Originally published January 2, 2011 at 04:22p.m., updated January 2, 2011 at 04:29p.m.

KU names Sheahon Zenger new athletic director

New KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger.

New KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger.


Sheahon Zenger Timeline

• 1987 — Graduated from Kansas State with bachelor’s degree in English and secondary education

• 1987 — Accepted first football coaching gig, working with freshmen at Manhattan High School

• 1988 — Accepted position with Drake football team as graduate assistant

• 1989 — Served as assistant recruiting coordinator/director of football operations at Kansas State

• 1992 — Earned master’s in journalism and mass communication from Kansas State

• 1993-95 — Became editor of American Football Quarterly magazine

• 1996 — Earned Ph.D. in educational policy and leadership from Kansas University

• 1996 — Accepted position as recruiting coordinator for South Florida football team

• 1997 — Became recruiting coordinator for Wyoming football team

• 1998 — Promoted to assistant head coach at Wyoming

• 2000 — Worked in Kansas State College of Business as director of development

• 2001-02 — Became assistant athletics director for major gifts at Kansas State

• 2002-05 — Promoted to associate athletics director for development at Kansas State

• 2005-10 — Served as athletic director for Illinois State

• 2010 — Accepted athletic director position at Kansas University, replacing Lew Perkins

Kansas University has named Sheahon Zenger its next athletic director.

Zenger is currently the athletic director at Illinois State University and is a Kansas native and KU graduate.

“With his experience and leadership skills, Sheahon Zenger is the best choice to lead Kansas Athletics into the future. He is exactly who we need as athletics director, working to ensure that every Jayhawk team succeeds on the field and in the classroom, as well as making sure our programs operate with the utmost integrity,” said Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little in a statement.

Zenger will be officially introduced at a news conference at 1:30 p.m. Monday. He will start at KU on February 1, 2011.

Dr. Sheahon (pronounced SHAY-un) Zenger comes to KU after spending six years as athletic director for Illinois State.

A native of Hays, Zenger helped Illinois State capture the Missouri Valley’s All-Sports Trophy in both 2008 and 2010. ISU also has had a 65-percent growth in its scholarship fund memberships since his arrival, while the athletic department has posted record-high grade-point averages in each of the last four years.

Prior to joining ISU, Zenger was the associate athletics director for development at Kansas State from 2002-05. Before that, he spent two years as KSU’s assistant athletics director for major gifts and also spent a year with the KSU College of Business as director of development. He graduated from KSU in 1987 with a bachelor's degree in English and secondary education. He later earned his master’s in journalism and mass communication from KSU in 1992 before earning a Ph.D. in educational policy and leadership from KU in 1996.

Before moving to administration, Zenger was a football coach. His first coaching gig was with Manhattan High School in 1987, and he moved on to Drake as a graduate assistant for a year before accepting a football position with KSU in 1989.

At age 23, Zenger was one of the nation’s youngest full-time football staff members, serving as assistant recruiting coordinator and director of football operations for KSU coach Bill Snyder.

From 1993-95, Zenger was editor of American Football Quarterly — a magazine for football coaches. In 1996, he became recruiting coordinator for South Florida before accepting the same position with the University of Wyoming the following year.

In 1998, Zenger was promoted to assistant head coach at Wyoming.

At ISU, Zenger served on numerous NCAA committees, including the NCAA Div. I Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement.

Zenger and his wife, Pam, have three children: Luke, Abby and Jake.


jayhawkinnebr 3 years, 3 months ago

I am for Zenger as AD, and I especially like the fact that he knows football and has coached with Bill S. If the AD thing doesn't work out maybe he will take over the football program as HC. Gill, I think that the Pitt. job is still open!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


AZHaysHawk 3 years, 3 months ago

I know. The truth is, I'm not one who has a strong faith, but I don't see the need to bash those who do. In Sheahon's case, it was (and from what I understand still is) a very effective basis from which he leads a productive and successful life. If it works for him, more power to him!


