Monday, March 7, 2011

KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger at home on the road on outreach tour



Steve Hausler | Hays Daily News

Sheahon Zenger, athletic director for Kansas University, center, shares a laugh with hometown friends Ed Stehno, Hays, left, and Stehno’s wife, Donna, during a gathering on Wednesday at Augustine’s Bakery in Hays.

Kansas University’s new athletic director got a chance last week to make good on a promise he made during his introductory press conference — to get behind the wheel and meet new people.

Sheahon Zenger said being from Kansas is almost like a religion to him, and he enjoyed the opportunity to revisit some familiar places.

The trips are important to him, he said, because he gets to interact with new people. It’s something about the way he was raised, he said, that makes him love being out with the people of the state.

He rattled off the highways he traveled on the trip. Highway 148, Highway 119, Highway 9 and Highway 81. Roads he’s traveled “thousands of times,” he said.

The trek started in Salina on Monday.

Jordan Long is a server at Martinelli’s Little Italy, where Zenger met people. He was working on Monday, so he didn’t have a lot of time to hear everything that was going on, but he caught bits and pieces.

“He talked to just about everybody,” Long said.

That included Long himself, a die-hard Kansas State fan. He said Zenger was easy to get along with, like you could be friends with him really quickly.

His travel plans underwent some late rearranging as Zenger made time to attend his wife’s aunt’s funeral on Tuesday in Greenleaf. Members of his staff met people in Great Bend and Dodge City.

Zenger caught up with them in Garden City.

He arrived in Hays late Tuesday, about 10:30 p.m., but decided to take some time to drive around, seeing the house his parents lived in when he was young and getting a little dismayed that one of his favorite Hays eateries, the Taco Shop, had closed for the evening.

He and his staff had a meet-and-greet in Hays on Wednesday morning. His second-grade teacher showed up.

Chad Augustine is the owner of Augustine’s Bakery in Hays, where the event was held. He said Zenger stayed for two hours and his place was packed wall-to-wall for most of it.

“We were so full, you couldn’t even walk from one side of the building to the other,” he said, adding that having former KU football great Gale Sayers in attendance might have helped draw people, too.

Augustine talked to Zenger and said he was struck by how the A.D. seemed to take a genuine interest in his life and his family’s. Yes, he had a daughter. Yes, she’ll be attending KU soon. No, she doesn’t play any sports, but she is a cheerleader. No, she doesn’t want to cheer for KU because she’s afraid it might interfere with her studies. Yes, she’s majoring in pharmacy. Yes, that’s rigorous enough that it just might prevent her from having enough time to devote to cheerleading.

“He wasn’t just asking to ask,” Augustine said. “Most people when you talk about your kids, their eyes glaze over. They’re just asking to ask.”

Zenger said they then “made a beeline for Hutch” and did another event Wednesday afternoon before making it back to Lawrence for the men’s basketball game against Texas A&M.;

His connections to the state have been well publicized. Salina was home, he said, because he was born there. Hays was home because he grew up there.

Zenger seemed to relish small details of the trip — the hills near Clifton. The bluffs near Larned. And remembering that he had to accelerate as he drove into Garden City, to make it up the small hill.

He typically would give a short speech and would then spend time answering questions and would greet people individually.

“It’s somewhat arrogant to think you can go and deliver a speech and answer all their questions in a speech,” Zenger said.

Once in a while, the Kansas Athletics ticket scandal would be brought up but not very often, said Zenger and others who were at the events. He addressed the questions and said that they’re focused on moving forward. Audience members seemed more interested in his priorities, his approach in the athletic department and facilities improvements.

Marla Eriksen lives in Hutchinson and serves as a coordinator for KU Alumni Association events in Reno County. She said that fundraising and money never came up in Hutchinson but that she felt his approach should make that easier later.

“He just kind of seemed like one of us,” she said. “Very professional, down-to-earth.”

He and his staff tried to stay and answer everyone’s questions, Zenger said.

“Unless you have to be at the next event, we’re going to be the last ones out of there,” he said.

He was helped on his trip by the KU Alumni Association, which he said had been “out plowing the field. Williams Fund staffers had been in the area before, too, so the staff weren’t strangers.”

And he doesn’t think he’s done now. He’ll be back, he told the audiences.

“This isn’t a one-time thing,” he said.


KGphoto 8 years, 9 months ago

The men's coaches are nailed down.

The only thing Zenger has to do is replace Bonnie.

Jacobpaul81 8 years, 9 months ago

Seems pretty negative considering since Bonnie's arrival:

We've set the single game attendance record,

We've set the season attendance record,

We've entered the Top 25 in attendance,

We've raised Women's Basketball GPAs to a 2.9-3.0 average. Which is very good considering the travel & practice time these girls give up to play sports.

