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.
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.
This is the first year of an effort to reach Jayhawks throughout Kansas by bringing the best of KU to their hometowns. The tour has visited Leavenworth, McPherson, Hays, Manhattan, Garden City and Pittsburg and has featured several KU guests, including athletic directors and coaches, campus administrators and Alumni Association staff.
“More than 150,000 KU graduates and former students live in Kansas,” says Heath Peterson, d’04, g’09, Alumni Association president. “It’s a priority for us to connect with these Jayhawks in their communities to show our appreciation for their dedication and support.”
Speakers at the events shared sentiments of a positive trajectory for the University. Peterson reminded the crowd that total enrollment has grown for the fifth straight year. Matt Baty, d’07, senior associate athletics director, praised the relationship between Kansas Athletics and the Alumni Association, calling it “one of the best in the entire country.”
Future stops include the annual KU Alumni Invitational at Prairie Dunes in Hutchinson, along with a Salina event Monday, June 25. Chancellor Doug Girod and Head Basketball Coach Bill Self will headline an impressive group of Jayhawk leaders.
It’s easy to follow along with Hawks & Highways! Follow us on Instagram for stories from the events, or follow us on Twitter for updates. The Williams Education Fund Twitter account also provides information about Hawks & Highways.
On Friday, September 22, Kansas Athletics and the Williams Education Fund launched Raise The Chant, a $350-million fundraising campaign, focused primarily on a major renovation of Memorial Stadium.
University of Kansas Chancellor Doug Girod and Athletics Director Sheahon Zenger presented renderings of the multi-million dollar project, lead by a $50 million pledge from Kansas alumnus and benefactor David Booth, c’68, g’69.
The Booth gift will launch facility improvements with the construction of an indoor football practice facility immediately following the 2017 season. Improvements to the south end zone and the west side of the stadium will follow after the completion of the 2018 season, with enhancements to the north end zone and the stadium’s east side to begin later.
“In listening to Sheahon’s vision of many years,” Booth said, “and believing in where Coach Self’s program is and where Coach Beaty’s program is headed, I am proud to support my alma mater’s athletic program. I believe Sheahon’s plan for football and basketball is essential not only to the future of Kansas Athletics, but also to the university as a whole.”
“The Raise The Chant campaign, with its primary focus on football, addresses an institutional priority for the University of Kansas,” Chancellor Girod said. “A competitive football program benefits the entire university and is important for KU to continue being a strong member of the Big 12 Conference. In recent years, we have transformed the university with nearly $1 billion in new and renovated facilities, and this is the next step in that transformation. I have the utmost confidence in Sheahon and believe we have the right people at the right time for this campaign.”
The campaign continues a trend of rapid growth in athletic facilities, including soccer, track and field, softball and tennis at Rock Chalk Park, and the construction of the DeBruce Center, home of the original rules of basketball, and McCarthy Hall, where the men’s basketball team and other students reside.
Also announced as part of the campaign was a $10 million pledge from volleyball benefactor Stewart Horejsi, b’59, and his family, to build a new, 3,000 arena for the defending Big 12 volleyball champions. Baseball’s long-time home, Hoglund Ballpark, is also in line for renovations and improvements during the “Raise the Chant” campaign.
“We want to extend a heartfelt thanks to our generous donors,” Zenger continued, “in particular David Booth, and Stewart Horejsi and his family. They, once again, have not only bought in to our vision of what Kansas Athletics can be, but also have actively participated in that vision. We appreciate very much the leadership they have shown, and we are confident that others will follow their lead and help make that vision a reality. I’d also like to express our appreciation to Dale Seuferling and the KU Endowment Association for its leadership as we embark on this important campaign.”
When Bill French ran for president during his junior year at KU, he pledged that the Class of 1977 would bestow a gift upon the University. “At that time, I had no idea what the gift was going to be or what kind of money we had,” he says with a laugh. “It was one of those platform promises you make and then you hope you’ll have some money to give a gift the size of a bouquet of flowers.”
Turns out, the Class of 1977 had more in its budget than expected. With the help of the other class officers and Jeff Millikan, gift chairman, French identified $1,000 that could be used toward a University gift. “We knew that the KU Athletics Hall of Fame was just getting started,” he says. “I suggested we look at a major assist for it.”
French, j’77, and Millikan, c’77, g’80, met with KU’s Athletic Director Clyde Walker to discuss a gift that would help the newly established hall of fame. “At that time, they just had some posters up,” French recalls. “I said, ‘We’ve only got $1,000, but I’ll get the right media involved with this. We’ll have a picture, we’ll run a story, we’ll have a big check made.’”
French put out the word, and several area newspapers picked up the story, including the Kansas City Star, the Lawrence Journal-World and the Wichita Eagle.
“Clyde Walker later told me that the Class of 1977’s gift and associated news stories really helped the KU Athletic Hall of Fame with their fundraising efforts,” says French.
The Hall of Fame has expanded over the years, and in 2006, the Booth Family Hall of Athletics opened on the east side of Allen Field House, thanks to more than $5 million in gifts from the children and grandchildren of the late Gilbert and Betty Booth. Following an expansion in 2009, the sprawling, 19,335-square-foot sports shrine now features interactive exhibits and a basketball championship trophy case—not to mention a plaque that recognizes the Class of 1977 for its generous gift 40 years ago.
“It’s really grown into a big deal,” says French. “I’m very glad that our class was able to be a part of kicking it off.”
Image courtesy Bill French. Pictured from left to right: Stephan Van Kepple, Dorothy Schloerb, Chancellor Archie Dykes, Clyde Walker, Randy Brown, Bill French, Jeff Millikan, Marianne Maurin, Carol Smith and Fred Knuth
Sunny skies and soaring temps made for a near-perfect day as about 300 graduating students dropped by the Adams Alumni Center May 5 for Grad Grill. The annual event was presented by the Alumni Association and HERE Kansas, a new apartment community on the Lawrence campus.
