Chancellor Douglas A. Girod sent the following message to all University of Kansas faculty and staff members on Monday, May 21, 2018. The message was also posted on the chancellor’s website.
I am writing to inform you of a leadership change in Kansas Athletics.
This morning I met with Director of Athletics Sheahon Zenger and informed him that I am relieving him of his duties, effective immediately.
Sheahon has been a loyal Jayhawk, and our athletics department has improved in many areas under his leadership. But Athletics continues to face a number of challenges, and progress in key areas has been elusive. To achieve the level of success we need and expect, I have determined a change in leadership is necessary.
Sean Lester, our deputy athletics director, will serve as interim director. I have spoken with Sean about my expectations for the coming months, and I am confident he will provide sound leadership and stability during this transition.
I have begun the process of identifying a permanent athletics director. To lead this process, I have enlisted Drue Jennings, one of our most respected and accomplished alumni. Many of you know Drue as our interim athletics director in 2003 and for his role in leading the search processes that brought Chancellor Gray-Little and Coach Self to KU. Jed Hughes, a consultant with the Korn Ferry executive search firm, will assist Drue.
Some of you may have questions about our football program. I spoke with Coach Beaty earlier today and shared my expectation that he will continue recruiting hard and getting his team ready for the season.
Since becoming chancellor, I have spent countless hours with higher education peers and Jayhawks to hear their perspective on KU. A common thread in these conversations is that, as a major public university with national aspirations, we must continue to strive for excellence in all areas — including athletics. As I have said many times, a successful athletics department is inextricably linked to our broader mission as a flagship research university.
The other common thread in these conversations is optimism for Kansas Athletics. Across the country, we are recognized as having elite programs, a proud tradition, and a loyal fan base. These assets will serve us well as we identify a new leader for Kansas Athletics.
I want to thank Sheahon for his service during the past seven years. Under his leadership, student-athlete GPAs reached an all-time high. Rock Chalk Park, McCarthy Hall, and the DeBruce Center are lasting tributes to his efforts. Most importantly, he prioritized our student-athletes and represented KU with integrity and class.
Nearly 500 KU alumni and friends gathered April 13 at Murfin Stables for the Alumni Association’s Jayhawk Roundup, the Wichita Network’s largest fundraising event, which was presented this year in partnership with Kansas Athletics and Williams Education Fund. The event, typically held in the fall, moved to spring this year for the first time in its 15-year history.
The theme for the festivities was “Game of Hawks,” a playful spin on the popular fantasy epic “Game of Thrones.” Bleached-white trees with crimson leaves lined the stables and centerpieces of swords and shields adorned each table, echoes of medieval times.
The event featured silent and live auctions, with top dollars going for a trip to the 2018 Champions Classic in Indianapolis, and the KU Libraries exhibit “Commemorate the Gr8s,” which celebrates the 1988 and 2008 men’s basketball national championship teams. Guests were also treated a feast of food and drink and live music from the band Annie Up, as well as a live carving of a Jayhawk from Kansaw Carvings artist Dan Besco.
Alumni Association President Heath Peterson, d’04, g’09, thanked event chairs and stable owners Dave, e’75, b’75, and Janet Lusk Murfin, d’75, for hosting the Roundup and honored longtime Wichita volunteer and 2017 Wintermote Award winner Camille Nyberg, c’96, g’98, along with Mildred Clodfelter Alumni Award winners Jerry, p’69, and Lucy Burtnett, who hosted the event in 2011 and 2012.
Chancellor Doug Girod detailed the University’s recent accomplishments in Wichita, which included the debate team’s victorious run to the national championship title and the Jayhawks’ first- and second-round wins in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, which brought thousands of alumni and fans to the area in March.
Several members of Kansas Athletics also attended the Roundup, including head football coach David Beaty, men’s basketball assistant coach Kurtis Townsend and Athletics Director Sheahon Zenger, PhD’96, who was celebrating his birthday.
