KU’s annual Late Night in the Phog brings with it the excitement of a new basketball season. And when Kansas Athletics needed a high-energy host to keep the crowd of 16,300 buzzing, they turned to KU Alumni’s own Danny Woods.
Woods, j’13, helps manage the 50-plus networks of Jayhawk alumni across the country with a level of enthusiasm worthy of the Phog. We sat down with him to hear about his experience on James Naismith Court.
How did you get the job?
I was approached by KU Athletics around the time of the KU vs. Rutgers football game. They asked if I would be interested in doing pregame PA announcements for Gameday on the Hill, a tailgating experience on Campanile Hill with food, beverages, retail and live music before football games. Nothing was mentioned about Late Night at this time, but I think it was a test run. Athletics was just making sure I could, as the saying goes, walk and chew gum at the same time. I was offered the emcee position the following week.
How much freedom were you given?
Working with the Athletics marketing office was great. Leading up to Late Night they provided me with a script and a timeline of events. But they told me, “We want you to be yourself out there. Change up any of the language so it feels comfortable and natural to you.” It was a great feeling to have the framework of the house, but then be able to furnish it myself.
How did you think your performance went?
Well, I didn’t get fired yet, so that’s always a plus! But for real, it was awesome. To be honest, I was super nervous. Late Night is a huge night for KU students, alumni and fans, and I just wanted to make sure they had a great experience. There are definitely opportunities for me to grow and make future emcee performances better. And yes, this is definitely me openly lobbying to be the emcee for future Late Nights.
What was your favorite part of the night?
Can I take the easy road out and say the whole thing? This was actually the first Late Night I have been to since I was a student. When I worked in the Office of Admissions, Late Night always fell during travel and recruitment season. *cough cough* Any prospective students out there reading this make sure you apply by the Nov. 1st scholarship deadline! And since I have been at the Alumni Association, I have always been out in one of our national networks during Late Night. So just having the opportunity to be in Allen Fieldhouse during Late Night was the best.
Most importantly: Did you get to meet 2 Chainz?
2 Chainz and I got to be in the same room and we definitely breathed the same air. I did not, however, formally meet him. I was afraid if I actually tried to introduce myself to him before Late Night that I would pass out from excitement.
It’s been 25 years since the 1993-94 basketball season, when Jacque Vaughn introduced himself to the world with an overtime buzzer-beater against Indiana. For some Jayhawks, their experience that season was special not just for what happened on the court, but also in the stands.
Jeremy Boldra spent his sophomore year in the stands as Kramer, Jerry’s goofy neighbor in the hit television series “Seinfeld”. What began as an idea for a Halloween costume put Boldra, d’97 g’03, into Captain Jayhawk-levels of fame for one fun season.
We could try to tell the story, but perhaps it’s best to let the man himself share how Kramer came to be.
An idea is born
The idea came to me when a roommate saw me with my hair standing up and told me I looked like Kramer. At the time I had no idea who that was, so he introduced me to “Seinfeld,” which we soon were all watching together every Thursday night. As we watched, I knew I could totally play that character. So I decided I’d do it for a Halloween party my sophomore year. That fall, I saw an ad in the Daily Kansan for a sitcom character contest at Late Night with Roy Williams, which was the night before Halloween.
When I got to the Fieldhouse, I knew I had to make an entrance like Kramer always would. So I swung the door open and stormed in, making so much noise that all the contestants that were already there turned and said “Kramer!” One of the judges literally leaps over a table and tells me “You’re in!”
So it’s time for the contest and we’re in the hallway where the team comes out. They called my name, and I had a plan. I just jogged out there, and once I made it to the free throw line, I wiped out. I hit the floor, then got up shaking, then strutting out to half court. By the time I got there, fans were chanting “Kramer! Kramer!” The chanting went on over the next contestant. One contestant got booed, another got no response. I made it to the finals, the Kramer chants started again, and it was a blast.
Kramer lives on
The next night was Halloween, and we were talking with some cheerleaders at a party who said I should dress up for home games, so after a little convincing I decided to do it.
