks,” he said. “I also asked Coach Miles directly during the interview process whether there was anything in his past that could potentially embarrass the university, himself or the program and he said, ‘No.’”

“I think much is played about our friendship,” Long added. “It’s a friendship that was certainly not the reason why we were hiring him to be the head coach. He was an established head coach, he was an incredible recruiter.”

What direction the Kansas athletic department goes next is unclear.

It already was planning to hire a search firm to assist in finding a new football coach, but chancellor Douglas Girod may want to ensure the next athletic director is in place before focusing on candidates. And with spring football on the horizon, offensive coordinator Mike DeBord is serving as the acting coach.

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