“We had more guests in attendance than we have had in years,” says Danielle Lafferty Hoover, c’07, director of donor relations and Wichita programs. “The fans love having University partners and KU guests in the stables—it’s like bringing a part of Lawrence to Wichita.”
Check out more pictures from Jayhawk Roundup! Photos may be downloaded for personal use. Photos from the Lamphouse Photo Booth Company can be viewed here.
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.”
Chancellor Douglas A. Girod sent the message below to all KU faculty and staff today.
Raise the Chant
This past Friday, I joined Kansas Athletics Director Sheahon Zenger to announce Raise the Chant, a $350 million fundraising project focused on football. This visionary project addresses the reality that a competitive football program is important to our university and that our outdated facilities hinder our ability to compete with Big 12 Conference peers. Today I’d like to discuss this exciting effort and why it needs to be one of KU’s institutional priorities.
First and foremost, a competitive football program benefits the entire university. In terms of recruiting new students, football is often the front door for prospective Jayhawks, particularly given our increasingly national recruitment strategy. The truth is, a massive Jayhawk at the 50-yard-line on national TV can help keep KU at the top of mind for students we’re recruiting. Additionally, football keeps KU alumni connected to their alma mater – which often translates to donations and networking opportunities – and produces revenue through merchandising, which benefits the entire institution.
We need to remain a strong member of the Big 12, and football is key to that. Membership in a major conference has enormous benefits – including TV contract revenue, branding and prestige – that strengthen every aspect of KU’s mission. More broadly, being in a major conference is tied to our goal to continue being a strong member of the Association of American Universities.
In recent years, KU has transformed its campuses in a thoughtful, strategic way. Since 2009, we’ve completed $1 billion in construction for new and renovated facilities, including the Health Education Building, Capitol Federal Hall, Self and Oswald Halls, the Spencer Art Museum, Swarthout Recital Hall, and the Central District. At the same time, our Far Above campaign funded 735 new scholarships and fellowships and 53 new professorships. In other words, we’ve begun to modernize our campuses with a focus on our academic mission. We will continue our work in this area, and Memorial Stadium is an important part of the next phase of our transformation.
I want to reiterate my confidence in Sheahon and his vision. While we’ve had challenges in football, Kansas Athletics has had many successes – on and off the field – under Sheahon’s leadership. He’s a man of integrity, and he’s a Jayhawk to the core. Moreover, I share his belief that Coach Beaty has us headed in the right direction. Put simply, I believe we have the right people for the right time. Our focus now is getting these people the right tools to succeed.
I’ve been a Jayhawk for 23 years, and the passion of our friends and donors never ceases to amaze me. I am excited to work with them – and with you! – to advance this transformational project on behalf of our university.
The threat of stormy weather didn’t deter nearly 4,000 Jayhawks from packing Corinth Square in Prairie Village Aug. 26 for the 11th-annual KU Kickoff, hosted by the Alumni Association and Kansas Athletics. The evening began with DJ Carl spinning tunes while the crowd enjoyed food and drink tents, a fun zone for children, a sesquicentennial display by KU Libraries, Jayhawk merchandise giveaways, and Big Jay and Baby Jay, who kept the atmosphere lively with the help of the KU spirit squad and marching band.
Jayhawk Radio Network broadcaster David Lawrence, d’83, introduced Heath Peterson, d’04, g’09, president of the Alumni Association, who thanked Kansas City area alumni and volunteers for their support and detailed several of the University’s recent accomplishments, including the Far Above campaign, which raised more than $1.6 billion for KU. “I don’t know about you,” he said, “but I’m fired up to be a Jayhawk right now.”
Sheahon Zenger, PhD’96, KU athletics director, spoke of the new construction on campus, including McCarthy Hall, the DeBruce Center and Capitol Federal Hall, and encouraged alumni to visit KU’s ever-changing landscape. After giving a shout-out to the No. 5-ranked KU women’s volleyball team, which opened the season with a win against Mississippi State that evening, Zenger turned his attention to head football coach David Beaty and said, “If there’s anything fun at KU right now, it’s being around coach Beaty and his team.”
