Tom Keegan: Loose deadline enables Kansas to take AD search beyond obvious candidates

Rick George speaks during a news conference at which he was named Colorado athletic director, in Boulder, Colo., Wednesday, July 17, 2013. George has been the president of business operations for the Texas Rangers. George once served as Colorado's assistant athletic director for football operations from 1987-91. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

Until the University of Kansas selects a new athletic director, which could be as late as mid-August, you no doubt will hear from friends what the next leader’s background should look like.

Ideally, many will opine, the candidate must be a young, up-and-comer who has experience as an assistant AD at a power-five school, currently heads a mid-major program and has a strong football background.

It’s the typical pick, the safe pick, and on paper makes sense.

Have you heard or even yourself stated those minimum requirements about the next AD?

Yes? Congratulations, you have just described perfectly Sheahon Zenger’s curriculum vitae when he took the job after Bubba Cunningham turned it down upon seeing the clauses chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little crammed into his contract.

The strongest candidate might very well have a background similar to the one Zenger brought to the job. If so, great. But it would be foolish to put boundaries on the pool of candidates.

Kansas needs a strong leader loaded with common sense and a forceful, charismatic personality that wears well. The department needs a leader who has experience working with massive budgets, hitting aggressive financial targets and can demonstrate a history of growing a business.

If that leader happens to work in college athletics, fine. If not, that’s fine too. The sports world is rife with sharp businessmen who have a knack for keenly reading people to make smart hires for their departments, balancing budgets, holding staff accountable, and conversing comfortably with hugely successful, driven people (that would be donors in the world of college athletics).

If that person can’t distinguish Cover 2 from the defense played by Wottsamotta U of Bullwinkle fame, that’s fine. Such matters are better left to the football coach. It’s more important that the new boss is able to keep an eye on such things as scholarship balance, than know the intricacies of pass coverage.

Most schools in the market for an AD go the safe route.

Colorado University, in need of a financial and morale boost in its athletic department in 2013, had the courage to broaden its vision in identifying a new leader.

Sure, Rick George had a football background. He played defensive back for Illinois and even was an assistant coach at his alma mater and then at Colorado, but that was in the 1980s and had little to do with qualifying him for the job. He also worked as an associate AD at Vanderbilt in the ’90s, a nice line for the resume.

But it was the work George did outside of college athletics that made him such an attractive candidate.

After serving as president and CEO of the Fore!Kids Foundation, a 501c3 organization that raised money for children’s charities with golf events, George became president of the Champions Tour (2003-08), then became COO of the PGA tour (2008-10), then became COO of the Texas Rangers, working alongside strikeout king Nolan Ryan.

Everywhere he went, businesses grew, and he’s drawn praise for shaping up the athletic department’s finances. Plus, he doesn’t have an ego problem that necessitates he bring in his own football coach.

CU football coach Mike MacIntyre, hired by current Cincinnati AD Mike Bohn, has revived the Buffaloes, so George has left him in place.

I mention George not to suggest he’s a candidate for the Kansas AD job, rather to demonstrate that it pays to look beyond the obvious during a search.

If someone outside of college athletics has demonstrated an ability to lead the growth of a business, especially in sports, preferably someone with ties to KU or the state of Kansas, why not include such candidates in the pool?

My guess is KU will expand its search beyond the obvious.

Comments

Brad Farha

Tom -- what were the clauses in the 2011 contract that made Bubba Cunningham turn down the job?

3 months, 3 weeks ago

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Ken Schmidt

I'm kinda curious now too

3 months, 3 weeks ago

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Frederick Heckel

BGL limited how often the AD could use the Private Jet. That was all thanks to Lew Perkins.

3 months, 3 weeks ago

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Gavin Fritton

After Lew Perkins was using his office to get god knows how many favors and privileges, she made it very clear to Bubba Cunningham that he had to take on all sorts of onerous responsibilities to report to her all outside income, consulting work, when he got "stuff" for free or at a discount, etc.

Recall that Perkins was doing a lot more than using/abusing his privileges with the airplane. He was giving out KU basketball tickets to cops who pulled him over for traffic infractions. I may not remember the details of this exactly correctly, but he got a contractor, one who relied on KU generally and Kansas Athletics specifically for a lot of work, to remodel Perkins' own home workout area and it was done for free. When it finally leaked to the public, a year or two later, it looked awful because what it SEEMED like was Perkins was demanding contractors do work for him for free or risk their contracts with KU and Perkins immediately (well, immediately two years later) wrote a check to pay for the work and he chalked it all up to an accounting error. His tenure was filled with that kind of stuff and that was why BGL made those changes.

The thing is, KU and Cunningham more or less had a deal in place and then she inserted those requirements at nearly the last minute. I don't blame her for doing it, but I also don't blame Cunningham for walking away. Zenger was more than happy to live with those restrictions and he was apparently the second choice after Cunningham.

3 months, 3 weeks ago

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Marius Rowlanski

Yes but other than that... If he had just stuck to football tickets no one would have cared.

3 months, 3 weeks ago

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Brett McCabe

Tom's outline of what we need as AD couldn't be more well articulated. As we all know, temp-AD Drue hired Bill Self, and wasn't put off by Self's campaigning for the job.

Zenger's grand downfall was his penchant or the dramatic. First a power-surge, then a recruiting god. Neither was nor is.

The new AD, at the press conference announcing Beaty's firing, will have to answer the question about scholarship management or, rather, mismanagement. Because the nearly complete gutting of the roster with this year's recruiting class is basically a fireable offense for the football HC.

And the new AD will, hopefully, be looking not for grand gestures, or twitter campaigns, but for someone who can do the math - as simple as it is. And it really is a math problem. No quick solutions. No easy work-arounds. You have to have the intelligence and the grit to grind through it. Just ask Bill Snyder.