Sure she's struggling to win, playing middle of the conference right now, but she's also in a stacked conference, competing against K-State, Texas A&M and Baylor, all highly recognized womens basketball programs. Just cause KU's men's team is a highly recognized national program, does not mean the Women follow suit. I'm happy to see the progress she's made in her time at KU and the progress she's made in improving the STUDENT side of her athletic program.

KGphoto 8 years, 9 months ago

You don't get 10 years to make a tourney. Tad Boyle is putting the worst basketball team in conference history in the dance his first year.

Besides, the fact that KU's men's team is successful is exactly why the women should follow suit. The is the All-Time basketball school. UNC did it. Duke did it. UConn certainly did it. UCLA, Kentucky. Why not KU? It seems absurd to me that we can't recruit top talent and coaching to AFH.

This is NOT an NIT school. It's freaking Kansas basketball!

Laurence Cooley 8 years, 8 months ago

i agree with jacobpaul, bonnie has done a great job. how many time did the women's team make a post season tourney before bonnie? they are making strides. we are in a hard conference for recruiting with so many schools going against us (ou, baylor, tx a&m, and even texas) so i think what she has been able to do in the years she has been here is great. give her time, we are doing better; if you expected us to jump to the status of like stanford, tenn or uconn this soon, then those expectations are little too large for anyone to meet.

100 8 years, 9 months ago

Hey look it's our favorite troll below.... Twin brother of 12 steps...

ahpersecoachingexperience 8 years, 9 months ago

Wait, where, what, let me at him! Let me at him!

ahpersecoachingexperience 8 years, 9 months ago

Oh lord this is going to be bad! Instead on being in some major corporations board room nailing down some 7 figure sponsorship deal, or chasing rich alum in ny, chi, la, heck even kc, he's in western ks donut and taco shops!!! I'm going to make a wild guess that ole Ed and Donna pictured above don't have enough paper to put their name on a building.

kcglowboy 8 years, 9 months ago

Yep, you're right. He's got his priorities all screwed up -- getting out and meeting the people of this state face to face. The people who support this program through thick and thin. The people who send their kids to this university. The people who view a donation as an investment in something they love (as opposed to a tax write-off). The people who try to see the good in other people, who try be positive. People who don't go out of their way to be negative about everything and every one. Yep, sounds like a real loser to me.

notigers4me 8 years, 9 months ago

Some people just don't get it no matter what you say or do. What do you want a few more years of Perkins and his convict friends helping their selves to the cash register just because they somehow deserve it? I don’t think so. New AD Zenger is exactly what KU needs and he's doing exactly what he should be doing talking to the people of the state who actually pay the bills of the university. I would imagine that there is a whole lot more money in the Joe Blow middleclass collectively than in a few Rich smoes and there is a whole lot less baggage that goes along with it.

ahpersecoachingexperience 8 years, 9 months ago

call me crazy but i don't think sweet lew has been implicated in any ticket scandle alligations! a few rouge employees committing fraud during lew's time hails in comparison to what was done to facilities and championships while he was here. Do you think this clown would of been able to backdoor us into the orange bowl. Heck, he couldn't even get the taco shop to throw him some free food out the backdooor!

David Lara 8 years, 9 months ago

Wow, how do those with such remedial intelligence find their way to a computer, turn it on, click open a browser and type an internet address, enter an account login/password and submit a post? You are a marvel to your kind! The amazing things you are able to accomplish in your compromised mental state are a testament to the support you must be receiving from family and friends, as well as government handouts. Congratulations sir!

Now, just to give you an extra hand in overcoming your deficiencies, allow me to give you some pointers:

  1. A rouge employee would be one who likes to wear a lot of blush to work. A ROGUE employee is one whose actions go against the wishes of his or her superiors (hopefully "her" if there is blush involved).

  2. To hail in comparison would be to praise or bring attention to something, or to precipitate in a frozen, solid state, causing possible injury and/or damage to property. To PALE in comparison would be to shrink in size and scope in relation to something that requires much more attention.

I hope this helps. I apologize that I'm not around more often to do my part, but I want you to know that helping the less fortunate like this is something I find extremely rewarding. Giving back to the community is an obligation we all share!

ahpersecoachingexperience 8 years, 9 months ago

Thanks for the help. And you have no idea how long it takes me to log back into my account after clearing my web history because I was "entertaining myself" on other sites!

Andy Hess 8 years, 9 months ago

At his previous job he was well known as a fantastic fundraiser. I guess when reality doesn't match your preconceived notion, you just abandon it altogether.

ahpersecoachingexperience 8 years, 9 months ago

At his previous job his annual fundraising goal, operating budgets, and number of people on his staff was approximately half of that of the Wichita YMCA's CEO.

