Kansas AD Jeff Long explains vetting of Les Miles, says parting ways ‘absolutely the right decision’

By Jesse Newell
The Kansas City Star/TNS
Kansas head coach Les Miles and Athletic Director Jeff Long congratulate each other after the Jayhawks defeated Texas Tech, 37-34, on Oct. 26, 2019, in Lawrence, Kans.

University of Kansas athletic director Jeff Long defended himself Tuesday following another football coaching change that will cost his department millions while also saying he’s the right person to make another hire.

In addition, Long defended his hiring process of Les Miles, who Long said didn’t disclose he had been accused of sexual harassment by multiple women student staffers while he was the LSU football coach.

Tuesday, Long spoke with reporters for a half-hour on a videoconference call one day after Miles agreed to step down as head football coach, which KU Athletics announced late Monday night. The decision came a few days after the allegations against Miles, some of which occurred a decade ago, became public late last week.

Long says KU did “multiple background checks” on Miles before he was hired as coach in 2018. On the field, Miles compiled a 3-9 record in 2019 and 0-9 in last year’s pandemic shortened season.

“I’m beyond disappointed that the University of Kansas is in this position,” Long said, “but it is absolutely the right decision for our university and our student-athletes.”

KU Athletics also released the two sides’ settlement agreement Tuesday, with KU agreeing to pay Miles $1,991,062.50. Originally, Miles had about $8 million left on his KU contract that ran through 2023 and paid him $2.775 million annually.

Both Miles and certain top KU employees — chancellor Douglas Girod, Long, and assistant ADs Chris Freet and Sean Lester — agreed to non-disparagement clauses as part of the arrangement. Long’s statement announcing Miles’ departure Monday night did not mention the allegations, which Miles has denied.

Miles is scheduled receive monthly checks from KU of $201,187.50 for April, May and June before getting monthly payments of $231,250 for July through December.

Long, in an opening statement, detailed his version of the vetting that was done on Miles prior to his hiring in 2018. In addition to the background checks, Long said he asked Miles directly in the interview process whether there was anything from his past that could potentially embarrass himself, the university or the program; Long reported that Miles said, “No.”

KU also spoke to LSU athletic department employees before hiring Miles, Long said, to see if there was anything the school should know. Long said KU received no indications of any issues.

Long stated that Miles’ lawyers made KU aware of a legal dispute in Louisiana involving Miles, but they couldn’t share the formal documentation of that. Long went to Miles to ask if there was anything in the reports that KU should be concerned about; Long said that Miles assured him, “No.”

On Feb. 24, KU received its first access to documents about Miles after they were published in newspaper articles, according to Long.

Though Long said he considers Miles a friend, he also said Monday that friendship “was certainly not the reason behind why we were hiring him to be the head coach. He was an established head coach. He was an incredible recruiter. Those were the reasons we landed on Coach Miles at the time.”

Long said he would take time to evaluate and choose KU football’s interim coach, who potentially will lead the school at least through spring football practices. Long also said would begin a national exploration for a new head coach, while standing behind his own credentials to do that.

“I’m very comfortable and confident of my years in college football, confident that I can conduct a search,” Long said. “I’m confident that I can find the next leader of the University of Kansas.”

Long indicated he’d have more help this time around. His first football hire did not include a search committee, though this one will involve a to-be-determined firm. Long also vowed to “lean on ... those former players, alumni, donors, people that have been invested in our program.”

When asked about his own job security following recent events, Long said his sole focus was on KU’s student-athletes.

“I use them to guide me in making my decisions,” Long said, “and I have continued to work in their best interest.”

Long said as he sought counsel from the university and Girod, they all came to the conclusion a settlement would be in the best interest of the program, which also would allow them to part ways with Miles immediately. He said the $2 million will come from KU athletic department revenues or donations.

Just nine months ago, KU Athletics settled with its previous football coach David Beaty for $2.55 million after refusing to pay his $3 million buyout while alleging non-major NCAA violations. KU also ended up paying more than a half-million in lawyer fees related to the Beaty case.

Since Mark Mangino coached KU to its last winning season in 2008, the Jayhawks football team has gone 26-115 and the athletic department has paid millions to buy out a string of failed coaches: Turner Gill, Charlie Weis, Beaty and Miles.

Long said utilizing a search firm, in this instance, would bring an additional pool of candidates. He was enthusiastic about what the program had to sell following the last two recruiting classes.

“We’re closer than we ever have been in a number of years,” Long said. “So we’re going to work hard to keep the student-athletes that are with us, and I think we have a bright future in front of us, because we built with high school players who are young, excited and eager to win for KU.”