Students mingled with friends throughout the evening and enjoyed free food and fresh brews, courtesy of Hy-Vee and Free State Brewing Company. The KU Bookstore and Kansas Athletics were also on hand with coupons, gift-card giveaways, and free posters, koozies, license-plate frames and sunglasses. Local DJ Scott Simpson kept things lively with the latest pop tunes and students took turns capturing not-so-candid moments in the photo booth.
Scott Bagley, a senior from Overland Park, stopped by to grab some food and socialize before diving into finals preparation. “A few good friends from high school are going to be here,” he said. “I’m hoping to see them.”
Yee Ming Khaw and Puteri Ahmad, seniors from Malaysia, and Katie Morales, a senior from Emporia, hit Grad Grill before going out for more Stop Day celebrations. “It’s Friday night,” said Ahmad. “It’s one of the last Friday nights before Commencement.”
The KU School of Business, the Langston Hughes Center and KU Athletics hosted “The Power of Sport: A Conversation on Business, Race and Sports” last week at the University of Kansas.
The event featured a panel discussion with former KU student-athletes, including former KU women’s basketball and WNBA player Tamecka Dixon, and former KU track athlete and Olympic gold medalist, Billy Mills. Shawn Alexander, associate professor and graduate director of African & African-American studies and director of the Langston Hughes Center moderated the discussion.
Following the panel discussion, sports sociologist and professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, Harry Edwards delivered the keynote address to a crowded ballroom in the Kansas Union. Edwards has consulted on diversity issues for the MLB, NBA and NFL. He is the author of numerous articles and four books focusing on issues of race and sports.
The event’s organizer, Shawn Alexander, anticipated the conversation would attract strong interest from the KU community.
“Sport is a microcosm of society that allows us to talk about many issues, including corporate power, race, gender, homophobia, urban planning, health and labor,” Alexander said. “For the past two years, KU has been at the forefront of this discussion with its annual symposium.”
Last year’s event, featuring The Nation’s sports editor and author Dave Zirin, was live streamed by the KU Alumni Association, and the video can be watched here or on the Association’s YouTube channel. New York Times sports columnist and author William Rhoden delivered the inaugural keynote address in 2015.
This year’s event was co-sponsored by the KU Alumni Association, the Office of the Provost, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the K Club and the KU departments of African & African-American Studies; Health, Sport and Exercise Sciences; Sociology; and Political Science.
The event was free but registrations filled up quickly. A full rebroadcast of the event is available below and at kualumni.org/powerofsport. It can also be viewed on the Association’s YouTube channel. Alumni can follow the discussion on Twitter by searching the hashtag #KUracesports.
Find out what fellow Jayhawks are up to in our biweekly edition of “In the News.” It’s like an online version of Class Notes.If you’ve seen Jayhawks in the news who should be featured, email us at email@example.com.
Sarah Deer, a graduate of the KU School of Law, represented over 100 women’s organizations as interested parties in the Dollar General v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw INdians U.S. Supreme Court case. Deer, c’96, l’99, co-authored an amicus brief on the proceedings. Read full article
Greg Krentzman, who was visiting Nice with his wife and daughter, was injured in the terrorist attack on Bastille Day. Krentzman, c’87, shared his story from the hospital where he is recovering. He currently lives in California. Read full article
Judge Patricia Macke Dick, l’81, was elected president of the Kansas District Judges’ Association, an organization open to all state district court judges. She is the chief judge of the 27th judicial district, a one-county district made up of Reno County where she has served as judge since 1989. Read full article
Sasha Kaun, e’08, is one of only two KU basketball players to win an NCAA title (2008), NBA title (2016) and medal in the Olympic games (2012). He recently decided to retire from professional basketball at the age of 31. Read full article
Tommy Bobo, f’06, is an artist, non-profit IT consultant and adjunct professor. He graduated from KU with a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts degree in Expanded Media. In this post, Bobo shares about his research and creative experience at KU and the most important thing he learned in school. Read full article
Matt Baty was named Associate Athletics Director for Williams Education Fund, Marketing & Sales on Thursday. Baty, d’07, was an All-Big 12 Conference centerfielder, and he returns to the Hill after serving as the general manager of the Wichita Sports Forum. Read full article
Have you heard news about a fellow Jayhawk, or maybe you have news of your own to share? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or fill out our Class Notes form to be included in a future issue of Kansas Alumni magazine. Read more about newsworthy Jayhawks.
On Feb. 18, the KU Alumni Association co-sponsored “The Power of Sport: A Conversation on Business, Race and Sports,” presented by the KU School of Business, the Langston Hughes Center and Kansas Athletics. The second annual event featured a panel discussion with former KU student-athletes Ernie Shelby, f’59, Lisa Braddy, ’92, and Wayne Simien, c’05, moderated by Shawn Leigh Alexander of the Langston Hughes Center. Dave Zirin, sports editor for The Nation magazine, provided the keynote address.
Hundreds of students, faculty, staff and alumni attended the event held in the Kansas Union ballroom, and alumni all across the country watched the conversation streamed live online at kualumni.org/powerofsport. Several current Jayhawk student-athletes were spotted in the audience, including the entire KU men’s basketball team. The evening’s conversation spilled over onto social media, as #KUracesports became a trending topic in the area on Twitter.
The entire event is available to watch below or on YouTube. The KU Alumni Association was proud to partner with the KU departments of African & African-American Studies; Health, Sport & Exercise Sciences and K Club in supporting this important KU event.
The event begins at the 13:05 mark with a welcome from Dr. Sheahon Zenger, KU director of athletics. –David Johnston