Courtesy of Kansas Athletics
Chancellor Douglas A. Girod
I am writing to inform you of a leadership change in Kansas Athletics.
Earlier today, Director of Athletics Jeff Long announced he is stepping down from his position. Jeff and I spoke at length last night, and while I know he would have loved to stay here many more years, I respect his selfless decision to step down so that we can move Kansas Athletics in a different direction.
I want to wholeheartedly thank Jeff for his service to KU. When we hired Jeff, he was charged with modernizing our athletics department and ensuring our coaches and student-athletes continue to have the resources they need to succeed. This was no easy task, and he far exceeded our expectations. Jeff guided Kansas Athletics to progress in student-athlete healthcare, diversity and inclusion, and student-athlete academic achievement, all while managing significant challenges not of his own making. Most important, Jeff was unwaveringly dedicated to students, coaches and staff, and he represented KU with integrity and compassion. For that, we thank him, and we wish him the very best.
I have asked Kurt Watson, one of KU’s most trusted advisors, to serve as interim director of Kansas Athletics. I have spoken with Kurt about my expectations for the coming days, and I am confident he will provide strong leadership and stability during this transition.
We will immediately begin our search for a new athletics director. I will lead the process with the assistance of a search firm and four alumni advisors, each of whom have experience in collegiate athletics: Linda Ellis Sims, Ray Evans, John Ballard and Wayne Simien. Each of these Jayhawks will bring tremendous expertise and passion to the search, and I know their counsel will benefit the process. We will move quickly but judiciously, and my hope is to have a new athletics director in place within the next few weeks.
Once a new athletics director is in place, that individual will determine next steps related to our football coach position. To assist the new athletics director make that determination once he or she arrives, I am assembling a committee of advisors who will be ready to help when called upon.
I understand time is of the essence and that our football student-athletes are eager to know who will be guiding them. But we are making long-term decisions on an athletics director and a football coach, and we cannot sacrifice the quality of a search simply for expediency. While there will be a lot of speculation regarding potential candidates for both searches, I urge Jayhawks to have faith in the process and in those who are devoting their time to assist.
I know the past week has been challenging for those of us who love Kansas Athletics, but I am heartened by the passion of our university community. Since becoming chancellor, I have spent countless hours with Jayhawks to hear their perspectives on KU. A common theme in these conversations is that we must strive for excellence in all areas, including athletics. As I have said many times, a successful athletics department is inextricably linked to our mission as a flagship research university. That perspective will serve us well as we identify our next leader of Kansas Athletics.
Thank you for your support in moving KU forward.
Douglas A. Girod
Dear Jayhawk Nation and Kansas Athletics:
Last night, Chancellor Girod and I met and both agreed that it was in the best interest of our student-athletes and program for me to step down as of today. It is not easy, but I leave KU with a heavy heart and profound confidence that I have always acted in the best interests of Kansas Athletics. I have done everything in my control to move Kansas Athletics forward in a positive manner, that’s what makes this most difficult.
When I first began my career in college athletics almost 40 years ago, I was driven by my desire to impact young lives through a common bond—athletics. That purpose is what has carried me each and every day—through the good times and the challenging ones—along my journey.
As I noted yesterday in my press conference, the student-athletes have always been the priority and this decision today is based on that very premise. Values are not simply beliefs—they are defined by actions. It is clear that my continued service as the Director of Athletics would only serve as a distraction to the nearly 500 incredible young men and women in our athletics department, as well as to the outstanding coaches and staff who support them. Last night, I spoke with Chancellor Girod at length about my thought process, as well as with my wife, Fanny. Even though this is extremely difficult for me, this is what is best for KU, for me and for my family, and I am at peace with this decision.
I step down knowing that I did my very best for the University. I was brought to Lawrence by Chancellor Girod with a mandate to move our athletics department forward, to reorganize and professionalize how we conduct our program and I believe we have made great progress toward that end. Along the way, we made strides in academics, fundraising, facilities and diversity and inclusion, among other areas, and I truly believe the best days of Kansas Athletics lie ahead.
I want to express my sincere gratitude to Chancellor Girod for the opportunity to work with him and his staff of quality professionals as the Director of Athletics at Kansas. I also wish to thank all of our incredible student-athletes throughout my two and a half years, as well as our quality coaches and staff for helping us move the program forward. To my senior staff, thank you for your dedication, hard work and collaboration on our journey at KU.
Finally, to you, the Jayhawk faithful, I encourage you to continue to support this program that positively impacts so many young people at KU. I am confident the foundation is strong and Kansas Athletics will make great strides in the months and years ahead.
Statement from Kansas Head Men’s Basketball Coach Bill Self:
“This has certainly been a challenging time for all of us who love KU and I recognize that change can be difficult. Jeff and I enjoyed a good working relationship and I wish him well in all of his future endeavors. I have the utmost trust and respect for Chancellor Girod and I am confident that he will find us a tremendous new leader of our athletics program. I look forward to what the future holds in store for Kansas Athletics.”