Former quarterback and defensive back Jeff Long, new athletic director at Kansas, was cited by the Dayton Daily News as the fifth best football player in the history of Fairmont East High in Ohio in a story written by Marc Pendleton, dated July 18, 2017.
The school merged with Fairmont West to form Fairmont High in 1983.
Long ranks two spots behind former Michigan coach Brady Hoke, his center on the football team and catcher on the baseball team, and one spot behind Hoke’s older brother, Jon Hoke, on the list of all-time greatest Fairmont East football players.
The story points out that Long, a 1978 graduate, went a combined 13-6-1 in two seasons as starting quarterback and “more importantly,” his two touchdown passes led to a 26-22 victory over Fairmont West and came the year before East shut out West.
Long, the story reports, earned seven varsity letters in football and baseball during his collegiate career at Ohio Wesleyan.
Once candidates for an athletic director's job are told they no longer are being considered, an announcement for the choice is not far behind.
The Kansas search for a new athletic director has reached that stage and an announcement could come as soon as this week, even today.
Since I can't find anyone who has told me that former Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long has been told he isn't getting the job, he's my educated guess as to KU's replacement for fired Sheahon Zenger.
Long, 58, served as athletic director for University of Pittsburgh, where he hired Dave Wannstedt as head football coach, and at Arkansas, where he hired and fired Bobby Petrino and hired and extended Bret Bielema.
Arkansas fired Long last November.
The money frittered away by college athletic departments always has blown me away. So often athletic directors grant coaches contract extensions with no urgency to do so, no suitors trying to steal the coach, and in some cases the extensions come with monster buyouts.
Kansas football coach David Beaty had a 2-22 record when he was granted an extension that came with a doubling of his salary. Good thing he wasn’t 4-20 or KU might have had to sell naming rights for Allen Fieldhouse to pay for his salary.
I never have been able to confirm the theory that Beaty leveraged a supposed offer to become Tom Herman’s offensive coordinator at Texas to get the raise. If that’s the case, that makes it even worse. A 2-22 coach has no leverage. The $3 million buyout seemed excessive, too, even though Turner Gill was paid $6 million for games he never coached, Charlie Weis $6.67 million.
But there have been far worse buyouts written into contract extensions by athletic directors for coaches with losing records.
Where was the urgency for Arkansas AD Jeff Long to extend Bret Bielema when he had a 10-15 record two years into his tenure at Arkansas? Long was fired and then Bielema was shown the door with a 29-34 overall record and 11-29 mark in SEC play. Shed no tears for Bielema. His parachute, courtesy of Long, was $11.9 million.
Oh well, you say, that’s the cost of doing business in big-time college athletics. OK, then that’s what makes me think going outside the world of college athletics for its next AD just might be the way to go for Kansas. Or at the very least, hiring someone who has a clean record for not blowing other people's money and not making football hires that blow up.
Time to fill out my ballot predicting the order of finish in the Big 12 football standings in advance of Big 12 Media Days (July 16 and 17 in Frisco, Texas):
1 - Oklahoma: Picking anyone else would require having a compelling reason to do so. The Sooners survived the retirement of coach Bob Stoops with a great 2017 season and there is no reason to believe they won’t do the same in the first season without Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield. Oakland A’s first-round draft choice Kyler Murray replaces Mayfield and is among the fastest players in college football.
2 - West Virginia: The Mountaineers have a lot of experience on both sides of the line of scrimmage and a superstar at the most important position. Quarterback Will Grier led West Virginia to a 7-3 record and the team went winless in the final three games without him.
3 - TCU: The Horned Frogs should be tough on defense, but they’re breaking in a new staring quarterback in Shawn Robinson, who will be protected by an offensive line that lost four starters.
4 - Kansas State: Cornerback D.J. Reed and receiver Byron Pringle left early for the NFL draft and depth took a hit with a number of transfers, but the Wildcats tend to be better on the field than on paper most years, so don’t overlook them. The offensive tackle tandem of Scott Frantz and Dalton Risner is as good as any in the nation and coach Bill Snyder will know how to make the most of the talented quarterback tandem of Skylar Thompson and Alex Delton.
