Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Athletic director Sheahon Zenger ready to take charge after getting feel for KU

KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger explains the three principles of 'The Kansas Way' that he hopes to establish in the athletic department.


KU A.D. Sheahon Zenger says he learned quickly that KU ' ... didn't need a guy coming in here on his white horse and slaying the dragon'

KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger says he learned quickly on the job that the athletic department ' ... didn't need a guy coming in here on his white horse and slaying the dragon and starting all over.' He also discusses how his job transitioned in June.

KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger shared his thoughts on three of KU’s highest-profile sports ...


“Excited to see it. I’ve been heavily involved in the first six months here with the conference office getting ready for this first season under the new alignment. I believe coach Gill and his staff are a high-quality staff. I know of many of them from before, even in my own coaching days. Strong recruiters. I think that’s been borne out in this last class. It’s going to take some time for these young guys to matriculate through the system. I think you’ll see a better football team this fall. From the practices I’ve attended, the discipline, the intensity, the quickness in their step. The schedule is going to be incredibly hard. I don’t know what that’s going to mean with regards to wins and losses, but I think you’re going to see a better product out there on the field.”

Women’s basketball:

“Coach Henrickson and I have spent time together talking about it, talking about her history here and what the first few years were like and the middle years were like and the latter years were like. I think that she’s always felt very confident that she could build a winner here, and I think she’s coming very close — and I’m talking about conference play. I think she’s come very close, and at times, probably been hit with adversity in terms of injuries and other things that have derailed her a little bit. This year, I’m very, very anxious to watch how it plays out. I think she may have the right staff and the right players on the court to bring it together, and this could be a breakthrough year for her.”

Men’s basketball:

“I love talking about this — one of the elite programs in the nation. ... More than anything, I want to make sure the Jayhawk faithful, the Jayhawk Nation always takes great pride in who we are as an institution, who we are as an athletics department and in our men’s basketball program, historically and currently. Never, ever, ever apologize for being a great basketball school and having a great basketball tradition, regardless of what’s gone on in the last few years in regards to conference realignment talks and other schools emphasizing other sports. We have one of the greatest traditions in the history of sport, and we’re never going to apologize for that, and we’re going to do everything in our power to keep that elevated where it’s at.”

After being hired on Jan. 3, new Kansas University athletic director Sheahon Zenger’s intention for the first few months was to “walk beside his staff” and observe them without being obtrusive.

That changed June 1.

“I went from being somewhat of the new guy and a consultant almost to, ‘OK, the job has officially begun,’” Zenger said.

Since then, Zenger says he’s become more involved daily with all aspects of the department while guarding against micro-managing.

He said he’s been able to do that more effectively after taking a few months to get a feel for the athletic department he inherited.

“You have to get to know the people and you have to get to know the place,” Zenger said, “before you can come in and make big, wide-sweeping changes.”

Zenger set up an all-staff meeting on June 9, where he delivered his confidential evaluation of the department.

He’s also worked to set up individual meetings with each coach this summer, joking that he probably gained 10 pounds in June alone after get-togethers over breakfast, lunch and dinner.

“The No. 1 priority is to make sure that every sport we have is competitive,” Zenger said, “and I’m stating the obvious here with some of the Director’s Cup standings at the end of the year.”

The Director’s Cup assesses points for all sports and ranks all schools Nos. 1 to 263.

Last year, KU ranked 72nd out of 263 teams overall and last in the Big 12.

“I’ve shared this with the staff. There’s only one word that describes (the ranking): Unacceptable,” Zenger said. “Now let’s go to work. Don’t make any excuses. Don’t go out and make any promises. Just go to work and let’s get busy making sure we don’t finish there again.”

Out of KU’s 16 varsity teams, only three scored points in the Director’s Cup standings during the 2010-11 school year by making NCAA post season play: men’s basketball and men’s and women’s track and field.

“Those are two sports we’ve been pretty well known for 100 years,” Zenger said. “We’ll start there and build on that.”

Though Zenger has set many short-term goals — ranging from sport performance to staff performance to external relations — he said most of them come back to one motto: Doing things the “Kansas Way.”

“The Kansas Way,” which Zenger introduced in his opening press conference, includes three beliefs: Wanting to be substance over image, not image over substance; under-promising and over-producing; and working hard.

“All the goals that we’re setting, in my opinion, they need to reflect the values of the state of Kansas, the University of Kansas,” Zenger said. “And when they do, I think it will resonate with our fan base.”