So I dressed up as Kramer in the student section, and by the second or third game people were asking me for autographs, it was getting a little weird. So I decided to not dress up for the next game. Which was Temple, which we lost. As I was leaving, several people said to me “We lost because you didn’t dress up.” So I start dressing up again and sure enough, we go on a huge winning streak.
I only did it for that year. I had a lot of fun, but it was time. Since then, I’ve run into people who remember me from those games.
Where is Kramer now? Boldra is the superintendent at Flint Hills school district, just outside of El Dorado. Jeremy and his wife, Bryna, have two sons, Landon, 11, and Keenan, 8. This year’s Late Night in the Phog takes place Friday, Sept. 28.
If you’ve been on social media at all this past week, you’ve surely seen the highlight of the year in college football. If you haven’t, enjoy:
North Texas’ Keegan Brewer faked out the entire Arkansas team by standing around after catching the ball, without ever signaling for a fair catch. After a couple of Arkansas players started walking to their sideline, Brewer took off for a touchdown.
Brewer started his football career at the University of Kansas, where he caught 15 passes as a true freshmen. After his freshman year, Brewer transferred to North Texas to be closer to home.
Brewer’s heroics got us thinking about other trick plays that Kansas has run throughout the years.
2016: Downed in the end zone
When the Jayhawks wore all blue against Iowa State in 2016, wide receiver LaQuvionte Gonzalez took the opportunity to camouflage himself in the blue turf of the end zone. Wide receiver Steven Sims returned the kick, then turned and threw across the field to Gonzalez, who scampered down the sideline for a 34 yard gain.
2016: Razzle-dazzle to hook the Horns
After driving the length of the field to cut the deficit to 21-16, the Jayhawks needed to go for 2 to cut the deficit to a field goal. Head Coach David Beaty called for misdirection, with running back Ke’aun Kinner taking a direct snap and pitching the ball to Steven Sims, who ran his way into the end zone to close the deficit.
2008: Orange Bowl heroics
Faced with a 4th and 10 at midfield, Head Coach Mark Mangino took a big gamble to keep the drive going. A direct snap to running back Brandon McAnderson, who threw to Micah Brown to keep the drive alive. While the drive didn’t end with points, we promise you’ll like the ending if you stick around.
2004: Randle ends the streak
With Kansas State in town holding an 11-game winning streak over KU, Mangino pulled out all the stops to bring the Jayhawks a victory. Quarterback Adam Barmann threw a screen to wide receiver Brandon Rideau, who pitched it to running back John Randle, who dove for the end zone to send the Memorial Stadium crowd into a frenzy.
1996: Hidden Henley
Throwing it way back here, to when Glen Mason’s Jayhawks traveled to Salt Lake City to play the #20 Utes. Down 38-35, KU lined up for a field goal, with running back June Henley jogging towards the sideline. Quarterback Matt Johner, serving as the holder on the play, threw the ball to a wide-open Henley near the sideline for a touchdown.
1995: No punt in Norman
Head Coach Glen Mason had more than one trick up his sleeve. When the Jayhawk offense stalled out in Norman against the #15 Sooners, punter Darrin Simmons kept the ball and ran it himself for a nearly 50 yard gain. KU would go on to win 38-17.
We probably missed a crazy play from back in the day, so let us know if we need to add your favorite one!
University of Kansas Director of Athletics Jeff Long sent the following message to KU fans and season ticket holders Thursday, August 30.
Greetings Jayhawks and Rock Chalk!
I am thrilled to address you for the first time as the Director of Athletics at the University of Kansas. Over these first few weeks I have experienced firsthand the tremendous spirit and passion KU alumni, faculty, staff and students have for this great University. Our history and tradition truly make this institution special.
As we enter the academic and competitive year, our coaches, student-athletes and staff are focused on competition – competition in the classroom, competition in their athletic pursuits and competition to engage in and make a positive impact in our communities. It is our expectation that we will continue to represent the flagship institution of KANSAS in a manner in which Jayhawks around the world will be even more proud.
Our number one priority will be the well-being of our 460-plus student-athletes and their individual student-athlete experience. We have the privilege and duty to educate these young minds, assist in their maturity, sharpen their athletic skills and produce proud University of Kansas graduates.
