Some gossips like to drop hints and leave it at that so they can pass lie-detector tests about whether they were the source of leaks.
With the search committee chaired by Ray Evans keeping such a tight lid on the candidates’ names, listening to the whispering wind is the best way to formulate guesses.
One such crumb: “They know enough to trust Bill Self’s judgment and Self has been told great things from a very close friend about a candidate who’s not from a big football school, but has a strong football background.”
That points to Illinois State athletic director Sheahon Zenger, about whom Self has heard great things from Illinois State basketball coach Tim Jankovich, Self’s former assistant.
Zenger’s in his sixth year at Illinois State since coming from his alma mater, Kansas State, where he was associate AD/development.
Zenger coached football at Manhattan High, as an assistant at Drake University and, at the age of 23, under Bill Snyder at K-State.
Zenger received a master’s degree in journalism and mass communications from K-State (1992) and a doctorate in educational policy and leadership from Kansas (1996). He then worked as an assistant football coach at South Florida and Wyoming.
His scandal-free record is appealing and so is his personality. Why didn’t K-State look to hire him when Bob Krause resigned? Who says it didn’t? One gossip shared that Zenger might have had reservations about having to clean up the mess created by former football coach Ron Prince’s secret agreement with Krause for a $3.2 million parachute for Prince. Plus, Zenger always says he loves it at Illinois State and everybody believes he means it.
Meanwhile, Self is not going to be the one to pick the next athletic director. He’s a secure enough individual to know that he’ll get along with just about anybody selected for the job. Self knows how to control a basketball team, as illustrated by the consistently strong defensive effort and wise shot selection of his players, but he’s never been a guy with a desire to control an athletic department.
Is Zenger a finalist? Nobody will say, but on the surface, there doesn’t seem to be much not to like about him. Kansas, which many believe could go as high as a $600,000 salary for the next AD, pays better than Illinois State.
One very keen pair of ears said that although not everybody from the search committee was blown away by Tulsa AD Bubba Cunningham, he remains a strong candidate.
For the past month or so, the prevailing wisdom has had it that the committee will bring three candidates to chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, ranking them in order and sharing their reasons for their preferences.
If Cunningham and Zenger are indeed two of the three finalists, the identity of a third remains a mystery. Search committee chairman Ray Evans made it clear from the beginning that he had heard from a wide array of impressive candidates and that not all of them currently are athletic directors. Could the mystery candidate fall into this category? He or she could.
KU Alumni Association director Kevin Corbett is highly regarded within the university, community and among donors as a bright, young leader, but nobody has mentioned his name to me as a possible candidate. Just a thought.