Just days after Kansas ousted football coach Les Miles amid allegations of inappropriate behavior toward female students while he was the head coach at LSU, the university announced Wednesday that Jeff Long was stepping down as athletic director.
Long hired Miles as KU's coach in 2018. The two have a long-standing relationship going back to their days together at Michigan in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
In a statement, Long said he and Kansas chancellor Dr. Douglas Girod met on Tuesday night and agreed that it was in the best interest of the KU student-athletes and the program that Long step down as athletic director. Long said he leaves KU with "profound confidence that I have always acted in the best interests of Kansas Athletics."
Long added in his statement that the KU student-athletes have always been the priority and "this decision today is based on that very premise. ... 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."
According to a redacted separation agreement released by the university on Wednesday, Long will be paid regular monthly salary payments and receive benefits through the end of March, then receive monthly settlement payments of $125,000 through February 2022 totaling $1.375 million.
Girod, who praised Long for his service to the university, announced that longtime KU donor Kurt Watson would serve as interim athletic director. Girod said he would lead the process of finding a new athletic director with the assistance of a search firm and four alumni advisers, each of whom has experience in collegiate athletics: Linda Ellis Sims, Ray Evans, John Ballard and Wayne Simien.
Once the new AD is hired, Girod said, that individual would then spearhead the search for the head football coach.
"I know the past week has been challenging for those of us who love Kansas Athletics, but I am heartened by the passion of our university community," Girod said in his statement. "Since becoming chancellor, I have spent countless hours with Jayhawks to hear their perspectives on KU. A common theme in these conversations is that we must strive for excellence in all areas, including athletics. As I have said many times, a successful athletics department is inextricably linked to our mission as a flagship research university. That perspective will serve us well as we identify our next leader of Kansas Athletics."
Kansas announced late Monday night that it had "mutually agreed to part ways" with Miles. Long said Tuesday that the university was unaware of any wrongdoing in Miles' past before hiring him as head coach in 2018. Miles was initially placed on administrative leave last Friday prior to Monday's announcement. He will be paid $1.99 million, according to Kansas, and had three years and about $8 million remaining on a five-year contract he signed in 2018.
Long said during his virtual news conference on Tuesday that he asked Miles directly during the interview process in 2018 if there was anything in the past that could potentially embarrass the university or the KU program.
"And he said no," Long said. "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 if 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."
Last Thursday, a report released on behalf of LSU showed that a 2013 internal investigation at the school accused Miles of inappropriate behavior toward female students, including allegations he contacted some via Facebook and text, met them off campus alone and kissed at least one of them.
The report did not find that he had sexual relationships with any of the women, and Miles strongly denied kissing the student, saying he didn't do anything wrong and that he was mentoring young women at the university.
The 67-year-old Miles was 3-18 in two seasons at Kansas, including an 0-9 record in 2020. The Jayhawks' only Big 12 win during Miles' two seasons in Lawrence came over Texas Tech in 2019. Kansas hasn't won more than three games in a season since 2009.
Miles guided LSU to a national title in 2007, and the Tigers played for a national championship on his watch in 2011.
Long was named Kansas' athletic director in 2018 after serving in that same capacity at Arkansas from 2008 to 2017. One of Long's first big decisions at Kansas was firing David Beaty as head football coach and replacing him with Miles, who had been out of coaching for parts of three seasons. He was fired at LSU four games into the 2016 season after the Tigers started out 2-2.
Long, whose first stint as an AD was at Eastern Kentucky from 1998-2001, served as the first chairman of the College Football Playoff selection committee when he was appointed in 2013.