KU AD Jeff Long plenty confident he can hire a quality replacement for Les Miles, but should he be allowed to?
Plenty was made, in 2018, about University of Kansas Athletic Director Jeff Long so quickly zeroing in on Les Miles and conducting yet another KU coaching search with Miles as the shiny, fancy focal point.
Today, with Miles and KU parting ways in the wake of allegations of sexual harassment during Miles’ days at LSU, Long wholeheartedly believes he is the right man to find a quality replacement for the Kansas program he oversees.
The question is how many others share that belief?
What’s more, how many people not named Long, or directly employed by him, want him to be the guy in charge of finding Miles’ replacement?
Long was asked on Tuesday if he was worried about the status of his job. He plowed ahead with an answer about continuing to support KU's student-athletes, saying, "my focus is on them."
Wise move. It may be best to operate with blinders on from this point forward, focusing only on mending what so quickly became broken and not worrying about what's being said elsewhere.
KU fans have not been shy about sharing their feelings about Long this week. Social media sites and message boards are currently filled with frustrated fans venting in vain and telling Long, at best, thanks but no thanks, and, at worst, to get lost.
But KU fans do not sign Long’s checks. So as long as the powers that be at the university share Long’s belief that he is the right man for the job — and to this point we haven't heard otherwise — Long will move forward with what he dubs “a national search” for Miles’ replacement armed with the same set of qualifications that allowed him to make the Miles hire in the first place.
The third-year KU AD was happy to share those during a 25-minute Zoom news conference on Tuesday during which he answered questions about the state of the program and defended the vetting he did before hiring Miles.
Long touted that he had been involved with college football “my entire professional life” and also pointed out that he worked at a number of different institutions and conferences and in college football “in many different ways.”
All of that is true. And it certainly could help. But it also did not stop him from hiring Miles a couple of years ago or from making a couple of hires at Arkansas (Bobby Petrino and Bret Bielema) that, at least in part, led to his dismissal there, nearly one year to the day before he hired Miles at Kansas.
“I'm confident in my knowledge, I'm confident in my experience and I have no doubt that we can find the next great leader for KU,” said Long, who will have the assistance of a search firm this time around.
Missing on a KU football hire is nothing new here. Both of Long’s predecessors, Lew Perkins and Sheahon Zenger, did it. But the fact that Long, unlike those two, was hired almost exclusively to fix football makes the mess the program is in today all the more troubling.
Long arrived in Lawrence with darn near nowhere to go but up. And yet in just under three years, and without trying, he has added his name to the conversation about those who are responsible for the demise of Kansas football in the post-Mark Mangino era.
Long may not be the guy who ran off Mangino to hire Turner Gill. And he didn’t hire Charlie Weis or David Beaty either. But one could argue that the embarrassment brought to the program because of Miles — over something that took place at another school — is worse than the losses that piled up in rapid fashion under Gill, Weis and Beaty.
Oh, and it’s not as if the losses suddenly disappeared while Miles was here either. Rebuilding or not, going 3-18 in two seasons is bad even by Kansas football standards.
So that brings us to today, with Kansas yet again looking for another football coach — its fifth since 2010 — and support for the program dwindling.
When asked Tuesday if he was concerned that the donor dollars to fund his plans for Kansas football now may be harder to collect, or whether he was worried that support for the program could be tougher than ever to conjure up, Long said he looked forward to having “open and candid” conversations with donors and fans alike about the program’s future.
He'll need to do that and more to win back the trust and faith of the KU fan base. After all, as Long pointed out on Tuesday: "We need their support more than ever."
Winning, of course, would take care of all of that. In a hurry. But, as wild as it is to say this, Kansas has never seemed quite so far away from winning as it does today.
What’s more — and this part’s even crazier — the lopsided ratio of losses to wins since 2010 doesn’t even seem to be the most important thing affecting this program’s future right now.
Can’t get any worse, right? How many times have we heard KU fans predict that one?
Better yet, how many more times will we have to hear it?