Randy Maxwell 3 years, 3 months ago

Typical. KU has to recruit vs these types of teams in football and so when it comes to attracting as A.D. Ill. ST is the best we can do. At least Lew came from UConn a real school. Nobody wants to come to KU for the real sport of football or to be A.D. Basketball is so secondary in intercollegiate athletics but KU people will never realize this


ahpersecoachingexperience 3 years, 3 months ago

going to bed. dr conrad murray thinks i might of went a little heavy on the sleeping meds


Jacobpaul81 3 years, 3 months ago

Clearly there's a lot of internet ridiculousness going on in this thread.

Having worked in the Missouri Valley, I realize the difficulties coaches/Athletic directors face in working at smaller Division I programs. Zenger has been highly recognized in the conference for his productivity and he doesn't have a Big Shot, Name in the Headlines mentality. The last two jerks, Al Bohl and Lew Perkins had that mentality and look where it got them. Both were crooks.

Having worked and hired Tim Jankovich ( a huge hire considering Jankovich's pre-head coaching resume), Zenger has a familiarity with what you look for and expect in Kansas coaches. This is not someone who is going to rush out and replace someone with a bad fit. It's also not someone who's got a track record of thievery and crookedness. Something we need in the post-Bohl/Perkins era.

Most of Kansas' former ADs worked in smaller schools including the valley: Lew Perkins, Bob Frederick, Bob Marcum... Monte Johnson never worked as an AD til we hired him in 82. KU hired Gayle Sayers, a former Missouri Valley AD and no one seems to be coming down on him for the work he's done since returning to Kansas.

I like the hire. He's a well-respected guy, familiar with the school and situation. He's from a non-BCS school and is use to dealing with the Big School-Little School mentality a Kansas AD will have to deal with. As for conference realignment, why is everyone so scared about this? You guys are fretting about something that doesn't really matter. If Texas, TA&M and TT want to leave, I say "let them". I guarantee you the Big East football schools would love to realign and unite with the Big XII schools. More TV markets, more Basketball dominance, and they can drop some small, non-football programs that don't make money.


OldOldHawk 3 years, 3 months ago

If I had to guess I would say realignment is going to be the biggest entre on this guy's plate. The Big-12 is either going to have to add a couple of teams or collapse in my opinion. The fact that TCU went to the ill-suited Big-East suggests to me that the Big-12 has made the decision to stand pat. I think that, in turn, means eventual collapse. The question, to me, is one of when, not if.

He might have two or three years of breathing space, but that's what I think is the elephant in his office.


babyjay1 3 years, 3 months ago

Just a suggestion for those of us that are REAL Jayhawk fans and would like Alpherse.... whatever... to go away: he reminds me of the Phelps clan here in Topeka and I think he just wants our attention as he is a sad and lonely person and doesn't have friends. The only way he knows to get attention is to be negative, nasty, etc... If we all completely ignored his every comment, maybe he would get bored and find some other team to annoy. No one has ever learned to ignore the Phelps clan... therefore, they are still here!


jhawkrulz 3 years, 3 months ago

There are 3 things that an AD needs to do 1) Hire a good football coach and basketball coach 2) Raise lots of money 3) Keep us in a good conference.

We have a fantastic basketball coach and thanks to our last AD we have a football coach for 4 more years.

If you have a million dollars I hope you like the new AD otherwise most of us just ship in our few hundred bucks here and there and call it good.

The big thing with this AD is going to be conference realignment. All I hope is that with his KSU ties, he is willing to part ways with the purple-headed stepchild if it comes down to that.


FLJHK 3 years, 3 months ago

My next choice in getting to 12 is a rather unorthodox one. It is Air Force. I think a military school located in the general region would bring a lot to the table. It's true that while their sports pedigree is not elite, they have more than decent athletic traditions and they bring a large number of intangibles that are difficult to quantify.