5 - Texas: I suspect many are getting too excited too quickly about the Longhorns under second-year head coach Tom Herman. He’s upgrading recruiting. Rivals ranked Texas No. 3 in the Class of 2018, but in football it takes a few years for recruiting classes to make a major impact. Herman has two good quarterbacks from which to choose in junior Shane Buechele and sophomore Sam Ehlinger. But wouldn’t you rather have one great quarterback, as does West Virginia, than two good ones?
6 - Oklahoma State: Mason Rudolph and favorite target James Washington shredded Big 12 defenses for what seemed like decades. They’re both with the Pittsburgh Steelers now. Fifth-year senior Taylor Cornelius was the most impressive in the spring, but Hawaii transfer Dru Brown will push him for the starting job. The Cowboys could be vulnerable early in the season.
7 - Texas Tech: The Red Raiders return 10 of 11 starters on defense and the entire starting offensive line, so whichever of three competitors (a freshman, sophomore and junior) for the quarterback job wins it, he should be able to keep his uniform clean running Kliff Kingsbury’s version of the Air Raid.
8 - Iowa State: The surprise team of the Big 12 a year ago, the Cyclones will have to replace key talents on offense and defense and won’t have nearly as much experience on the field. They still will be a well-coached, disciplined team.
9 - Baylor: Matt Rhule had the wisdom to know that the Bears’ 2017 record (1-11) wasn’t going to determine the success of his tenure, so he played a bunch of freshman, got them valuable experience and stayed true to his plan of recruiting high school players from the state of Texas. It will be another year of slow progress, but he’s not about to rob the future simply to have a slightly better losing football team today. He has the discipline to avoid the quick-fix approach.
10 - Kansas: The defense loaded up on talented junior-college players and the secondary has a chance to be much, much better, but the gap the team had to close from being by far the worst team in the conference a year ago makes it tough to find any conference victories on the schedule. Baylor won in Lawrence, 38-9, and Texas Tech came away from its visit with a 65-19 rout. The Iowa State game is in Lawrence and the Cyclones aren't quite as talented as the team that slammed Kansas, 45-0, but that's a lot of points to make up in one year. Again, where is the conference win on the schedule? Maybe vs. Oklahoma State on Sept. 29?
More than two-thirds of the starts at offensive line during the 2017 Kansas football season were made by players expected to suit up for the Jayhawks this coming fall.
Those players should benefit from an extra year in the weight room and perhaps from their new offensive line coach, A.J. Ricker.
Several newcomers will vie for snaps as well. Plus, KU might not be done recruiting. Adding a body or two via the graduate-transfer route remains a possibility.
Four different players made starts at right tackle, a position that appears up for grabs.
David Beaty gave a shortage of bodies at offensive line as the reason for not having a spring game. With so many reinforcements on board, quantity won't be an issue, although center remains a cause for concern.
Improving the quality of the line from the past few seasons will be the main issue.
A look at 18 offensive linemen expected to be on the 2018 roster, provided they are physically and academically healthy and in the case of the potential blueshirts, provided either they or the coaching staff does not end the relationship:
Possible role: Barring a last-minute addition of a talented graduate transfer, Adeniji should start at left tackle for the third consecutive year.
Possible role: Not likely to appear on the two-deep, Bragg has made starts at center and guard during his career. After he started at center vs. Iowa State, three players were juggled to different positions vs. TCU to avoid starting Bragg at center.
EARL BOSTICK JR.
Possible role: If he doesn’t battle his way onto two-deep at one of the tackle spots, he could redshirt, which would make up for the year of eligibility he burned as a freshman, when he appeared in the Rhode Island game and didn’t play in the remaining 11 games. Lined up as second tight end multiple times and caught one pass, a touchdown. Could still be a year or two away.
Possible role: Cited by coaches for making progress during spring football, Clark is a candidate to start at left guard, but if Andru Tovi doesn’t have to move to center, Clark likely will end up on second team.