3 months, 3 weeks ago

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Jay Scott

If only that rambling mess was "well articulated".

Did you attend college, even for a few weeks? Hopefully not at KU.

3 months, 3 weeks ago

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Dirk Medema

Glad you also mentioned CU football coach Mike MacIntyre, who has revived the Buffaloes, so George has left him in place. As much as some people love to exaggerate a bad situation into something even worse, Coach Beaty has done a great job of rebuilding a decimated roster to one that is nearly balanced again.

There was some gloom and despair speculation during the process, that Brett seems to have latched onto (It does fit his fire Beaty agenda). You also did a nice article later in February that broke down the classes and found them nearly balanced. IIRC, there was just 1 minor math error that missed one more 6 JC class being all that was missing to a balance roster.

Now the real test is can they win. Coach Beaty was obviously under qualified when he took the job, but then were there any qualified coaches that were going to take this job for $800k? And the assistants too? They've weathered that storm while learning and growing along the way. They've also develop several nice players along the way (?5 return?), so now it is earn it time.

3 months, 3 weeks ago

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Dirk Medema

5 that received post-season awards return

3 months, 3 weeks ago

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['']

"... were there any qualified coaches that were going to take this job for $800k?" Zengie thought he was doing KU a favor by bringing in a young untested guy with an OK fball acumen and only having to pay $800K -- but that mindset has ended up COSTING KU millions in losses! You get what you pay for.

3 months, 3 weeks ago

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Bryce Landon

I was away on vacation for the past week-and-a-half, so this is the first I'm hearing about Zenger's dismissal from last week. Good riddance. The dude alienated so many KU fans, including myself, with horrific football hires and by making it difficult for those fans living in the Sunflower State to watch the handful of Jayhawk basketball games that air on "Jayhawk TV".

3 months, 3 weeks ago

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Pius Waldman

The Jayhawk TV was responsible for the rules to watch basketball games. Blackouts for Kansas games not on their network was not his responsibility. Other groups have blackouts as well. Out of state broadcasts were well received by all over the nation and international as well.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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John Fitzgerald

If the new AD fires Beaty I'm okay with that. But I just hope whoever he puts as interim HC (because lets be honest I don't see them getting a new HC at this point in the year) that they focus on keeping guys like Coe Harris and Pooka Williams. These guys are studs and will really help turn the program around.

https://hawkjock.com/2018/05/30/new-i...

3 months, 3 weeks ago

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Jay Scott

Why wait?

The most obvious choice for AD is a committee of the LJW Chicken Littles. An all knowing, all seeing and all hating group of such august backgrounds could effectively fire every coach and avoid ever making a bad hire by selecting nobody. It would be the first Athletic Department in history to make zero hiring mistakes of any kind........

Everyone knows who they are. Let's get them started.

3 months, 3 weeks ago

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Marius Rowlanski

If not for basketball, we wouldn't have a chance of getting a top-tier athletic director.

3 months, 3 weeks ago

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Jay Scott

We don't have a chance. There are at least 50 current college ADs who would flatly decline any interest.

That said, a quality AD isn't necessarily someone who is in university sports administration right now.

3 months, 3 weeks ago

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Brad Watson

Mack Brown....sit down with him....and if he's not interested....he will be able to provide a list of candidates....former D1 football coaches to head up our athletic department....basketball is in great shape...we need to focus on football and get that revenue stream flowing again. Hire Gene Chizik without delay.....he is a raiser....he can turn this group we have into something...he has those contagious positive qualities we need right now...I know its really late ......most would say way too late......but we need to make the change right now....another fall with the same staff will be a lost opportunity...and a change will send the right message and bring at least some optimism going forward....Chizik can get it done...pick up the phone!

3 months, 3 weeks ago

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Randy Bombardier

I agree with this concept. Any exec who is analytical, detail-oriented, who is accomplished would do well. Almost anyone can raise funds. Projects and causes sell themselves. That should not even be in the discussion. Hiring and firing, evaluating candidates.

Zenger not only didn't hire right he fired poorly too. Gill should have been given more time. Weiss should have been given more time. The buyouts were too much too soon. If Beaty can get 5 wins he ought to get more time as well. I'm skeptical on that.

3 months, 3 weeks ago

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['']

Chizik??? Really? He had ONE good year all because of Cam Newton -- other than that he has a losing record. He won a whopping 5 games in 2 yrs at ISU. After Newton left he went like 3-9 and lost by an average of like 30 pts that year and was canned. He's been out of FB for 2 years -- if we have to go after a coach who quit and is not even working ...our bar is waaaayyyy low.

3 months, 3 weeks ago

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Brad Watson

Chizik has been part of 2 national championship teams...one as a head coach at Auburn and the other working with Mack Brown at Texas....Chizik is just like everyone else...you learn from your mistakes...he has been away from the sidelines a while...learned some hard lessons.The man is a quality person...very competitive..hard working...confident in his abilities and a great fit.....Have you learned from your mistakes?...I know I have...Iowa State was ions ago...He is from Florida...He has coached in the SEC and was successful....won titles in the SEC..has Texas ties...so he can recruit in the fertile areas...maybe find some quality ball players who can help make us more competitive......we aren't trying to win National Championships here...just field a respectable team and can pull an upset once in awhile and maybe make it to a bowl from time to time...he doesn't have to walk on water here...he is perfect for this situation...period!

3 months, 3 weeks ago

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['']

Meehhh. Seems like settling. Better choices out there

3 months, 3 weeks ago

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Randy Bombardier

How about consulting Mangino and Mason when it comes to hiring a football coach? They were the two best in a long line of coaches. It takes a coach to catch a coach.

3 months, 3 weeks ago

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