Otherwise, KU needs to posture itself as attractive to the Big 10, if predictions of the eventual 16-team superconferences are to be believed. They are our best fit academically, culturally and geographically, and KU needs to be in a position to move in that direction if and when it becomes necessary. If we were to go in such a direction, it would likely be along with Missery and possibly Iowa State, but almost certainly not KSU, And this, (finally getting back to the point), is where I have some superficial concern re the new AD hire.


FLJHK 3 years, 3 months ago

I've no legitimate basis to be able to objectively evaluate an AD hire, and for now I will just have to trust the judgment of those close to the process, and hope like hell that he is the person for the job.

In addition to fundraising, alumni coddling and the usual tedium of the AD's job, I think for KU at this time there are two places of emphasis. The lesser of these, but very important, is the improvement of the overall sports program. I may be in the minority of those that believe that Coach Gill will prove to be a good hire for the football program, but improvement in other programs is needed. Universal improvement in the short term is likely a stretch, but it would be good to make a splash in at least one area. To me a likely candidate is track and field, given KU's solid history in that arena. But in any event one or a few programs should rise above mediocrity.

But the most important future issue has to do with further conference realignment, and here I have some uneasiness about Zenger's KSU ties. Actually, as a Kansas native, KSU remains my second favorite university, albeit a very distant second. But if KSU's future in any way compromises KU's, the AD must be willing to sever the ties.

I'm not convinced that further realignment is inevitable, and the newly configured Big XII (- II) remains a highly desirable conference. The academics are generally good, and the diversity of sports excellence is impressive - as much as any other conference. The ACC and too Big East are basically basketball conferences, the SEC (duh) football, the Big 10 nothing really, althought they are a collection of really good schools, and the Pac 10 (12) has some nice schools and great weed. While it is easy to resent UT's sweetheart deal, it has to be acknowledged that they are, academically, financially and athletically, the Big 12's most important member.

I'm not convinced that the Big 12 can last as a 10-team conference, and expansion has to be a constant consideration. Getting back to 12 is the first step, and certainly a case can be made for Arkansas, although that prospect doesn't thrill me and I am doubtful that it will ever occur.

But two alternatives seem intriguing to me. First is Notre Dame. Obviously that would be a major coup, but I don't think it is beyond the realm of imagination. With its UT accommodations, the Big XII has already distinguished itself from other conferences be allowing unequal revenue sharing. That could be the key to luring a Notre Dame, and if so, it should be pursued. Notre Dame would be a revenue bonanza, and it brings academic integrity and a national following.


Andy Tweedy 3 years, 3 months ago Rivals seems to want to make it a point that this guy has ties to the Big 10. Personally, I don't think the Big 10 is going to ever call, but I hope this doesn't mean we're going to be hearing all kinds of rumors of conference realignment ALREADY!!!


ahpersecoachingexperience 3 years, 3 months ago

what's a matter? could we not find some one with a missouri degree to lead our athletics department?


Josh Galler 3 years, 3 months ago

I am getting tired of hearing this is a good hire or a bad hire. Time will tell. I have hired various people for my company, some times when I feel it was a good hire, it turns out to be bad and vice versa if I feel someone is good enough for the position which is that person is now a hiring manager too. He has been an AD for 6 years now at Illinois State which is a state college in a more populated state than Kansas. I am sure he has some contacts for numerous other conferences to help us in re-alliginment in the future. Maybe he will hire someone for assistant AD with BCS ties. Yes Bubba work in the ND AD prior to Tulsa and he been there for only 3 years in a mid major conference as well. ANd that looks more prominent b/c of the 20+years in the Athletic Department fields. Also remember being an AD is a business now.


