The following announcement was shared with donors and fans of Kansas Athletics on October 21.
Kansas Athletics announced today that an agreement has been made with the University of Missouri to reignite the Border Showdown rivalry that will feature six men’s basketball games, with the first matchup slated for next season on December 12, 2020 at Sprint Center in Kansas City. Until 2012, the Border Showdown was known as the longest continuous rivalry west of the Mississippi River.
“One of the best aspects of college athletics is rivalries, and we are thrilled that our fans and student-athletes will get to experience this Border Showdown rivalry once-again,” said Director of Athletics Jeff Long. “We have quietly sought input from fans and supporters on the renewal of this series and we believe the overriding sentiments are that this historic rivalry should resume. While this series does not include each of our sports teams competing in the Border Showdown at this stage, we feel this is the first step to expanding it in the future. We are excited for this rivalry to begin anew next year and believe it will be great for all fans of college basketball.”
The Kansas-Missouri basketball series dates back to 1907, when the Jayhawks and Tigers met on back-to-back days in Lawrence on March 11-12, both Missouri wins. Those contests were the first of 269 meetings between the border rivals over the next 105 years, with the Jayhawks building a 174-95 edge in the all-time series. Kansas is 89-33 at home vs. Missouri, including 42-14 in Allen Fieldhouse, 65-53 in Columbia and the series is tied at 4-4 in Mizzou Arena.
The plaza in front of Wescoe Hall has been lovingly referred to as Wescoe Beach for decades. This year, a group of KU students are making a splash with a proposal to turn the classic building into a real beach party with a rooftop pool.
The concept of the #WescoeRooftopPool began as a humorous crusade on Twitter, which continues to grow with some big names jumping in on the fun, including Athletics Director Jeff Long and former NBA player Scot Pollard, d’97.
“@StudentsofKU had been tweeting about it for a while and made a Photoshop version of it,” says Jordan Yarnell, an architecture senior from Elgin, Illinois. “Someone commented ‘let the architecture students handle this’ so we did. The three of us started to joke about it and then we realized it would be fun and pretty easy to do.”
Yarnell teamed up with fellow architecture students Jordan Vonderbrink, of Eudora, and Aaron Michalicek, of St. Louis, to create the designs. The results are a sight to see:
As fun as it is to dream, it’s worth asking: Could this really happen?
“Short answer is no,” Yarnell says. “We don’t know the structural makeup of Wescoe for what really has to be done. To add 200 thousand gallons of water, another whole floor, a deck, a lot more people, and more concrete, that’s a lot of work.”
Don’t tell Jeff Long, as he appears to be all in. Long has certainly leaned into the joke, teasing the public with promises we don’t exactly expect to come true.
Thousands of Jayhawks made the trip to Corinth Square to celebrate a new school year and football season at the 14th annual KU Kickoff, presented by the KU Alumni Association and Kansas Athletics.
Brian Hanni, the voice of the Jayhawks, hosted the event. KU Alumni Association president Heath Peterson, Chancellor Doug Girod, athletics director Jeff Long and head football coach Les Miles all spoke to the Kansas City crowd, thanking them for their continued support of the University and inviting them to David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium for the 2019 football season, beginning with Indiana State on Aug. 31.
The following announcement was shared by KU Athletics today regarding the future of KU Football Head Coach David Beaty.
David Beaty will not be retained as Head Football Coach at the University of Kansas at the conclusion of the season, KU Athletics Director Jeff Long announced today.
“After a thorough evaluation of the program, I believe that new leadership is necessary for our football team to move forward and compete at the highest level of the Big 12 Conference,” Long said. “I know that Coach Beaty cares deeply about his players, and I respect that. The student-athletes on this team have continued to play hard – and I am confident they will do that for the rest of the season.”
Beaty has coached the Jayhawks for three-plus seasons, amassing a 6-39 record, 2-31 in Big 12 Conference play. He will continue to coach the team until the regular season concludes against Texas on Friday, November 23. He signed a five-year contract in December 2014, which was extended two years (through 2021) in December 2016.
Long informed Beaty of his decision Sunday and met with the football team directly afterwards. “The search for a new head coach will begin immediately,” he said.
Beaty’s contract calls for him to be paid $3 million (payable in six equal payments) in the event of termination without cause; Long said Kansas will fulfill the terms of that contract.
