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 loyal 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