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Jeff Long doesn’t deserve to hire another Kansas football coach

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The Jayhawks can’t make the next hire until they explain how they screwed up the last one.

Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images. Banner Society Illustration.

The University of Kansas and Les Miles have “mutually parted ways” in the middle of a Monday night in March, three days after Miles was placed on administrative leave, following an investigative report – commissioned by LSU – that revealed multiple female students accused him of inappropriate sexual conduct during Miles’ time in Baton Rouge. The limited statement KU Athletic Director Jeff Long has offered very clearly wants to focus on the future in Lawrence, insisting that the search for a new football coach will begin immediately.

But Long and Kansas shouldn’t have the opportunity to hire the next coach, unless and until they can answer two questions about the hiring process that brought Miles to Lawrence in the first place: What did KU ask about Miles during the vetting process, and what did they know when they offered him the job?

There are three basic possible answers:

  1. Kansas didn’t really vet Miles thoroughly, so they didn’t know about any of this when they hired him.
  2. Kansas vetted Miles enough to find out about these allegations and hired him anyway.
  3. Kansas vetted Miles, but got bad information that kept these allegations from them, and hired Miles without that context.

For now, the Jayhawks seem to be tilting towards either answer one or answer three; they’ve claimed the allegations against Miles were news to them. Miles’ attorney, for whatever it’s worth, said that wasn’t true, and that Kansas had significant information on those allegations before getting those reports.

If Kansas is telling the truth, and Les Miles being accused of wildly inappropriate conduct with students – including once after being directly reprimanded and instructed by his athletic director to stop contacting student employees – was news to them until last week, they need to explain where and how their vetting process failed.

Answer one puts the blame on Kansas, and Long should not be permitted to lead a second hiring effort immediately after botching the vetting of this one. As the recent report LSU commissioned by the law firm Husch Blackwell notes, Miles already faced questions about his reputation in this area, according to Sports Illustrated’s 2013 reporting on his involvement with the Orange Pride program at Oklahoma State.

And Long, having just fired David Beaty for cause on the basis of some extremely thin NCAA compliance allegations, should have wanted a full vetting of any subsequent candidate. If Kansas mailed that effort in with Miles, why should anyone be confident they’ll get it right this time?

Answer three implies that someone Kansas talked to intentionally withheld these allegations. It’s possible the Jayhawks conducted a thorough vetting of Miles, but were stonewalled along the way without even knowing it. If that’s the case, KU needs to make that known, and anyone who covered for Miles should be held to account for their dishonesty.

And if it’s answer two, Long and any Kansas staffer who knew about these allegations, chose to move forward with Miles, and then decided to play dumb to avoid a backlash, faces an entirely new list of questions: Why hire Miles knowing he’d been the subject of multiple allegations and disobeyed his AD? What steps were taken to prevent that kind of behavior at Kansas? Was KU’s Title IX coordinator informed of these allegations at any point? Has Miles had any new complaints against him during his short time in Lawrence? And why, most alarmingly, did Kansas choose to lie?

None of these outcomes is a particularly good one for Long and his department. Kansas Athletics has either been irresponsibly lazy, inexcusably dishonest, or embarrassingly deceived. Until they tell us which one it is and fix it, they’ve got no business moving ahead with a hire.