Joined by football players LaQuvionte Gonzalez, Dorance Armstrong Jr., Daylon Charlot and Fish Smithson, Beaty summoned fans to fill the Hill and Memorial Stadium Sept. 3 for the opening game against Rhode Island. “It’s going to take a great fan base like all of you Jayhawks to get it done,” he said. “We thank you for your unwavering support and staying with us through all the rough times. You’ll have something to be proud of real soon.”
Watch the slideshow below to see pictures from KU Kickoff, or click here to view the photos on Flickr. Photos are available to be downloaded for personal use. All photos by Dan Storey.
Saturday’s Sunflower Showdown against Kansas State just got even more momentous, with Tuesday’s announcement that the 3 p.m. game in Memorial Stadium will be the football finale for beloved broadcaster Bob Davis.
Davis, who joined the Jayhawk Radio Network in 1984, will retire after 32 years as Voice of the Jayhawks following the conclusion of the men’s basketball season.
“Bob Davis,” says Athletics Director Sheahon Zenger, PhD’96, “is an institution in the state of Kansas.”
Davis graduated from Topeka West High School and Washburn University, and in 1968 began his broadcasting career for a TV and radio station in Hays. He spent 16 years broadcasting sports for Fort Hays State University, and was inducted in the school’s Sports Hall of Fame.
After joining the legendary Max Falkenstien, c’47, on KU sports broadcasts, Davis continued to expand his reach across the regional sports spectrum: Among numerous other assignments, Davis did play-by-play calls for Kansas City Royals’ TV and radio broadcasts for 16 seasons and spent 20 years as a morning sports anchor with KMBZ radio in Kansas City.
He was named Kansas Sportscaster of the Year 13 times, and in 1991 the Kansas Association of Broadcasters presented him the Hod Humiston Award for Contributions to Sports Broadcasting.
“The people are what made it amazing,” Davis says. “All the people I’ve been able to get close to—great players, the coaching staffs, administrators. I’m going to miss it a lot. It’s been really fun. I’ve also been able to tack on a little baseball on the other side; that, too, was a dream come true. It’s been a lucky situation for me.”
Despite a long career covering high school, college and professional sports, Davis will always be best known to sports fans as the Voice of the Jayhawks. Among those lucky enough to get to know Davis away from stadiums and arenas, he is treasured for good humor and lively conversation.
“Not only is he good at his job, he’s a terrific person,” says men’s basketball coach Bill Self. “He’s fun and has become a very dear friend. I’m happy for him, from a retirement standpoint, so maybe he can enjoy those grandkids a little bit more, which I know is important for him and Linda. But certainly he will be missed.”
Says football coach David Beaty, “Bob, along with Max Falkenstien, is truly a living historian of Kansas athletics and I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to work alongside him this year. Bob has one of the most recognizable voices in all of sports, a voice that has captured some of the greatest moments in Kansas athletics history. His voice is synonymous with KU and makes you feel great about being a Jayhawk.”
A nationwide search for Davis’ successor will begin next spring. Interested candidates should direct inquiries to Chris Ferris of IMG College at Chris.Ferris@img.com.
Jayhawks of all ages turned out in force Aug. 21 for the annual KU Kickoff at Corinth Square in Prairie Village, hosted by the Alumni Association and Kansas Athletics. Taking advantage of a cool August night, KU families filled the shopping center’s parking lot to share Jayhawk spirit and enjoy performances by the KU Band and Spirit Squad, a fun zone and face painting for the children, and rousing remarks from KU leaders.
Heath Peterson, interim president of the Alumni Association, welcomed the crowd to the annual finale of the ’Hawk Days of Summer and the start of a new school year and football season. “We are ready for a fun fall, and there is no better way to kick it off than in the heart of Jayhawk Country,” said Peterson, c’04, g’09. He thanked alumni and friends for their loyalty as Association members and volunteers.