jayhawkinnebr 3 years, 3 months ago

I don't know anything about this guy but, I think it could be a win, win situation. He, Sheahon, could hire Snyder away from Kansas ST. beings he know Bill that well, or with his, Sheahon, experience coaching with Bill, maybe he would fire Gill and then take his place as football coach. So, I see a really scenario going on here that would replace Gill. That being said, I wonder if Gill knows that there is an opening at Pitt. Now, Steve Perterson and Gill are real good friends, maybe, just maybe something could be worked out here. I don't suppose there is anyway that Gill could find his way back here to NU. Man, this really opens up a real story, I just might have to write a book after the dust is settled.


kutrack2851 3 years, 3 months ago

"Coming back to Kansas State is that warm cozy feeling you get when you put on that old sweatshirt," said Zenger, who has served as the Director of Athletics at Illinois State for the last five years. "This is a home to me. Between my wife (the former Pam McAnarney) and I, and our extended families, I think we have around 50 degrees from Kansas State."

I think I need a shower after reading that!


ahpersecoachingexperience 3 years, 3 months ago

a couple of weeks ago i jokingly suggested we hire the university of buffalo's ad. turns out the u of b guy would of been a better hire!


kutrack2851 3 years, 3 months ago

It's too bad the recent hires do not create any buzz or always the same...let's give him a chance... it will probably work out least ISU beat NDSU in football - 1 winning season since 2006 in football doesn' really show a football focus.


Ray March 3 years, 3 months ago

I don't know about this choice... Coached at Manhattan (KS) high, got a bachelors from K-St, got a masters from K-St, (got a quick PhD from KU), worked with Prune-Face Bill Snyder, was an assistant AD at K-St.....???

Sounds like a terrible pick!


Hank Cross 3 years, 3 months ago

Being a KU/Kansas guy doesn't make him good. Being from a mid-major doesn't make him bad. In all honesty, I would've preferred someone who had worked outside the Midwest at some point in order to focus on KU to keep elevating its national brand. Maybe he will. Time will tell.


AirCapJay 3 years, 3 months ago

I don't know why an AD candidate has to have KU ties. If that was a requirement then they eliminated a lot of prospects. I would have liked to have seen a hire with a better proven record. He jumped around a lot until 5 years ago never holding a position more than about a year at a time.


jaybate 3 years, 3 months ago

KU appears fortunate to get Zenger, whether or not he is a big name.

Rock Chalk, Chancellor Bernie. You got your man. Someone who likes "development" as much as you and Hemenway do, and Kansas man, and a Ph.d. with the brains and intellectual self discipline to watch the enterprise details that tripped KU up on yours and Hemenway's watches.

Now, the only really big question remaining is: can he get along with Bill Self and vice versa?

The football coach issue is not so critical. Gill is probably a perfectly good coach having the same problems anyone would have had when a QB like Reesing departs. It would have taken Mangino a couple years to find another top QB. It will take Gill the same time. But even if Gill were a lemon, Zenger is your man and will take the heart for firing Gill quickly.

Hey, the definition of a good Chancellor, or any chairman of any Fortune 500 sized organization, as Billion Dollar budget KU is, is to be able to take a tidal wave head on and some how make everyone else get wet, while you work behind the scenes to right the ship. You've done that Chancellor Bernie, assuming the scalpergate court dates don't reveal an underworld connection into the heart of the program. And that seems unlikely at this late date.

Give Chancellor Bernie a big high five. She entered a gun fight and brought a gun. Good for her.

Rock Chalk!


jaybate 3 years, 3 months ago

Sheahon Zenger sounds like a fund raising tiger, so alums, and corporations, get out your wallets again.

He sounds like primarily a football guy, which tends to be a mistake for KU, whenever they hire that sort.

On the other hand, he is a KU man, who has been a part of successful football programs at KSU and has shown he could make it rain development dollars at ISU, so these are significant pluses.

But what persuades me most that he a good hire is that Zenger was smart enough to hire Janks to coach ISU. Janks is a great Okie Baller with Jack Hartman and Bill Self pedigree. Zenger recognized that. Janks has done a good job at ISU.

