KU Fires Athletic Director Sheahon Zenger


By Stephan Bisaha – Kansas News Service/KMUW Wichita

The University of Kansas fired its athletic director on Monday.

Sheahon Zenger has led KU’s athletic department since 2011. In a letter to the KU community, Chancellor Douglas Girod said KU athletics has failed to make progress in “key areas.”

“To achieve the level of success we need and expect, I have determined a change in leadership is necessary,” Girod said in the letter.

Greg Eck, a KU alumnus and season ticket holder, said he’s not happy to see Zenger go, but he said Zenger bears responsibility for KU’s football woes.

“The failure there falls on his lap,” Eck said.

Zenger hired Charlie Weis in 2011 to be the university’s football coach, but Weiss won only seven games in three years before being fired. In 2014, Zenger hired David Beaty to improve the struggling team.

“That obviously hasn’t gone well since we’ve only won three games in three years,” Eck said.

The Jayhawks were 1-11 last season.

Girod pointed to “record-high” grades for KU athletes as one of Zenger’s successes.

“I’m proud of our successes during the past seven years, most of all the accomplishments of our student-athletes and coaches,” Zenger said in a news release announcing his firing. “I hope our fans know I did my best and always prioritized our student-athletes.”

Zenger will receive about $1.4 million for being fired without cause. KU has been criticized for paying former Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little more than half a million dollars to stay on as a special adviser.

Sean Lester, KU’s deputy athletic director, will be the interim director.

KU has been linked to an ongoing FBI corruption investigation looking into illegal payments from Adidas to college players and their families. Adidas is the official apparel supplier for KU.

Stephan Bisaha reports on education for KMUW in Wichita and the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KMUW, Kansas Public Radio, KCUR and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. Follow him on Twitter @SteveBisaha. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to the original post.

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Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2020 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.