Athletics Director Sheahon Zenger, PhD’96, encouraged alumni to visit the new DeBruce Center, which will house James Naismith’s Rules of Basketball and host numerous student activities. He praised new football coach David Beaty and new women’s basketball coach Brandon Schneider as “blue-collar, roll-up-your sleeves Kansas guys who speak from the heart.”
Schneider said he had “never been around a university and an athletics department that approach every day with more pride and more passion than we do at the University of Kansas.”
Beaty praised the energy of his young football team, which opens the season Sept. 5 against South Dakota State, and he urged alumni and friends to pack Memorial Stadium. “You are the magic,” he said. “We need that stadium loaded and rockin’.”
Following the Alma Mater and Rock Chalk Chant, the event continued to rock, thanks to a performance by the Lawrence band Coversmith.
When Alumni Association president Kevin Corbett, c’88, took the stage to welcome Jayhawk alumni and fans to the official rally before Friday’s NCAA Tournament opener in Omaha’s CenturyLink Center, he told the gathering that he and other members of the Association staff weren’t sure what to expect.
With a rally that began at 8 a.m., ahead of an 11:15 a.m. tipoff, they worried the early hour would keep fans from showing up in time for a gathering of the flock.
“And next thing we know,” Corbett noted to the crowd of about 1,000 Jayhawk faithful, “there’s a line outside the door to get in. Welcome to the Big Dance.”
The early risers soaked in the complete crimson and blue experience. With the giant inflatable Jay towering over the ballroom and D.J. Scott Simpson, ’85, cranking out the tunes, fans frolicked with Baby Jay, found themselves interviewed by television crews and scored official gear from KUStore.com, all while greeting old friends from near and far.
“We’re thrilled to have everyone back in Omaha,” said the Association board’s chair-elect Rick Putnam, c’77, l’80, a local attorney. “Every few years we get to see all of our KU friends return here for the tournament, and it’s always seems to work out well.”
The Jayhawks launched their 2008 national championship run in Omaha, and did the same on their way to the NCAA Tournament title game in 2012. Should they be fortunate enough to advance to the tourney’s second weekend three years from now, the Jayhawks could return again to Omaha, which will host NCAA regional play in 2018.
“Here we are again,” Corbett told the crowd, “ready to begin another run.”
Athletics Director Sheahon Zenger, PhD’96, told the KU faithful about a few minutes he spent in the locker room with assistant coaches while coach Bill Self met with the media after the Jayhawks secured their 11th-consecutive Big 12 title. The coaches, Zenger said, thought back to the 72-40 drubbing by Kentucky Nov. 18; from that disappointment emerged 26 victories entering NCAA play, another outright conference championship, a trip to the Big 12 Tournament’s title game and a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
“The coaches said to me, ‘We’d have taken that and run,'” Zenger recalled. “What a job coach Self has done.”
Noting that KU is in its 26th-consecutive NCAA Tournament, Zenger closed with, “This is what we do, and nobody does it better.”
With the Spirit Squad and basketball band kicking the festivities into high gear, fans sang along with fight songs, the Alma Mater and, of course, the Rock Chalk Chant before descending in droves to the arena below.
The Big Dance had begun.
Check out our photos from today’s pregame party and pep rally in the slideshow below.
Texas A&M wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator David Beaty, a former KU co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach, on Friday was named the next head coach of Kansas football.
Beaty, who carries a reputation as a preeminent recruiter of Texas high school football talent, won the job over interim head coach, defensive coordinator and KU football alumnus Clint Bowen, d’96, who had become a popular choice among fans and players to land the permanent position after the Jayhawks rallied under his leadership with a 34-14 victory Nov. 8 over Iowa State and a 34-30 loss Nov. 15 to Texas Christian, which is currently No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings.
“It isn’t about me. It’s not ever going to be about me. It’s about this team, this university and this football program,” Bowen said. “Dr. Zenger has a great plan and a process in place to find and hire the best person possible to lead this program forward. When the selection is made, I truly believe this, it’s time for everybody to put their full support behind that decision.