After the transition on June 1 — a “page-turning” as Zenger called it — the AD said he’d be more comfortable making personnel changes if they were needed.

“You didn’t need some knight coming in here,” Zenger said, “with the shining armor on his white horse, swinging the sword on day one or two or three and completely restructuring with no knowledge of who these people are or what they do or what they’re capable of. So that’s what I’ve guarded against.”

Zenger also was aware that he was adopting a fragile department.

Last year, KU had its share of controversy, most notably a ticket scandal that cost the university more than $1 million in revenue.

“I would tell you that in the first six months — and we’re not completely done with this yet — this department needed some healing,” Zenger said. “There’ve been some things — I don’t even want to talk about it — but in the last two years, there’s been some things that have been kind of difficult.

“That creates angst and anxiety. So it’s been important to bring some healing to the department.”

While many of his efforts in the first months were focused internally, Zenger also made it a priority to get out to meet KU fans around the state.

“The people are very gracious and warm and receiving,” Zenger said. “I can’t be grateful enough for that. I’ve been treated better than I ever dreamed.”


Funhawk 9 years, 4 months ago

Anyone can join the Turner Gill Fan Club. Its free and you get to root for the Hawks! In order to join, all you have to do is b e l i e v e.

hometownhawk 9 years, 4 months ago

...and yet you seem to have a never-ending supply of useless words

Funhawk 9 years, 4 months ago

“I believe coach Gill and his staff are a high-quality staff....." He's a member of the fan club, too! Believe in each other and things not yet seen Empower people by encouragement Learn and press on towards the goal Influence others by being a positive role model Expect great effort all the time Visualize excellence Enjoy the college football experience

Jeff Coffman 9 years, 4 months ago

"Don’t go out and make any promises", "under-promising and over-producing"

I wonder how HCTG promising Championships in media days fits into this perspective.

I'd love to see some of the goals and expectations he set and see if they are in line with what we are striving for.

number1jayhawker 9 years, 4 months ago

He didn't promise a Championship. He said their goal is always to win a Championship. Big difference.

squawkhawk 9 years, 4 months ago

My goal is to marry Megan Fox and move to Fiji!

Jeff Coffman 9 years, 4 months ago

So after hearing his speech and talk about Big XII Championships based on the big difference, you actually don't believe he really expects to bring championships to KU?

Fred Whitehead Jr. 9 years, 4 months ago

It takes six months for a "professional administrator" to get the "feel" for his job. In view of the corruption and lawlessness that was occurring, it should have taken about 10 minutes. I am not too sure about this guy.

Tony Bandle 9 years, 4 months ago

"Zinger" Zenger picked a hell of a bad time to jump onboard with the BBall team maybe headed toward a "down" year by Jayhawk standards and the improved football team heading toward a devasting schedule due to league alignment that might result in even lesser wins than last season.

The A.D. has three primary jobs: 1] Keep the program clean. 2] Keep the program profitable. 3] Keep the program competitive.

1 is in process, #2 is most likely thanks to the Fox Network but #3 looks like the reral challenge for his job....I hope he is up for it!!!!

texashawk10 9 years, 4 months ago

2 could be a problem when Texas goes independent and KU is looking at either the Mountain West or Big East. The Mountain West network would become more valuable if it takes in some Big 12 outcasts but still not even touch the Big 12's current deal. The Big East has separate TV deals for football and basketball so the basketball TV deal could still make the athletic department money, but the football contract is crap. #3 would be helped significantly if UT goes independent because neither of conferences are as competitive outside of Big East basketball as the Big 12 is.

jayhawk_93 9 years, 4 months ago

The reason why I don't think Texas will ever go independent is I believe they would have a horrible time filling out a 12 game schedule. Other than OU, which would probably keep the rivalry going, name 11 other schools Texas could fill out their schedule with on a regular basis that are good enough to give them a SOS good enough for elite consideration. aTm would probably end the rivalry just to spite Texas. Texas is not Notre Dame and isn't going to find schools willing to play them home and home forever. They would struggle to fill out their schedule every year with enough quality opponents. Seriously, how many really good teams want Texas in their non-con when their conference schedule is already very difficult.