Possible role: Looks like a Big 12 tackle coming off the bus but only on-field action came vs. Rhode Island during freshman season. Might still be a year away.
Possible role: Foot injury sidelined him first two years at Ohio State and he was medically cleared for third season but didn’t play. Has two years of eligibility remaining. If healthy, could compete for starting assignment at right tackle.
Possible role: Appeared in season opener vs. Rhode Island in 2017 and didn’t get in another game. Started the three nonconference games in 2018, but appeared to be a couple of years away from being ready. Could benefit from redshirt year, if not part of competition to start at right tackle.
Possible role: Has long-range promise but probably not at center, where he played some during the spring and appeared to struggle with snaps. Lauded for hard-nosed attitude.
Possible role: Started 10 games at right guard, missing two games and time in the spring because of injury. If he stays healthy should lock down right guard spot for remainder of career.
Possible role: Has appeared at guard and tackle throughout career and strives to get stronger each year in the weight room. In event of injury to a starter, his experience makes him a candidate to stand in at multiple positions.
Possible role: Potential blueshirt from College of San Mateo played right tackle in juco and will, along with several others, be given a shot to win the position during camp.
Possible role: Big recruiting score. Remained committed to KU despite late scholarship offer from Texas and late attempt by Oklahoma State to get him to make a visit. Has potential at both guard and tackle. Might be able to get on the two-deep as a freshman. If not, would benefit from redshirt season.
Possible role: Potential blueshirt from College of San Mateo will try to earn snaps at guard. Played left guard at CSM.
CLYDE McCAULEY III
Possible role: Has chance to serve as backup at both tackle spots in event he doesn’t make a big enough improvement to win a starting job. He, Larry Hughes and Bragg (five years) are the only O-linemen who have been in program more than three seasons.
Possible role: Former walk-on appeared in two games at center last season but is not likely to crack the two-deep.
Possible role: Potential blueshirt from College of San Mateo played mostly at guard but did play a game at center and played some there in high school, so if he can prove reliable enough there to win the starting spot that would enable Tovi to stay at guard. If staff doesn’t like him at center he’ll supply depth at guard.
Possible role: Made eight starts at left guard last season and will remain there if he’s not needed at center, where he played during the spring out of necessity.
Possible role: An impressive recruiting score, Williams enrolled early and impressed with his enthusiasm during the spring. Turned down offers from Central Florida, Illinois and Minnesota to become a Jayhawk. Ideally, KU will be able to redshirt him and start him down a development path that leads to multiple years as a starter at tackle.
Myron Medcalf does a nice job of detailing why he considers Keelon Lawson to be “the most influential man in college basketball,” in a story he wrote for ESPN.com.
The gist of the story that appears under the headline, “Meet the new first family of college basketball”: Keelon Lawson not only has two highly ranked sons playing high school basketball in Memphis, but one of them might form a package deal with the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2019.
Dedric Lawson and K.J. Lawson will make their debuts at Kansas this coming season after starring for two seasons at Memphis, where their father, Keelon Lawson, was demoted by Tubby Smith from the assistant coaching position for which Smith’s predecessor, Josh Pastner, hired him.
Ranked No. 47 in the Class of 2019 by ESPN, 6-foot-8 Chandler Lawson is being recruited by Kansas. Ranked No. 14 in the Class of 2021 by ESPN, Johnathan Lawson is a 6-6 forward.
The moment the older Lawson brothers transferred to Kansas, the Jayhawks became the favorites to land both younger brothers.
Chandler Lawson’s high school teammate, James Wiseman, is a 7-footer ranked No. 1 in the Class of 2019 by ESPN, and Medcalf writes that there is speculation that Wiseman and Chandler Lawson might form a package deal and attend the same college.
It seems as if those package deals seldom come to fruition though.
If Dedric and K.J. Lawson enjoy this season, KU would seem to be in great shape for landing at least Chandler Lawson, maybe even Wiseman.
