Sunday, July 22, 2018
Kansas volleyball coach Ray Bechard did his homework on his new boss.
As soon as Kansas hired Jeff Long as the university’s new athletic director, Bechard reached out to people that have worked with Long. Bechard heard nothing but positive things about his new athletic director, which he saw firsthand during Long’s introductory press conference in the Lied Center Pavilion Wednesday, July 11.
“Today was just a confirmation of everything that we have heard up to this point,” Bechard said after Long's introduction. “The coaching community is a small one, and I’m pretty connected. Everything that we have heard from people that have worked with Jeff is extremely positive.”
Bechard had a phone conversation with Long after the announcement, but July 11 was the first time the two got to meet in person.
But Bechard already knew plenty about his newest boss, who is the 11th athletic director in program history. Most of all, Bechard learned that Long wants all 18 sports to be successful during his tenure with the Jayhawks.
“He likes volleyball, he likes cross country, he likes a well-rounded athletic program,” Bechard said. “Certainly, we want to be good at football and we want to be good at basketball, but I know he wants the student-athlete experience to be positive for everyone.”
In his news conference, Long stressed the importance of revamping a football program that has won just three games in three years. Yet Long wants to compete at a high level in every sport, which was also a point of emphasis during his time as the athletic director at Arkansas from 2008-17.
The Arkansas volleyball team has posted five winning records in the last seven years, which includes consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament in 2012 and 2013. The team plays in the Barnhill Arena, a place used primarily for volleyball that can hold 8,500 people.
“They do it right down there,” Bechard said. “The minute you walk on campus, Barnhill is right next to their football stadium and that project, I think, is almost complete. They have a lot of great things going on, and that is going to translate into a lot of great things here.”
At this time, Bechard and Long haven’t talked about the project of building a brand new volleyball facility. According to Bechard, construction of the new Horejsi Family Volleyball Arena is still slated to begin immediately following the 2018 season. The plan is for the project to be finished by next August.
For now, however, Bechard is focused on taking care of business in the season opener that now carries more importance. Kansas travels to Fayetteville, Ark., to take on Long’s former program in Barnhill Arena on Friday, Aug. 24.
“I might feel more pressure from our athletic director,” Bechard said. “We don’t want to open up with a loss at his old school.”