LAWRENCE (TNS) — The Kansas athletic director search will not go on much longer.
Speaking at a fundraiser earlier this week in Salina, KU chancellor Douglas Girod told the group to expect a new hire to come in the next two weeks, according to reporters who were present at the event.
Girod, when asked about the two-week timeline following a KU Athletics Board of Directors meeting Wednesday morning, confirmed that was the goal.
"We'd love to. I'd like to keep pushing the group," Girod said with a laugh. "But yeah, we're working hard on it, so I'm hoping that we'll have something in the next couple weeks."
When asked if he had started interviews with candidates, Girod refrained from commenting. He did say, however, that he was pleased with the interest the position had received.
"I would just say that I think it's recognized that this is an exciting opportunity to be in a Power Five conference that we all think is doing extremely well, but has some real upside potential to it, which makes it a pretty attractive job, I think," Girod said. "We're excited about it."
Girod, thus far, appears to have kept his inner circle tight. A check of unidentified KU boosters indicated that information about the search has not been relayed to them.
KU hired consultant Jed Hughes from Korn Ferry to assist with the selection process, and with AD searches, candidates are often kept quiet to protect those who might lose support in their current jobs if their outside interest becomes public.
One talking point that keeps coming up regarding KU's next athletic director, however, is compensation. And those with knowledge of the situation appear to believe Girod is willing to pay up if the right person becomes available.
This would be a change from years past. Former KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger, who signed a three-year contract extension last summer, made a base salary of $700,000. That amount ranked sixth among eight Big 12 athletic directors in total compensation, according to financial database compiled by Spencer Fane Law Firm and USA Today (TCU and Baylor, as private schools, are not required to disclose salary information).
KU — and Girod — would appear to have good reason to bump up salary for the next candidate. For one, doing that will be the only likely way to potentially woo a current sitting Power Five athletic director, though landing someone of that magnitude will likely be difficult based on the football-specific issues the KU job presents.
Girod, though, also could be motivated to make a splashy hire. In an interview with The Star following Zenger's firing in May, Girod said football was "the most prominent challenge" the next athletic director faced before also stating "it’s also getting excitement behind a vision, getting a fanbase moving behind a vision to really take athletics to the next level." In this case, he seems to mostly be referring to his announcement last year that KU would attempt to raise $350 million to help renovate Memorial Stadium. If Girod still hopes to raise that type of money, it might help to bring in a recognizable name who could build positive momentum when it comes to football fundraising.
In any case, the expectation — if KU is able to hire from the top of its list — is that the school could push into top half of Big 12 athletic director salaries with its next move. According to the Spencer Fane/USA Today data, West Virginia's Shane Lyons is in fourth out of the eight Big 12 ADs listed with $920,000 total compensation with bonuses that could tack on another $175,000. Oklahoma's Joe Castiglione is third at $1.148 million, though he has hefty bonuses that could add up to another $760,000 per year.
There's also at least a chance KU could go with a wild-card candidate, as Hughes has a history of being involved with outside-the-box hires. That includes Dave Brandon, who was hired as Michigan's AD after serving as CEO of Domino's Pizza, and John Wildhack, who took the Syracuse AD job after working as an ESPN executive.