Just a few weeks ago Kansas seemed on the verge of hiring current Tulsa athletic director Bubba Cunningham. Cunningham had a solid resume and seemed like a good fit for Kansas, but at the end of the day something didn't click and Cunningham elected to sign an extension with his current position.
Yesterday, a name that had floated around almost since the beginning of the search reemerged as the choice and the hire for the position at Kansas, that person is Sheahon Zenger. What's interesting about the choice is that much of what appealed to Kansas about the Cunningham hire, also looks very appealing with Zenger. The one obvious difference are his ties to Kansas.
Now clearly you don't need ties to the state in order to be an effective athletic director, but in a time where Kansas needs a stabilizing figure it could provide just that. Zenger was born in Salina, lived in Lawrence, attended Mid American Nazarene, Kansas State University and Kansas University. That's a whole lot of Kansas and while it admittedly is heavily Kansas State, Kansas fans should understand that this is an individual at the peak of his profession and those at Kansas seemed to have little concern with those connections.
The other homerun aspect to the Zenger hire is his knowledge and experience with football. Right now Kansas needs an athletic director to elevate the entire department and that starts with football. Things are just fine on the basketball court, Bill Self can drive that ship, but providing Turner Gill the tools to build a football program helps the entire University.
In doing so Zenger can draw on experience in coaching with Kansas State and South Florida under Bill Snyder and Jim Leavitt. Both have been pretty successful in the coaching profession and both have helped bring programs up to a level of competitiveness not seen at those respective programs in the past. Beyond coaching, Zenger has spent time as a recruiting coordinator, and as an editor for American Football Quarterly which was a publication targeted toward football coaches.
Now all those experiences are things that will help in his perspective and understanding, but his work in athletic administration speaks for itself as well.
Under his leadership Illinois State has won the all sports trophy in two out of the last three years in the Missouri Valley Conference. In addition fund raising at the institution is up close to 150% since his arrival. Illinois State's athletes have recorded a school best GPA, he negotiated a five year contract with apparel giant Nike, and his administration has helped to set attendance records in football and basketball.
From a facilities perspective, Illinois State is currently working on a fund raising project to upgrade the football facilities and has recently completed both Tennis and Baseball upgrades under Zenger.
The fact is Sheahon Zenger is a potentially great fit for Kansas going forward. No it doesn't have that name hire value that all to often seems to be the focus of fans, but Zenger has an opportunity at Kansas and finding a young hungry individual who has talent can often turn into a homerun in the future.