texashawk10 9 years, 4 months ago

UT wouldn't have to find 12 schools on a regular basis, they would only need to find 5-6 teams on an annual basis and fill out their schedule with 6-7 other schools. Texas has already been in talks to start a 6 game series with Notre Dame, and if Texas went independent that would probably become an annual game. OU would still likely continue the series, and UT would also be able to restart their rivalry with Arkansas on an annual basis and play that game at Cowboys Stadium because Jerry Jones (Ark. alum) would pay both schools a lot of money to do that. Texas is also already playing BYU this year so that would be a likely choice since BYU is an independent. There would likely some Texas schools such as Houston, Rice, UTEP, or SMU along with Baylor and Texas Tech that UT would play so they could play games in around the state such as Houston, Dallas, El Paso for the alumni to see them. There's also the academy schools (Army, Navy, Air Force) that Texas could play in San Antonio because of the military presence there. So let's say that UT plays Oklahoma, Arkansas, Notre Dame, BYU, a couple Texas schools, and an academy school annually, that's 7 games scheduled every year leaving 5 games against other teams. Fill that in with a big market school to play a home and home with and 4 scrub teams that will play Texas just to pick up a paycheck and UT has a full 12 game schedule on par with most other good teams every year.

texashawk10 9 years, 4 months ago

Bonny Hendickson, Ray Bechard, and Ritch Price all hopefully only have one season left in Lawrence. Those are the three non-revenue sports KU competes in that get semi-regular airtime on the ESPN and FSN family of networks. There are typically 4-5 women's basketball games on national or regional TV a season, 2-3 baseball games on national or regional TV, and Big 12 volleyball has quite a few matches on ESPNU every year but never KU matches because they suck. These are the 3 most visible sports outside of football and men's basketball and these are the 3 that KU needs to drastically improve and the other sports will build themselves up as KU becomes a more visible program nationally and athletes in other less visible sports will want to come to KU because of the overall quality of the athletic program.

Gary Wirsig 9 years, 4 months ago

No argument with the first coach you mention. I lean towards replacing the second, but not sure about Coach Price. He's had some fairly good seasons but apparently suffered an injury bug on the team last spring. There hasn't been a lot of talk about his coaching/recruiting abilities on this site. I'd be interested in your take on why we should replace him and who might take his place.

texashawk10 9 years, 4 months ago

My reasoning for wanting Price gone is KU's performance on the diamond. In Big 12 games his career record at KU is 93-147-1 which is a .383 winning percentage. He has also missed the Big 12 tournament 4 times in 9 years and has not won a Big 12 tournament game outside of the 2006 tournament title team. He also has only had one season with a winning conference record and has finished no higher than 4th in a 10 team conference in 9 years and has finished 7th or worse in 7 seasons as KU's manager.

Price's career is a mirror image of Mangino's on the field, lots of success against inferior competition but struggles against conference opponents. KU can hang onto Price and he'll get KU to the Big 12 tournament about half the time which is like being bowl eligible in football, but if KU baseball wants to become a fixture in the Big 12 or NCAA tournament, they need to bring in a new coach. As for who that would be, I don't follow college baseball closely enough to know who a good option would be but there is someone better than Price out there.

squawkhawk 9 years, 4 months ago

Someone better take charge! The mice have been playing for a long, long time.

Mike Kendall 9 years, 4 months ago

In regard to competing for the Director's Cup---- "I've shared this with the staff. There's only one word to describe (the rankings): Unacceptable," Zenger said.

In regard to the North Dakota State game--- There's only one word to describe this game: Unacceptable.

In regard to the K-State butt-whippin' at Kavisto Field---- There's only one word to describe this game: Unacceptable.

You catch my drift? But hey, I am optimistic that we will continue to improve in football and compete---that's the key---to compete and not get blown out of the water when we play in the Conference. rcjhgku!

squawkhawk 9 years, 4 months ago

You're absolutely right. In football Ku should play to not lose.

ahpersecoachingexperience 9 years, 4 months ago

If your first move is giving a last place softball coach (with two years left on her contract) a four year extension is taking charge. . .

Ross Cargo 9 years, 4 months ago

Softball, soccer, volleyball, baseball, crew, women's hoops all should be on notice that routinely finishing in the toilet is no longer going to provide job security.

squawkhawk 9 years, 4 months ago

Darn, I was hoping to get a cushy coaching gig at KU as the head coach of the ping pong team.

David Atchley 9 years, 4 months ago

Second tier athletic director, and third tier head football coach. If you want to be the best. you hire "from" the best. If your program doesn't warrant hiring away their head coach or their A.D. you hire their senior staff. No offense to either, the status quo of football and hiring by the brain trust at KU, simply isn't going to weather the storm of recession, conference relignment and dismantling. Economies of scale isn't forgiving.

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