My bet is that Zenger gets good men in position as coaches, let's them do their thing, and spends most time on the money trail.

And he has a Ph.d., which means he and Chancellor Bernie can use big words with each other and not have to worry.

This is the kind of up and coming guy Chancellor Bernie should take a chance on, if she wants to go the up-and-coming route, which she appears intent on doing; not a Bubba Cunningham, coming in from Notre Dame via Tulsa. Cunningham may have been a fine guy, probably was a fine guy, but what one learns at Notre Dame, a private school with an athletics legacy and culture utterly unlike any public university like KU, translates out to zero at KU in terms of the intense politics of a major state university. And what Cunningham learned at Tulsa was not big enough potatoes to have made him a good hire for KU, even if he had not turned KU down. Finally, the very fact that Cunningham did turn KU down, meant that he was certainly not the right guy for KU.


doolindalton 3 years, 3 months ago

At last, someone who is actuallly from Kansas running the KU athletic department.


jhwkfan162515 3 years, 3 months ago

Dr. Zenger has a couple of big assignments on his plate:

(1) Get rid of that joker Turner Gill and bring in a real football coach. We don't need a nice guy running the show here.

(2) Have a plan in place when conference realignment comes up. It would be nice if the Big 12-minus-2 sticks together for years, but we really can't trust any of the other remaining members of the conference. So if the wheels start falling off the wagon again, we need to be ready to join a new conference ourselves, or maybe compete as an independent.


KSA_21_3503 3 years, 3 months ago

Great. I thought the whole point was to bring in new perspectives. A KU grad is 15 steps backwards.

Horrible hire.


AZHaysHawk 3 years, 3 months ago

I went to Hays High School with Sheahon; he was a year older than me and we played football together. I haven't kept up with him, but we have maintained mutual friends and I have heard about his career evolution through the grapevine. This hire comes as a shock to me! Although I can't speak to whether he is ready to lead a big time program like KU, I can speak to him being a high character guy. I spent a lot of cold winter mornings lifting weights and running sprints with the guy, and a lot of hot summer two-a-day football practices following his lead. He was always one to lead by example, do the right thing, and put in the extra effort. Frankly, his athletic abilities was pretty marginal but he was successful due to a strong work ethic, a strong faith, and a strong mind. Those same characteristics will likely serve him well in his new role as KU A.D..


bradam 3 years, 3 months ago

I'm listening to him now on the radio w/Bob. Sounds like he has enthusiasm and said he was growing up in Lawrence circa 1966-67 and remembers watching Bobby Douglas from the Hill. Nice touch.


mutt627 3 years, 3 months ago

I hate this hire. Although I was friends with Lew, I was hoping we could find a solid replacement. There were numerous candidates with big time ties (ie. Big East and Notre Dame). We chose a guy from Illinois State who was personal friends with members of the search committee and the late great Dr. Bob. I'm horribly disappointed with this hire and believe the majority of other alums are as well.


rob4lb 3 years, 3 months ago

I agree with the comments that any AD from a BCS program would probably not view the KU position as an upgrade. I was hoping that the new AD would be someone who would be influential during the next round of conference realignment. That does not appear to the case with this hire. However, I think there was a good process in identifying potential candidates and Zenger was on the short list. I am sure he will do fine. Currently watching the KU-MIami game. The Hawks look great. The chancellor was just interviewed regarding the hiring of Zenger. She does not come across as being very dynamic.


DevilHawk 3 years, 3 months ago

KU needs to aim higher when hiring important positions - including AD and law school dean.

That said, the good news is that he was "assistant recruiting coordinator and director of football operations" for K-State under Snyder when Snyder came in and started to build K-State. (K-State went from 0-11 in 1988 to 1-10 in 1989 to 5-6 in 1990.)

If nothing else, this is good news for Gill, because he will be given the time needed to build up the football program.


HawkfromHays 3 years, 3 months ago

A Hays boy? We're in good hands.