But it’s not a slam dunk. Their coach at Memphis East High, Memphis basketball legend Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway of NBA fame, was hired by Memphis to replace Smith, who is in his first year at his alma mater, High Point University in High Point, N.C.
Smith was fired after two seasons on the job at Memphis, the beginning of the end of his tenure coming when he demoted Keelon Lawson. Hardaway, Medcalf writes, goes back 20 years with the Lawson family, so Memphis has a shot at restoring relations with the family.
If all goes well for the older Lawson brothers this season, though, KU could be difficult to beat for Chandler Lawson and Wiseman.
Dedric Lawson very well may be KU’s best player. How well the 6-7 K.J. Lawson makes the transition to the perimeter could factor in his playing time and in turn become an influence on where Chandler Lawson, and maybe even Wiseman, attend college in 2019-20. K.J. averaged 12.3 points and 8.1 rebounds and shot .328 from 3-point range as a sophomore for Memphis. He has made it clear he considers himself a guard. If his skills don't match his self-scout, it has the potential to develop into a sticky situation, something of a puzzle for Self to solve.
Pro-football-reference.com is a great place to go for statistics on NFL players, past and present.
The site enables the user to research based on the players' alma maters as well. It shows that Kansas has had 160 NFL players, 64th most in the country. Notre Dame is first with 573, USC second with 515.
Interestingly, Kansas had an abundance of successful defensive backs in the NFL and precious few quarterbacks.
Here is a look at KU statistical leaders in the NFL:
Doug Meacham became the Kansas football team’s seventh offensive coordinator in eight seasons at the start of 2017, one of the more disturbing of many signs of instability in the program.
Amazingly though, KU hasn’t had the most turnover at the OC spot, even though two head coaches, Charlie Weis and David Beaty, hired and fired themselves as offensive coordinators.
A school on KU’s 2018 schedule has had even more turnover.
John McNulty, back at Rutgers after spending nine seasons working in the NFL, is the school’s ninth offensive coordinator in nine seasons.
McNulty had a successful run as OC at Rutgers under Greg Schiano, but he doesn’t inherit the sort of talent he worked with during those glory years.
Rutgers visits David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium for an 11 a.m. kickoff Sept. 15. For a number of reasons, this qualifies as a realistic shot for Kansas to land its first nonconference victory vs. an FBS school, if it doesn’t already happen the previous week at Central Michigan.
Kansas ranked 118th in the nation among 130 schools in total offense with 329 yards per game in 2017. Rutgers ranked 129th with 262.7 yards. KU was 120th with 18.7 points per game. RU checked in at 121st with 18 points a game. The Jayhawks had six more turnovers than the Scarlet Knights.
Quarterback play was a problem in 2017 for Rutgers, which scored big on the recruiting front. True freshman Artur Sitkowski graduated high school a semester early so that he could compete for the starting job and generated a great deal of excitement with an impressive spring game.
A three-star, 6-foot-5, 205-pound pro-style quarterback from Old Bridge, N.J., originally committed to University of Miami but changed his mind.
Jerry Kill, who retired after one season as OC at Rutgers, did a terrific job in convincing Sitkowski to come back home to New Jersey after spending a year at IMG Academy in Florida.
Nobody disputes that Sitkowski is the most talented QB on the Rutgers roster, but head coach Chris Ash has not yet named him the starter.
If Sitkowski does win the job, facing a quarterback in his third collegiate game, even a talented quarterback, isn’t such a bad thing. An experienced Kansas defense might be able to confuse him and/or hurry him into making mistakes.
Plus, the Scarlet Knights play Ohio State the week before visiting Kansas, so they’re liable to come into town with plenty of aches and pains.
The schools last played in Beaty's first season, when Rutgers own at home, 27-14.
In keeping with the tradition of a KU sports fan who circles potential victories for the football team and potential losses for the basketball team on pocket schedules, circle Rutgers, even though the Scarlet Knights won three Big Ten games last season.
