Jeff Long tasked with turning around Kansas football as school's new athletic director

Dr. Saturday
Jeff Long has been hired as the athletic director at Kansas. (AP Photo/Kelly P. Kissel)
Jeff Long has been hired as the athletic director at Kansas. (AP Photo/Kelly P. Kissel)

Kansas has hired Jeff Long as its new athletic director.

Long, the former Arkansas AD who served as the first chair of the College Football Playoff selection committee, will succeed Sheahon Zenger, who was fired in May. While he inherits one of the best basketball programs in the country, Long, who make $1.5 million annually, will be tasked with turning around the most downtrodden football program in the Power Five conferences. His first day is Aug. 1.

“Jeff Long has tremendous leadership and administrative experience in major college athletics, and he is a terrific fit for Kansas Athletics as we work to ensure our student-athletes succeed on the field and in the classroom,” Kansas Chancellor Douglas A. Girod said. “Those who know him describe him as a man of character who cares deeply about higher education and the student-athletes he serves. For all these reasons, we are thrilled to welcome him to the University of Kansas.”

Added Long: “My family and I are thrilled to join Chancellor Girod’s leadership team at the University of Kansas. It was clear from the moment I met with the chancellor and his search committee members, they have a deep love for the university and understand and appreciate the positive role intercollegiate athletics plays in the university community. Through our conversations, it became evident we share a common belief that the student-athlete experience prepares young people for the challenges they will face throughout life. I am excited to work with the student-athletes, coaches, staff, the community of Lawrence and the incredible fan base to build on past success and create a shared vision for the future of Kansas Athletics.”

Turning around Kansas football will be a huge challenge

When announcing the firing of Zenger, Long’s predecessor, Girod noted that “progress in key areas has been elusive.” It’s not hard to connect that statement to the Kansas football program, which has been a disaster over the last 10 years.

In 2011, Zenger brought in ex-Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis after firing Turner Gill after two tough seasons. It has been all downhill from there.

The Jayhawks had a 6-22 record under Weis, who was fired during his third season to set up a near-impossible rebuilding effort for former Texas A&M assistant David Beaty. Beaty has had some small successes on the recruiting trail, but it has not translated into wins. In three seasons, Kansas is 3-33 with just one Big 12 victory.

When announcing Zenger’s dismissal, Girod said Beaty’s job is safe entering the 2018 season. With Long now in the fold, evaluating Beaty and the football program will undoubtedly be a top priority.

Long’s time at Arkansas fizzled out due to a lack of football success

After holding the Arkansas AD job since 2008, Long was fired last November. A big reason for his dismissal was the lack of success on the football field.

At Arkansas, Long brought in Bobby Petrino in 2008. Petrino went 21-5 over his last two seasons with the program, but Long fired Petrino in April 2012 amid the fallout of his infamous motorcycle accident and scandal.

From there, Long was widely praised for plucking Bret Bielema away from Wisconsin, where he won three Big Ten division titles. However, the success Bielema had at Wisconsin never materialized at Arkansas. A week after Long was let go, the Arkansas brass fired Bielema, too. Bielema reached three straight bowl games from 2014 to 2016, but the Razorbacks endured a miserable 4-8 record in 2018, including a 1-7 mark in SEC play.

Jeff Long is a recognizable face for college football fans

Beyond his tenure at Arkansas, Long is most known for his time with the College Football Playoff selection committee. He served as the group’s chairman in its first two years, appearing as the front-facing voice who would explain the committee’s selection process on a week-to-week basis.

Following his two seasons as chairman, 2014 and 2015, Long remained with the committee as a member in 2016 and 2017, even after his firing. The CFP selection committee is made up of some of the most well-respected figures in collegiate athletics.

Before his time at Arkansas, Long was the athletic director at Pittsburgh from 2003-2007 and Eastern Kentucky from 1998-2001. Long also had roles in athletic departments at Oklahoma, Virginia Tech, Michigan and Rice. Before moving to the administrative side, Long was an assistant football coach at Miami (Ohio), NC State, Duke and Michigan.

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