We have begun the process of identifying any and all obstacles that may exist that would prevent us from providing an amazing student-athlete experience. Two areas that directly impact this experience are revenue production and facility enhancements. Over the next few months we will engage in deep conversations about growing our membership in the Williams Education Fund and establishing a clear vision for our capital improvements, including David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium, Allen Fieldhouse and Hoglund Ballpark.
You can make an immediate impact on the student-athlete experience by coming to David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium this fall to cheer on the crimson and blue. The young men on this team are dedicated to competing for KANSAS. Like you, they are Jayhawks; they love representing KANSAS and they need your support.
For those who have purchased season tickets, thank you. For those who haven’t, please consider helping us break the cycle and join us this Saturday and all season long.
The University of Kansas boasts some 350,000 alumni worldwide. As we tour the state and travel nationally I hope to meet many of you. Over the last month I have learned what you already know: This is a very special place, and I am grateful for the opportunity to represent you as the Director of Athletics at the University of Kansas!
The inaugural KU Kickoff event in downtown Topeka took place Aug. 9 outside the Celtic Fox at 8th Street and Kansas Avenue. The celebration featured food, music, promotional items and the opportunity to win tickets and more.
Brian Hanni, the Voice of the Jayhawks, hosted the event. Featured speakers included Chancellor Doug Girod, football head coach David Beaty and women’s soccer head coach Mark Francis.
Check out some of the event’s highlights below in our compilation of social media posts! Future events will be held in Wichita, Prairie Village and Lawrence.
As the Kansas football team works through fall camp, Kansas Athletics and the KU Alumni Association have announced four dates providing fans opportunities to meet and greet the Jayhawks before the season begins.
With outings scheduled for Topeka, Wichita, Kansas City and Lawrence, the celebrations will feature food, music, promotional items and the opportunity to win tickets and more. The KU band and spirit squads will be in attendance at the various locations.
KU Kickoff at Topeka
Scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 9 at 6 p.m., outside the Celtic Fox at 8th Street and Kansas Avenue, the KU Kickoff at Topeka will be hosted by the Voice of the Jayhawks, Brian Hanni. Featured speakers will be Chancellor Doug Girod, football head coach David Beaty and women’s soccer head coach Mark Francis. Facebook event
KU Kickoff at Wichita
Slated for Wednesday, Aug. 15 at 6 p.m., at Beech Lake off of 13th Street and Webb, the KU Kickoff at Wichita will again be hosted by Hanni and will feature Girod, Beaty and Director of Athletics Jeff Long. Facebook event
KU Kickoff at Corinth Square (Kansas City)
The 13th annual KU Kickoff at Corinth Square will be held on Friday, Aug. 17 and will get started at 6 p.m., at the parking lot at the Corinth Square Shopping Centre in Prairie Village. Jayhawk radio network football color analyst David Lawrence will host the KU Kickoff at Corinth Square with Girod, Beaty and Long scheduled to attend, along with KU Alumni Association’s Heath Peterson. Facebook event
KU Kickoff at Lawrence
The quartet of celebrations will conclude at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium as the KU Kickoff at Lawrence will take place on Saturday, Aug. 25 from 2-4 p.m. The Fun Zone will be set up right on Kivisto Field and gates will open at 2 p.m. Food trucks will be set up around the stadium and the Jayhawk players will sign autographs starting at 3 p.m. Parking for the KU Kickoff at Lawrence and is free and open. Fans attending the event are encouraged to park on the east side of DBK Memorial Stadium in Lots 91 and 94.
Jeff Long vividly recalls the moment he decided he wanted to join KU as the next athletics director. It wasn’t about the chance to renovate a football program, or wins and losses, dollars and cents, academic reputation or even quality of life in Lawrence.
All played a factor, but only came into play after he’d met two men dispatched to make KU’s pitch: A. Drue Jennings, d’68, l’72, who chaired the search process, and Vice Chancellor Reggie Robinson, c’80, l’87, who served as Chancellor Doug Girod’s representative.