Also, be prepared to win a trivia contest should you be asked to name all of the offensive coordinators at Kansas and Rutgers since the start of the 2010 season.
Rutgers: Kirk Ciarrocca, Frank Cignetti, Dave Brock, Ron Prince, Ralph Friedgen, Ben McDaniels, Drew Mehringer, Kill, McNulty.
Kansas: Chuck Long, Weis, John Reagan, Eric Kiesau, Rob Likens, Beaty, Meacham.
The best way to maintain a large pool of interested candidates for a Division I athletic director's job is to keep the names secret. Kansas has done a terrific job of that.
If leaks sprouted, too many candidates would incur the wrath of the trees they shake for money, all the while telling the trees they love their dream jobs.
So that takes care of that question. Other FAQ:
1 - What is your over/under on the naming of KU’s next AD? July 2.
The same people who either don’t know anything about the identities of the leading candidates or say they don’t know so as not to put themselves at risk of getting fired aren’t as tight-lipped about the timetable.
Before the days of the 24/7 news cycle, bad news was saved for Friday afternoons, a tradition that still seems to be in place. Since this presumably will be good news, why not on a Monday?
That week is the same week several point toward, so if it’s not Monday, then later that week. 2 - What’s your over/under on the new AD’s first day on the job?
July 30, a Monday.
3 - Might the new athletic director hire her or his own football coach right off the bat? No. Such things don’t happen in July. The new AD will get the lay of the land first. David Beaty will coach Kansas against Nicholls State, Central Michigan and Rutgers, a fairly easy nonconference schedule, compared to some seasons.
4 - Are there any out-of-work athletic directors who might be interested?
Louisville’s Tom Zurich.
4a - But wasn’t he fired because of the scandals at Louisville?
Yes, but he received a reported $7.2 million (plus tickets to football and basketball games and medical insurance) settlement in a wrongful termination lawsuit. That goes a long way toward putting him back as a candidate for a big job.
Face it, if the feds don’t share the information from their investigation into college basketball with the NCAA and the NCAA doesn’t launch one of its own, it’s the wild, wild West. Plus, the guy has a good track record for hiring football coaches.
5 - Any clue on Sheahon Zenger’s immediate plans?
My guess is that for the next year, his son Jake’s senior year, he will enjoy being a dad, and if he does anything in the way of work, it will be as an assistant football coach at his son’s high school. In the spring, he’ll watch from the stands as Jake closes games for for perennial baseball powerhouse Free State High.
After that, he’ll resume his career, but that's just a guess. A year off won't hurt his ability to land a job.
Following the advice of his agent, Billy Preston scratched at the last minute from the five-on-five portion of the NBA combine.
Considering he never played in a game for Kansas and was hurt after a few games in Bosnia, Preston stood to gain as much as anybody by scrimmaging. Yet, he was told to scratch.
It makes so little sense that it makes me wonder if Preston’s agent wants him to get drafted.
Maybe he figures Preston can get a better deal as a free agent than as a second-round pick with a non-guaranteed contract. That way he can try to figure out which team has the most need for a player of his size and skill set.
Otherwise, scratching just doesn’t make any sense.
Looking at the top 11 listed in the Rivals Class of 2017 recruiting rankings, three players have faded the most: Preston was ranked No. 11 and is projected to go No. 59 by The Athletic.
Mitchell Robinson, who had committed to Western Kentucky but decided to bypass college and spend the year preparing for the draft, was ranked No. 9 and is projected No. 39. Duke point guard Trevon Duval was ranked No. 5 and is projected to go 50th.
The cases of Robinson and Preston show that NBA General Managers give credit to players who show they can handle school, hard coaching and blending in with teammates. General managers didn’t get to see that with Preston and Robinson so it makes picking them a little riskier.
But all it takes is one GM willing to go off what he saw in high school.
A look at the top 11 Class of 2017 prospects ranked by Rivals:
|Michael Porter Jr.||Missouri||1||8|
|Marvin Bagley III||Duke||2||2|
|Jaren Jackson Jr.||Michigan State||6||4|