Kansas Athletic Director Jeff Long was fired on Wednesday, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press. Orlin Wagner/Associated Press, file

Kansas has fired Athletic Director Jeff Long less than two days after mutually parting with Les Miles amid sexual misconduct allegations dating to the football coach’s time at LSU, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Kurt Watson will serve as the interim athletic director as the school begins searching for a new AD and new football coach, according to the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because the school had yet to announce the firing.

Long’s dismissal came one day after he vowed to lead the search for Miles’ successor, a move that drew significant backlash from Kansas alumni. It was Long who had hired Miles, his friend of more than 30 years, despite questions that ultimately led to his firing Monday night.

The move also comes as the Jayhawks’ storied men’s basketball program, which is awaiting the decision of an independent arbitrator on what could be severe NCAA sanctions for rules violations, prepares to open the Big 12 Tournament on Thursday with the NCAA tournament on tap next week.

“You know, I focus on these student-athletes,” Long said Tuesday. “I got into these intercollegiate athletics for what they did for me. I know how important this experience is for a football player or a rower or a tennis player. … I have continued to work in their best interests. That’s the way I look at that.”

One day later, Long was fired from his second consecutive job leading a Division I athletic department. He was let go by Arkansas in 2017 after a tenure that included the scandal surrounding the firing of football coach Bobby Petrino.

Long was hired by Kansas to help rebuild a football program mired firmly in the Big 12 cellar. His charge was to find a coach who could take the Jayhawks back to relevance while also persuading donors to open their checkbooks in support of upgrades to the practice facility and aging Memorial Stadium.

Instead, his roughly three-year tenure was filled with bumbling missteps.

After firing former football coach David Beaty, Long informed him that it would be “for cause” due to a relatively minor NCAA investigation into a noncoaching staff member and that his $3 million buyout would be withheld. A 15 month-long court case followed, embarrassing the university that wound up paying $500,000 in legal fees before ultimately agreeing with Beaty on a $2.55 million settlement.

Long also was criticized in 2019 for bringing Snoop Dogg to Late Night in the Phog, the annual kickoff to basketball practice. The rapper’s performance included four scantily dressed dancers doing routines on stripper poles and the firing of fake $100 bills into the crowd, an apparently flippant reference to the NCAA’s investigation into allegations that Kansas basketball coaches funneled money through an Adidas rep to potential players.

“I take full responsibility for not understanding what acrobatic dancers are in today’s entertainment world,” Long said in response to the backlash, “and offer my personal apology to anyone who was offended.”

But the biggest embarrassment for Long, whose five-year deal paid him $1.5 million annually, came on the football field, where the hiring of Miles resulted in just three wins over two seasons and ended in disaster.

After firing Beaty, Long claimed to have cast a wide net in search of a replacement, even though he later admitted in a deposition that Kansas had hired a documentary film crew to shoot Miles before he had been hired.

Last week, LSU released a pair of reviews conducted by separate law firms into allegations Miles had made sexual advances toward two female members of the program while coaching the Tigers. Miles was placed on administrative leave by Kansas, and the two sides agreed to a $2 million settlement to terminate the remaining years on his contract.

Long said a series of background checks took place before the Jayhawks hired Miles in 2018, and that nobody within the LSU athletic department raised any red flags. Asked why he was unaware of the allegations against a friend of his dating to their days at Michigan in the late 1980s, Long offered little explanation.

“We ran multiple background checks,” he said. “I also asked Coach Miles directly during the interview process whether there was anything in his past that could potentially embarrass the university, himself or the program and he said, `No.”‘

“I think much is played about our friendship,” Long added. “It’s a friendship that was certainly not the reason why we were hiring him to be the head coach. He was an established head coach, he was an incredible recruiter.”MEN’S BASKETBALL

BIG EAST: For the first time in the 42-year history of the Big East Conference, three players will share the league’s player of the year award.

Seton Hall’s Sandro Mamukelashvili and Villanova’s Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Collin Gillespie tied in the voting by the league’s coaches, who were not permitted to vote for their own players.

St. John’s Posh Alexander was named the league’s freshman of the year and his coach, Mike Anderson, was selected coach of the year.

Seton Hall junior center Ike Obiagu was named the men’s basketball scholar-athlete. The selection was made by the conference’s Academic Affairs Committee.

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL

WILLIAM PEACE: A North Carolina team forfeited a chance at its conference championship to stand in solidarity with a teammate who was disciplined for her part in an incident during which she said she was the target of racial slurs.

William Peace University junior Lauryn Cross was disciplined for the incident following Peace’s win last Wednesday against Meredith College in the division semifinals of the USA South Conference tournament, The North State Journal reported. Because of Cross’ suspension, the team decided to forfeit the East Division championship game the next night, giving North Carolina Wesleyan the title.

“We decided not to play because we felt like the situation is much bigger than basketball, and problems like this need to get solved at their root,” William Peace team captain Cierra Baker said. “If we would have played, we don’t think that the school administration or the athletic department would have taken us seriously because suspending Lauryn was wrong.”

William Peace Coach Marquetta Dickens, in a social media post, supported her players.

“This is not ideal,” she wrote. “But I stand in solidarity with their decision and (am) proud they feel empowered to use their voice.”

Cross alleged that an unidentified Meredith player had spent most of the game baiting her with racial slurs and other expletives. She said the player flashed an obscene gesture at her through the window of a door separating the teams’ locker rooms. The players crossed paths in the parking lot outside the game site.

“As I was going to my car, she was going to her bus sticking up her middle finger and saying a lot of things … ” Cross said. “My teammates were holding me back, and I was sitting there crying. I was so frustrated because nobody was doing anything about it whatsoever.”

On Friday, Cross was suspended by William Peace Athletic Director Tom Curle. Cross contends the disciplinary action was taken based on a report alleging that she entered the Meredith locker room and followed the player to the bus.

“I didn’t step in anybody’s locker room. I didn’t follow anybody to the bus. My teammates were there, they saw everything,” Cross said.

William Peace President Dr. Brian C. Ralph acknowledged that a student – he didn’t name Cross – informed the school that she experienced racism and taunting during competition, but he said investigations by both schools determined the student responded to the incidents in a manner that resulted in discipline.

The statement went on to say that William Peace has asked the conference to set up a task force “to more strongly address issues of racism in competition.”

Officials and players at Meredith disputed Cross’ claims in a statement.

“Meredith College’s athletics department has since interviewed all members of its basketball team individually and the team disputes the version of events that has been presented,” the statement said.

Cross, a 5-foot-7 guard from Urbana, Illinois, was suspended for four games earlier this season after she threw a punch at a player from Mary Baldwin College whom she said had been using racial slurs against her multiple times, including in front of referees. Both players were assessed technical fouls but were not ejected from the game.

(20) SOUTH FLORIDA 51, TULANE 47: Elisa Pinzan made six free throws in the final 23 seconds and South Florida (17-3) went 8 for 8 from the line in the last minute to hold off Tulane (17-8) in the semifinals of the American Athletic Association tournament at Fort Worth, Texas.

Maria Alvarez had three of her four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, the last with 1:50 to play that put the Bulls on top 43-41.

Tulane made 1 of 2 free throws with 1:27 to go, the foul sidelining USF’s Bethy Mununga, who had eight points and 18 rebounds.

But Sydni Harvey was fouled and her two free throws at 53.4 pushed the USF lead to three. Following a Green Wave miss, Pinzan took over to keep the lead at two possessions.

Pinzan, Alvarez and Harvey all had 12 points for South Florida.

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