Jeff Long will conduct a press conference at 6 p.m. this evening in Hadl Auditorium in the Wagnon Student-Athlete Center, adjacent to the Allen Fieldhouse Parking Garage. The press conference will be streamed and is available here:
University of Kansas Director of Athletics Jeff Long sent the following message to KU fans and season ticket holders Thursday, August 30.
Greetings Jayhawks and Rock Chalk!
I am thrilled to address you for the first time as the Director of Athletics at the University of Kansas. Over these first few weeks I have experienced firsthand the tremendous spirit and passion KU alumni, faculty, staff and students have for this great University. Our history and tradition truly make this institution special.
As we enter the academic and competitive year, our coaches, student-athletes and staff are focused on competition – competition in the classroom, competition in their athletic pursuits and competition to engage in and make a positive impact in our communities. It is our expectation that we will continue to represent the flagship institution of KANSAS in a manner in which Jayhawks around the world will be even more proud.
Our number one priority will be the well-being of our 460-plus student-athletes and their individual student-athlete experience. We have the privilege and duty to educate these young minds, assist in their maturity, sharpen their athletic skills and produce proud University of Kansas graduates.
We have begun the process of identifying any and all obstacles that may exist that would prevent us from providing an amazing student-athlete experience. Two areas that directly impact this experience are revenue production and facility enhancements. Over the next few months we will engage in deep conversations about growing our membership in the Williams Education Fund and establishing a clear vision for our capital improvements, including David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium, Allen Fieldhouse and Hoglund Ballpark.
You can make an immediate impact on the student-athlete experience by coming to David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium this fall to cheer on the crimson and blue. The young men on this team are dedicated to competing for KANSAS. Like you, they are Jayhawks; they love representing KANSAS and they need your support.
For those who have purchased season tickets, thank you. For those who haven’t, please consider helping us break the cycle and join us this Saturday and all season long.
The University of Kansas boasts some 350,000 alumni worldwide. As we tour the state and travel nationally I hope to meet many of you. Over the last month I have learned what you already know: This is a very special place, and I am grateful for the opportunity to represent you as the Director of Athletics at the University of Kansas!
Jeff Long vividly recalls the moment he decided he wanted to join KU as the next athletics director. It wasn’t about the chance to renovate a football program, or wins and losses, dollars and cents, academic reputation or even quality of life in Lawrence.
All played a factor, but only came into play after he’d met two men dispatched to make KU’s pitch: A. Drue Jennings, d’68, l’72, who chaired the search process, and Vice Chancellor Reggie Robinson, c’80, l’87, who served as Chancellor Doug Girod’s representative.
“From the moment I met them, I knew I was meeting with two men who have deep love for Kansas, deep love for this University, and it had an immediate impact on me,” Long said at his July 11 introductory news conference. “I thought, you know what, if these are the type of people who are at Kansas, then this is the kind of place I want to be.”
Jennings, former chairman and CEO of Kansas City Power & Light, said at Long’s news conference that he learned early on in the search that “this chancellor means business. As pleasant and human as he may appear, which he is, he does indeed mean business.” Which is exactly the signal that Girod sent when he told the University community—on the day he relieved Sheahon Zenger, PhD’96, of his duties—that he’d already asked Jennings to lead the search for Zenger’s replacement.
He means business.
Filling the void
Even a cursory summary of Jennings’ honors and volunteer service to the University and charitable organizations throughout Kansas City would run for pages. Suffice, then, to note that when Jennings was awarded what was then the University and Alumni Association’s highest honor, the Distinguished Service Citation, in 1999, he had yet to lead even a single prominent leadership search on KU’s behalf.
Four years later, in 2003, Chancellor Robert E. Hemenway asked Jennings to fill a leadership void and step in as interim athletics director, and Jennings promptly hired Bill Self to coach men’s basketball. “I don’t think they had a search when they hired me,” Self says. “Just Drue.”
When Hemenway announced his retirement, the Kansas Board of Regents in 2008 asked Jennings to lead the search for KU’s next chancellor, which culminated in the hiring of Bernadette Gray-Little. And now he’s done it yet again, responding to Girod’s call to find the next leader of Kansas Athletics.
“He literally dropped everything,” Girod said.
So who is this Jayhawk behind the scenes, and why have the Regents and University repeatedly turned to him in times of transition?