“We all know that KU football is a program that should be successful and will be successful in a power conference, and the bottom line is it’ll only be done when the KU alumni, the fans, the support staff, the administration, coaches and players all start working together as a team with one goal: to make Kansas a successful program. When this decision is made, that’s what everyone needs to do.”
Following KU’s 51-13 season-ending loss Nov. 29 at Kansas State, Zenger told the Lawrence Journal-World that regardless of the outcome of his coaching search, Bowen would remain part of the program.
“He is true-blue KU. He cares deeply about this institution,” Zenger, PhD’96, told the Journal-World. “He and I see a lot of things eye-to-eye. Whether it’s him or someone else, he’s gonna be a part of program because he believes in the right things.”
Zenger assembled a search committee—whose membership was not made public—to assist in his selection, yet the process remained private and, outside of speculation by fans and media, entirely quiet. Up until the news about Beaty’s hiring began to leak at about 11 a.m. Friday and flight-tracking sites were linked on fan sites to monitor the progress of Beaty’s journey from College Station to Lawrence, there had been no public speculation that Beaty had risen to the top of Zenger’s list or even that an announcement was imminent.
Beaty, was, however, an early favorite in the speculation about who would take over at season’s end. It wasn’t until Bowen’s energized squad humiliated Iowa State, in what Cyclones coach Paul Rhoads called one of the worst losses in his six seasons at ISU, and then put a scare into top contender TCU, that Bowen’s candidacy gathered momentum.
Beaty’s Texas recruiting prowess is due in large part to his experience as a high-school coach in the football-crazed state. In four seasons as head coach at MacArthur High School in Irving, Beaty’s teams went 33-11 and won two district titles. Garland High School in 1999 won a 5A Div. II state title while Beaty was an assistant there.
Beaty was wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator at Rice University in Houston in 2006 and ’07, and in 2008 he joined coach Mark Mangino’s staff as wide receivers coach. Here he helped develop Kerry Meier, d’10, and Dezmon Briscoe, ’12, into NFL-caliber receivers.
After Mangino was fired following the 2009 season, Beaty returned to Rice as offensive coordinator in 2010, and in 2011 he came back to KU as Turner Gill’s co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach. Following yet another coaching change at KU, Beaty in 2012 became wide receivers coach on Kevin Sumlin’s new staff at Texas A&M. In 2013 he was given added responsibility as recruiting coordinator.
He is a 1994 graduate of Lindenwood College in St. Charles, Missouri, where he was a four-year starter at wide receiver and two-year team captain. He graduated from high school in Garland, Texas, in 1989. Beaty and his wife, Raynee, have two daughters.
The fifth annual Salina Steak Out on June 21 brought more than 120 Jayhawks together to enjoy good food, good music and good news from the Hill.
The large crowd was treated to updates from Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, Director of Athletics Sheahon Zenger and Dale Seuferling, president of KU Endowment. Former KU basketball coach Ted Owens was also on hand to share some of his treasured memories. And, the popular Lawrence-based cover band Sellout provided live music and dance tunes.
Fun fact: Danny Loental, f’05, plays saxophone and sings with Sellout. The morning of the event, he posed this question on his Facebook page: “Can I ride my bike 100 miles this morning and finish in time to shower, drive to Salina and play with Sellout at the KU Alumni Association’s Steak Out at 5:30?”
In case you’re wondering, one CAN ride a bike a hundred miles and still have enough time to drive from Kansas City to Salina—and still have enough energy to entertain the crowd.
This event is part of the ‘Hawk Days of Summer, the KU Alumni Association’s annual summer sojourn across the country and around the world. The 90-day series of events resulted from a determination to make the most of the summer months. The 2014 tour kicked off on Saturday, May 17, and includes picnics, receptions, baseball games and more. Visit our online calendar to find upcoming events near you.