Randy Glenn 8 years, 9 months ago

The guys only been on the job for a month---give the guy a chance. He is doing the right thing by meeting people and restoring faith in the department. His stop in Garden City was well attended and he did`t leave until he talked to everyone in the room. Lew only visited with the BIG donors. Zenger will be a good one in time.

Gary Wirsig 8 years, 9 months ago

You're only revealing your ignorance and lack of class, ahsdlkfupwoeiuexperience. More than usual...

Randy Glenn 8 years, 9 months ago

WTF--You still mad that Drew Carey took over for Bob Barker on the Price Is Right?? Sh#t happens. Get over it.

Machawk 8 years, 9 months ago

I attended the gathering in Hutch last Wednesday and was extremely impressed with Dr. Zenger. He appears to be exactly what KU needs to lead the athletic department forward out of Lew's mess and restore Kansas values to the position.

As for his money-raising ability, I would not be surprised to see wallets open up like never before. People appreciate witty, honest, genuine, humble, intelligent, and thoughtful leaders especially in positions of power and responsibility. It is a somewhat rare combination these days. My advice is to attend a "meet and greet" in your area with Sheahon Zenger and see for yourself. I guarantee you, this A.D. will be responsible with donated dollars, and he will not be flying to local events when common sense and fiscal responsiblity would clearly suggest otherwise. He is a native Kansan who is humbled and excited to be the steward of KU Athletics.

Jeff Coffman 8 years, 9 months ago

Although Alpherse usually writes things to upset people. He does bring in a good point.

I'll be the first to mention that there are a lot of $10-$100 checks from alumni that make people feel good that they gave to the university. I think that Dr Zenger has done a good job of boostering this part of the KU Fund.

However as Alpherse points out this sustains the program and does not build the program. The true buildings to be made and the enhancements to the facilities come from the big donors. I hope that Dr Zenger is making an effort in that area as well, or else as Alpherse points out we will stay at status quo (sp?).

I'll agree with others that Perkins time needed to come to an end; however, I will not agree that he didn't do things for KU that actually put them on the map. Fraud occurs and as he has even said, he did lack the oversight over the ticket program.

I think Dr Zenger will do a good job, but remember the key that Perkins was successful at was getting the big donors and keeping them happy.

HonestAbe1981 8 years, 9 months ago

A couple of you obviously don't know much about fundraising and obviously don't know that a lot of money exists in Kansas outside of Kansas City. Some of the largest KU donors either live in or are from the western and central part of the state.

actorman 8 years, 9 months ago

"My advice is to attend a 'meet and greet' in your area with Sheahon Zenger and see for yourself."

The problem with that advice is that it can only work if someone is open-minded. And ahperse has fundamentalists saying, "You really should be more open to other viewpoints."

stehno 8 years, 9 months ago

Dear ahpersecoachingexperience,

Concerning your mean spirited comment about ole' Ed and Donna. Guess what? They do have a building named after them. Perhaps you would like to visit the beautiful state-of-the-art Alumni Center at Ft. Hays and see the Stehno Room, named because of the financial contribution by ole Ed and Donna to the building. Perhaps you should talk to ole Ed and Donna about fundraising, as they obviously know a great deal. They currently are serving as the Co-Chairs for the Ft. Hays Cornerstone Campaign, well ahead of its $60 million goal. Perhaps you should know that ole Ed and Donna sent their three children to KU and the entire family consistently support KU, including their daughter and her husband, who started and solely funded a scholarship for students at KU Med. Clearly your gifts to KU must shadow what ole Ed and Donna's family has done for Ft. Hays State University and KU. Please share your philanthropic resume with the rest of us, as you stand in judgement.

ahpersecoachingexperience 8 years, 9 months ago

nice user name, been on this site for a long time, have ya? user since when? did i strike a nerve?

real quick, is it a building or a room (bow-chicka-wow-wow) in this alumni center you are talking about? by state of the art do you mean fema dropped off a bunch of used trailers left over from the greensburg tornado and you guys painted "alumni center" on them? i bet the grand opening was sweet with the local daredevil preforming a motocycle jump over them!

can you explain how eddie and oh'donna became co-chairs of this fundraising campaign? oh wait. i know how. through default. errrrrrrrr, apprehension! long story short for those of you to lazy to google it. the orginal chair was this old @$$ developer that tried to hire a dude to kill another dude. lucky for other dude dog the bounty hunter caught him at the denver airport.

and finally for my philanthropic (that word is almost as long as my user name) contributions, let us just say that "remember the sheahon" has my number. i don't take his calls!

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