Ben Kliewer 3 years, 3 months ago

Ahperse would complain for anyone being hired at any position at KU. This individual has already ousted themselves as a grade a Troll and is the same type of person as Michael Caine describes the joker in "The Dark Knight;" "Some [people] just want to watch the world burn..." That's all ahperse wants to do, hate everything and claim that the sky is falling and watch the ensuing flame-war unfold.


100 3 years, 3 months ago

Excellent hire.

Welcome back to Kansas.

First move?

This will affect all of KU sports for years to come; football rules the money & the conference repositioning/stability that will develop over the next decade or two.

Your most important first move is to ensure that Coach Gill has what he needs to keep Coaxh Wyatt happy in Lawrence.

Wyatt's reputation for standing up for what is right, for his family, for a stable future and helping to build a dynasty at Kansas would supersede any possibility of joining a program that is nationally well known, but very unstable, led by an unstable man at this juncture (part of the reason for the Longhorn lockeroom troubles).

Welcome to Kansas.

Please help Coach Gill to keep Wyatt & a tremendous football future as well as more revenue for the rest of the programs.

Rock Chalk Jayhawk!


Andy Tweedy 3 years, 3 months ago

He'll have to help everyone recover from the scandal, but he won't have to build any new facilities and he won't have to worry about any hires (even the Gill haters know if he gets fired it won't be now). I would think he'll have to time to settle in and do a nice job.


Chris Bruning 3 years, 3 months ago

great hire, welcome Mr. Zenger. All i care about is that he doesn't pull an al bohl and run Bill outta here.


patrick_e 3 years, 3 months ago

All you 'tards who were hoping for a big-name AD (does that really exist in the AD world anyways??), need a reality check.

Guess what: Athletic Director for the University of Kansas is not a step-up or even a lateral move for most of the "candidates" you were hopeful for.

This guy sounds like he has a solid resume. He has KU ties and has a football pedigree. That's what many of you Zenger bashers were looking for anyways.


Justin Lindsley 3 years, 3 months ago

Hope this guy can get us moving in the right direction. I hope he can raise some serious $$$$$$ too. We need it to have a chance to compete going in to the future.


P0WER 3 years, 3 months ago

Welcome Dr Zenger! As soon as you get this whole ticket office mess taken care of and the football team headed on the right track, you mind getting us back in Nike uniforms? Adidas really sucks! Thanks in advance.


Byrd313 3 years, 3 months ago

I live in Bloomington/Normal, where ISU is located. While I don't know anything about him personally, I can give you a glimpse at ISU athletics. None of the ISU sporting events are televised, there is no local support for ISU teams, and the sports haven't improved in years. They can spin his "achievements" any way they'd like, but this seems like a cheap option with home state ties.

That being said, I hope he does a great job for the greatest university in the nation. RCJ


ahpersecoachingexperience 3 years, 3 months ago

Key words in this article that make this guy a no!

Hays Ks Illinois State Missouri Valley KSU Kansas State School of Business Bill Snyder Mahattan High School

The next round of conference realignment talks should be stress free. Stress free because now we know we are going no place good.


KU_FanSince75 3 years, 3 months ago

I am sure he will trade his former purple color in for crimson & blue!


cheeseburger 3 years, 3 months ago

Welcome Dr. Zenger. All we ask is that you resurrect the reputation of KU sports from the Dumpster and operate the department in a legal and ethical manner with some successes on the field and on the court along the way!


ZDKC 3 years, 3 months ago

Don't know much about him, but a KU grad nonetheless. Sounds like a good pickup.


swunruh 3 years, 3 months ago

He's from western Kansas. He will do a fine job.


notigers4me 3 years, 3 months ago

Welcome home Dr. Zenger. We will try to overlook your KSU ties and will look to the future with your leadership.


KGphoto 3 years, 3 months ago

Is it me, or does he sound more like an assassin than an AD?


Commenting has been disabled for this item.