Robinson cites Jennings’ “unwavering steadiness.” Deputy Athletics Director Sean Lester, who served as interim director until Long’s hiring, says Jennings delivers “instant integrity, instant command, instant credibility.”
Says Robinson, “We trust not only his talent and his expertise, but also the way that his heart is leading him in a way that aims to do what’s best for the University. He clearly, to the benefit of whatever process he’s leading, conveys this sense of real gravitas to candidates we’re talking to. They know that they’re meeting with somebody of great substance, and that helps us. You look at the kind of people KU tries to attract, having somebody like Drue sit on our side of the table, with all of the capacity and gravitas that he brings, it’s hard to beat.”
Rising through the ranks
After graduating from Argentine High School, Jennings came to KU on a football scholarship, and eventually moved back to Kansas City to put his education degree to work as a teacher at Wyandotte High School. He returned to KU for law school, and in 1974 joined KCP&L as an attorney, advancing through the ranks to become CEO in 1988 and chairman of the board in 1991. After his retirement from KCP&L, Jennings was named senior counsel at the Kansas City law firm Polsinelli, from which he has since retired.
His service to KU has included five years on the Alumni Association’s Board of Directors; three years as chair of the KU Medical Advancement Board, of which he was a founding member; and four years as chair of the KU Endowment board, which Jennings continues to serve as a trustee.
“I tend to trust my gut”
Jennings concedes that technology has, in some respects, changed the nature of executive searches: “In today’s world of information access, you can find out amazing things about people. It doesn’t matter who they are. And, frankly, anyone who wants to do that type of exploring can do it.”
But, after the “measurable and visible data about the person and their life” have been gathered and closely studied, the next step is decidedly old school.
“Meet them,” Jennings says. “There’s nothing quite like looking into the eyes, visiting and reading the body language of a person. And that’s been true my entire life. I tend to trust my gut, trust my instincts.”
A solid person
As he tried to exit the Lied Center Pavilion and catch a flight for a recruiting trip, Self found himself swarmed by reporters, friends and colleagues; he was reluctant to pause even for a second to answer any more questions, but stopped and smiled when told the subject of this final query: For Drue Jennings, Bill Self has all the time in the world.
“The thing with Drue is, he knows this place probably about as well as anybody over the last four or five decades,” Self said. “I think he understands the business aspect of it, and he certainly understands the athlete experience aspect of it. And, to me, what Drue brings to the table is, he’s been very successful in his professional life, but he’s also a really solid person who would value a lot of his own characteristics.”
Ah, so there it is, the secret to Jennings’ search successes: Just find somebody like himself. Easier said than done, but a worthy goal regardless. Because he means business.
The University of Kansas officially introduced Jeff Long, the university’s new director of athletics, at a news conference July 11 in the Lied Center Pavilion.
The news conference began with opening remarks by Drue Jennings, who headed the university’s search process, as well as Chancellor Douglas A. Girod and Long. After that, the three sat together for a Q&A period with members of the media.
Long was announced as the university’s new director of athletics July 5. He will begin his role August 1.
University of Kansas Chancellor Douglas A. Girod today named Jeff Long as the university’s new director of athletics.
Long brings more than two decades of experience in athletic administration at the Division I level, most recently at the University of Arkansas, where he led a program comprising 19 sports and 460 student-athletes from 2008 through 2017. During that time, he transformed Arkansas’ athletics department into one of the most successful in the country and established himself as a national leader within intercollegiate athletics.
Long will be officially introduced at a news conference Wednesday, July 11, in Lawrence at a time and location to be determined. He will start his role Aug. 1.
“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. “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.”
During Long’s tenure, Arkansas 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 and 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 its highest program average ever.
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.
Prior to leading Arkansas, Long served as athletics director at the University of Pittsburgh. Additionally, he has held administrative roles at the University of Oklahoma, University of Michigan, Virginia Tech University, Eastern Kentucky University and Rice University. He held coaching staff positions at Duke University, the University of Michigan and North Carolina State University. 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, Atlantic Coast and SEC.
“My family and I are thrilled to join Chancellor Girod’s leadership team at the University of Kansas,” Long said. “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 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 said. “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.”
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.
An Ohio native, Long and his wife, Fanny, have two daughters, Stephanie and Christina.
Read more, including what others are saying about the selection of Jeff Long.