“From the moment I met them, I knew I was meeting with two men who have deep love for Kansas, deep love for this University, and it had an immediate impact on me,” Long said at his July 11 introductory news conference. “I thought, you know what, if these are the type of people who are at Kansas, then this is the kind of place I want to be.”
Jennings, former chairman and CEO of Kansas City Power & Light, said at Long’s news conference that he learned early on in the search that “this chancellor means business. As pleasant and human as he may appear, which he is, he does indeed mean business.” Which is exactly the signal that Girod sent when he told the University community—on the day he relieved Sheahon Zenger, PhD’96, of his duties—that he’d already asked Jennings to lead the search for Zenger’s replacement.
He means business.
Filling the void
Even a cursory summary of Jennings’ honors and volunteer service to the University and charitable organizations throughout Kansas City would run for pages. Suffice, then, to note that when Jennings was awarded what was then the University and Alumni Association’s highest honor, the Distinguished Service Citation, in 1999, he had yet to lead even a single prominent leadership search on KU’s behalf.
Four years later, in 2003, Chancellor Robert E. Hemenway asked Jennings to fill a leadership void and step in as interim athletics director, and Jennings promptly hired Bill Self to coach men’s basketball. “I don’t think they had a search when they hired me,” Self says. “Just Drue.”
When Hemenway announced his retirement, the Kansas Board of Regents in 2008 asked Jennings to lead the search for KU’s next chancellor, which culminated in the hiring of Bernadette Gray-Little. And now he’s done it yet again, responding to Girod’s call to find the next leader of Kansas Athletics.
“He literally dropped everything,” Girod said.
So who is this Jayhawk behind the scenes, and why have the Regents and University repeatedly turned to him in times of transition?
Robinson cites Jennings’ “unwavering steadiness.” Deputy Athletics Director Sean Lester, who served as interim director until Long’s hiring, says Jennings delivers “instant integrity, instant command, instant credibility.”
Says Robinson, “We trust not only his talent and his expertise, but also the way that his heart is leading him in a way that aims to do what’s best for the University. He clearly, to the benefit of whatever process he’s leading, conveys this sense of real gravitas to candidates we’re talking to. They know that they’re meeting with somebody of great substance, and that helps us. You look at the kind of people KU tries to attract, having somebody like Drue sit on our side of the table, with all of the capacity and gravitas that he brings, it’s hard to beat.”
Rising through the ranks
After graduating from Argentine High School, Jennings came to KU on a football scholarship, and eventually moved back to Kansas City to put his education degree to work as a teacher at Wyandotte High School. He returned to KU for law school, and in 1974 joined KCP&L as an attorney, advancing through the ranks to become CEO in 1988 and chairman of the board in 1991. After his retirement from KCP&L, Jennings was named senior counsel at the Kansas City law firm Polsinelli, from which he has since retired.
His service to KU has included five years on the Alumni Association’s Board of Directors; three years as chair of the KU Medical Advancement Board, of which he was a founding member; and four years as chair of the KU Endowment board, which Jennings continues to serve as a trustee.
“I tend to trust my gut”
Jennings concedes that technology has, in some respects, changed the nature of executive searches: “In today’s world of information access, you can find out amazing things about people. It doesn’t matter who they are. And, frankly, anyone who wants to do that type of exploring can do it.”
But, after the “measurable and visible data about the person and their life” have been gathered and closely studied, the next step is decidedly old school.
“Meet them,” Jennings says. “There’s nothing quite like looking into the eyes, visiting and reading the body language of a person. And that’s been true my entire life. I tend to trust my gut, trust my instincts.”
A solid person
As he tried to exit the Lied Center Pavilion and catch a flight for a recruiting trip, Self found himself swarmed by reporters, friends and colleagues; he was reluctant to pause even for a second to answer any more questions, but stopped and smiled when told the subject of this final query: For Drue Jennings, Bill Self has all the time in the world.
“The thing with Drue is, he knows this place probably about as well as anybody over the last four or five decades,” Self said. “I think he understands the business aspect of it, and he certainly understands the athlete experience aspect of it. And, to me, what Drue brings to the table is, he’s been very successful in his professional life, but he’s also a really solid person who would value a lot of his own characteristics.”
