Matt Tait: KU maximizes reach in hiring Jeff Long as new athletic director

In this photo taken Sept. 6, 2014, former Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long walks onto the field before an NCAA college football game in Fayetteville, Ark. Long was announced as the 11th athletic director at the University of Kansas on Thursday, July 5, 2018.

The punchy, popular and somewhat impatient question floating around following Thursday’s announcement of the hiring of Jeff Long as the new athletic director at the University of Kansas was short and sweet.

Was this a good hire?

People from all walks of life will, and certainly already do, have their opinions on that. But none of them can be right, or wrong, until Long gets time to prove it.

Only then will we know whether KU chancellor Doug Girod, search committee leader Drue Jennings and Korn Ferry search consultant Jed Hughes delivered the right guy to address KU’s Superdome-sized football problem and lead Kansas into what can only be described as a potentially exciting, but also uncertain, future in college athletics.

Within minutes of KU announcing Long as the 11th AD in school history, dozens of glowing reviews about Long the administrator, Long the leader and Long the man made their way around the internet.

It’s worth remembering, however, that whenever these sorts of hires are announced, the people in charge of putting out the information are tasked with collecting the most favorable and glowing comments in an attempt to create a shiny first impression for the people digesting the news.

That’s why the powers that be at KU chose to include quotes from two of the Big 12’s most popular athletic directors, two conference commissioners and, of all people, Condoleezza Rice, who currently chairs the Commission on College Basketball, once was a member of the College Football Playoff selection committee and is a former U.S. Secretary of State.

Hearing positive comments from people of that stature makes quite an impression. But what about the people who weren’t included in the news release? What about those who once worked with or know of Long and have their own opinions about the type of athletic director KU just hired?

They seem to be impressed, too.

A handful of calls to people throughout college athletics in the hour after KU announced Long painted a picture of KU doing about as well as could be expected in hiring Long.

Instead of hiring from the mid-major level of college athletics and hoping to catch the next big thing on a list of up-and-coming athletic directors, Girod and company hired a man who has been there and done that.

Instead of reaching for the big boys only to get turned down by a powerhouse AD at a big-time university, the Jayhawks zeroed in on a man they knew was available and whose resume stacked up favorably.

Instead of putting the future of KU’s football program in the hands of someone he hoped could find his footing in time to lead Kansas out of the dumps and back to respectability, Girod hired a man who not only went to battle in the football-rich, cutthroat Southeastern Conference on a regular basis, but also a man whose experience as the first-ever chairman of the College Football Playoff selection committee put him at the type of table at which most at Kansas have only dreamed of sitting.

So right now, it’s as much the way Kansas went about finding Long as it is Long’s accomplishments that have many believing this was a good move by KU.

One Pac-12 administrator I talked to called it as good of a hire as KU could have hoped to make. Another source outside of the direct line of college athletics who worked with Long on facilities renovations at Arkansas said, “KU nailed that hire.”

The list went on and on, with half a dozen people without any stake in the matter saying they were impressed by KU’s latest move.

None of this means that Long is a home run hire. Only time will tell if that’s the case. And there’s not a ringing endorsement or a first impression out there that can change that. The man has plenty of work to do. And how well he does it will determine just how good the hire was.

But with that being true in all hires, those who are looking to judge KU solely on its ability to land a quality candidate to take on the challenge can only deem Thursday’s news as a good first step.

In naming Long the leader of its athletic department for the next five years, Kansas appears to have maximized its reach and plucked Long from the ceiling in the room it occupies.

Now it’s up to Long to help the Jayhawks bust through it.

Comments

Randy Bombardier

Good to hear. Glad to have a proven leader at the helm. My prayers were answered today. Dr. Girod is making quality decisions.

1 week, 4 days ago

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Ashwin Rao

I just started researching him, but so far I really like this hire! Great job Girod! This is definitely a step up!

1 week, 4 days ago

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DB Ashton

Brilliant hire. Sole mission: football. Modest improvement acceptable but mandatory, one shot only. Have long suggested Hawks are geographically and culturally limited, so should recruit and scheme for entertainment, as opposed to losing respectably by smaller margins. A loss, at the end of the day, is a loss. Put on a show, gamble, race, have fun, use all four downs at least inside the 50, attack on defense, be willing to give up the big play, yes on the onside kick, no to tactical punts and short field goals, steal a few big wins. If we agree that success in the traditional sense has proven to be unlikely, we need to find alternatives to motivate kids to come to play and for folks to come to watch.

1 week, 4 days ago

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Brad Avery

"Instead of hiring from the mid-major level of college athletics and hoping to catch the next big thing on a list of up-and-coming athletic directors, Girod and company hired a man who has been there and done that." Huh? This is what he has done. Long has hired three football coaches and all have been duds for one reason or another: Dave Wannstedt at Pittsburgh, Bobby Petrino and Bret Bielema at Arkansas. Why that record would have put him at top of KU's list is just another riddle for the alumni to ponder.

1 week, 4 days ago

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Dane Pratt

I wouldn’t call them duds. Have you looked at the coaching records of the three? In a combined 15 seasons the three of them accounted for 9 bowl games. Wannstedt was fired after three consecutive winning seasons. Beilema was fired after going 4-8 prior to three winning seasons and we know why Petrino was fired.

1 week, 4 days ago

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Robert Lofthouse

it is an upgrade

1 week, 4 days ago

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Robert Brock


Long is facing a breathtaking challenge: getting the KU football program to look alive. This may take years off his life.

1 week, 4 days ago

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Titus Canby

Probably 5.

1 week, 4 days ago

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Aaron Paisley

I still stand by my belief that KU is going to regret this hire whenever Long leaves KU. I don't care what his reputation is, I care about what his hires accomplished and his football hires got him fired from Arkansas. Bobby Petrino was an embarrassment off the field and had to be fired because he couldn't keep it in his pants and then lied and stole to cover up his inability to keep it in his pants.

His second football hire failed on the field winning only 27% of his SEC games and had 3 last place finishes in his division in 5 years.

There's something off in Long's ability to evaluate potential coaches given how his two football hires at Arkansas panned out and that makes me less than confident he'll nail the hire when choosing Beaty's replacement.

1 week, 4 days ago

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Jim Stauffer

Aaron,
Hindsight is 20/20. The Petrino hire was one of the best coaches in the land. Bielema was a guy who coached a style successfully a Wisky that would succeed in the SEC. Everyone thought these were great hires at the time. And Petrino certainly did win games.
This guy has contacts galore and has a better chance at future hires than most.
We need to wait to see what happens on the field this year. There is an outside chance Beaty weathers the storm. If he does, he has a better character than Petrino and a better work ethic than Bielema.

1 week, 4 days ago

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Aaron Paisley

On paper, Turner Gill was a solid hire here as well given where Buffalo was when he took over compared to where they were when he came here. At the end of the day, Long hired two football coaches that had to fired for different reasons, but still had to be fired. That to me says that there was a disconnect somewhere in his evaluation process to strikeout twice on his football hires.

1 week, 4 days ago

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Jim Stauffer

Funny how this article appears in sharp contrast to Keegan's. No fishing for comments negative to the future of our FB Coach.
No attempt to diss this hire in any way.
Like Joe Friday said, "Just the facts, Ma'am."

1 week, 4 days ago

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