Jeff Long is stepping down as Kansas’ athletic director, he said in a statement posted to the university’s website on Wednesday, calling his departure “in the best interest of our student-athletes and program.”
Long’s exit comes less than 48 hours after the school parted ways with head football coach Les Miles on Monday night amid accusations of inappropriate behavior toward female students while he was the head coach at LSU. Long said Tuesday that the university was unaware of any wrongdoing in Miles’ past before hiring him as head coach in 2018.
“Jeff and I spoke at length last night, and while I know he would have loved to stay here many more years, I respect his selfless decision to step down so that we can move Kansas Athletics in a different direction,” Kansas Chancellor Douglas A. Girod said in a statement Wednesday, acknowledging that the past week “has been challenging for those of us who love Kansas Athletics.”
Kansas donor Kurt Watson, who was IMA Financial Group’s president and chief operating officer before retiring in 2017, will serve as interim athletic director, Girod said. The university plans to hire a search firm to assist in hiring a new athletic director and will then move on to hiring a head football coach.
“The student-athletes have always been the priority and this decision today is based on that very premise,” Long’s statement read. “Values are not simply beliefs — they are defined by actions. It is clear that my continued service as the Director of Athletics would only serve as a distraction to the nearly 500 incredible young men and women in our athletics department, as well as to the outstanding coaches and staff who support them. Last night, I spoke with Chancellor Girod at length about my thought process, as well as with my wife, Fanny. Even though this is extremely difficult for me, this is what is best for KU, for me and for my family, and I am at peace with this decision.”
Long worked alongside Miles during their days together at Michigan in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Long hired Miles to coach the Jayhawks in 2018 after Miles had been out of coaching for parts of three seasons. Miles, who won a national championship at LSU in 2007, was fired at LSU four games into the 2016 season after the Tigers started out 2-2.
Long said during his virtual news conference on Tuesday that he had asked Miles directly during the interview process in 2018 whether there was anything in the past that could potentially embarrass the university or the KU program.
“And he said no,” Long said Tuesday. “We also did our due diligence by talking to individuals within the LSU athletics department to see if there was anything we should be aware of regarding Coach Miles’ tenure at LSU and received no indications of any issues.”
Long said that in early February, Miles’ camp made Kansas aware of a legal dispute in Louisiana but couldn’t share information on it. Long said that he asked Miles whether there was anything they should be concerned about from the reports, and Miles told him no.
“At that point we requested copies of all reports related to Les Miles while he was at LSU,” Long said. “We were given a variety of reasons from Miles’ legal counsel why they would not be provided to us. On Feb. 24 we learned some details of the allegations when The Advocate published its initial article followed by the USA Today article later that same day, that there had been a secret settlement and a sexual harassment investigation in 2013.”
Miles had three years and about $8 million left on a five-year contract he signed with Kansas in November 2018. The two sides settled for $1.99 million, according to the school.
Long was named Kansas’ athletic director in 2018 after serving in that same capacity at Arkansas from 2008 to 2017. His first stint as an AD was at Pittsburgh from 2003 to 2007.