Ah, so there it is, the secret to Jennings’ search successes: Just find somebody like himself. Easier said than done, but a worthy goal regardless. Because he means business.
The University of Kansas officially introduced Jeff Long, the university’s new director of athletics, at a news conference July 11 in the Lied Center Pavilion.
The news conference began with opening remarks by Drue Jennings, who headed the university’s search process, as well as Chancellor Douglas A. Girod and Long. After that, the three sat together for a Q&A period with members of the media.
Long was announced as the university’s new director of athletics July 5. He will begin his role August 1.
University of Kansas Chancellor Douglas A. Girod today named Jeff Long as the university’s new director of athletics.
Long brings more than two decades of experience in athletic administration at the Division I level, most recently at the University of Arkansas, where he led a program comprising 19 sports and 460 student-athletes from 2008 through 2017. During that time, he transformed Arkansas’ athletics department into one of the most successful in the country and established himself as a national leader within intercollegiate athletics.
Long will be officially introduced at a news conference Wednesday, July 11, in Lawrence at a time and location to be determined. He will start his role Aug. 1.
“Jeff Long has tremendous leadership and administrative experience in major college athletics, and he is a terrific fit for Kansas Athletics as we work to ensure our student-athletes succeed on the field and in the classroom,” Girod said. “Those who know him describe him as a man of character who cares deeply about higher education and the student-athletes he serves. For all these reasons, we are thrilled to welcome him to the University of Kansas.”
During Long’s tenure, Arkansas captured 34 conference championships and advanced to 139 postseason competitions, including the school’s first Bowl Championship Series appearance in football and national titles at the 2013 NCAA Men’s Indoor and 2015 NCAA Women’s Indoor Track and Field Championships and the 2016 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. In 2016-17, Arkansas finished No. 20 in the Learfield Directors’ Cup, which measures universities’ success across all sports, marking the university’s eighth top-25 finish in the previous 10 years. Long also launched a $160 million renovation to Razorback Stadium. In the classroom, the Razorbacks posted a school record student-athlete GPA and exceeded the national APR multiyear rate in all 19 sports, including posting its highest program average ever.
Additionally, Long served as the chairman of the inaugural College Football Playoff selection committee for 2014 and 2015 and remained a member of the committee through 2017.
Prior to leading Arkansas, Long served as athletics director at the University of Pittsburgh. Additionally, he has held administrative roles at the University of Oklahoma, University of Michigan, Virginia Tech University, Eastern Kentucky University and Rice University. He held coaching staff positions at Duke University, the University of Michigan and North Carolina State University. In total, he has been an athletic director and administrator in five of the six Bowl Championship Series conferences — the Big 12, Big Ten, Big East, Atlantic Coast and SEC.
“My family and I are thrilled to join Chancellor Girod’s leadership team at the University of Kansas,” Long said. “It was clear from the moment I met with the chancellor and his search committee members, they have a deep love for the university and understand and appreciate the positive role intercollegiate athletics plays in the university community. Through our conversations, it became evident we share a common belief that the student-athlete experience prepares young people for the challenges they will face throughout life. I am excited to work with the student-athletes, coaches, staff, the community of Lawrence and the incredible fan base to build on past success and create a shared vision for the future of Kansas Athletics.”
Long comes to KU after a seven-week search process headed by Girod and KU alumnus Drue Jennings, who served as KU’s interim director of athletics in 2003.
“We are thrilled to have someone of Jeff’s caliber joining the University of Kansas,” Jennings said. “Jeff has a record of integrity, experience in hiring coaches, ties with other Bowl Championship Series schools, effective fundraising and a willingness to lead on national issues affecting college athletics. We can be proud that he’s joining us at KU, and we can be confident that Kansas Athletics is in good hands under his leadership.”
Long’s contract with Kansas Athletics will pay him $1.5 million per year for five years. Of that amount, $1.3 million is paid by private funds from Kansas Athletics Inc., with the remaining $200,000 paid by the university.
An Ohio native, Long and his wife, Fanny, have two daughters, Stephanie and Christina.
Read more, including what others are saying about the selection of Jeff Long.