Kansas Miles Football

Les Miles, left, is introduced as Kansas football coach by athletic director Jeff Long, right, during a news conference in Lawrence, Kan., Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Kansas athletic director Jeff Long announced Wednesday that he has stepped down, news that comes two days after the university announced it had "mutually parted ways" with former Jayhawks head football coach Les Miles after a report showed a pattern of "inappropriate behavior" with female students at LSU.

Long said in an open letter posted on KU's official website that he spoke with chancellor Douglas Girod on Tuesday night and they "both agreed that it was in the best interest of our student-athletes and program for me to step down today."

KU and Long agreed to a settlement that will pay Long $1.375 million in nine monthly installments, according to a copy of the settlement the university released Wednesday.

Long, who came under fire for his hiring of Miles in 2018, said in his letter that he steps down "knowing that I did my very best for the University."

"It is not easy," Long said, "but I leave KU with a heavy heart and profound confidence that I have always acted in the best interests of Kansas Athletics. I have done everything in my control to move Kansas Athletics forward in a positive manner, that’s what makes this most difficult."

In a Tuesday news conference, Long denied he knew about allegations of sexual harassment against Miles when Long hired him to be the Jayhawks head coach in 2018.

Long, who called himself a friend of Miles, also explained that the reason why Kansas was paying Miles a $2 million settlement instead of no payment in a "just cause" firing was because it was "debatable" that Miles lied to him in 2018 when he said there wasn't anything in his past that would embarrass the university.

Kansas announced late Monday night that they've "mutually agreed to part ways" with Miles, a decision that came days after the school placed him on administrative leave after a report showed a pattern of "inappropriate behavior" with female students at LSU.

Now Long's four-year tenure as KU's athletic director is also officially over. Girod wrote in a separate open letter that Kurt Watson, a university donor and alum, has been named interim athletic director.

Girod said he will lead the process with a search firm and alumni advisors to hire a new athletics director, who will then hire a new football coach.

"I understand time is of the essence and that our football student-athletes are eager to know who will be guiding them," Girod said. "But we are making long-term decisions on an athletics director and a football coach, and we cannot sacrifice the quality of a search simply for expediency."

The much-anticipated Husch Blackwell report into LSU's handling of sexual misconduct cases disclosed that Miles had been investigated by the LSU-hired Taylor Porter law firm in 2013.

The firm turned up emails that showed former LSU athletic director Joe Alleva felt Miles should be fired based upon that investigation. Former LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander also wrote in a letter Monday that he regrets not taking stronger action when faced with the allegations against Miles.

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Miles had been accused of kissing a female student twice, "unwanted touching," telling her he was attracted to her and suggesting that they go to a hotel or to his condo together. Miles has repeatedly denied kissing the student or any other inappropriate behavior. Some of the other allegations in the Taylor Porter investigation remain secret; they are completely redacted.

Several LSU athletic department employees also told Taylor Porter that Miles insisted that LSU hire “attractive, blonde, fit” female students to work in recruiting. Miles was eventually forbidden from having one-on-one meetings or interactions with student employees.

But Alleva's recommendation to fire Miles — who was riding high at the time and had just received a new six-year contract — never materialized. Miles was terminated early in the 2016 season, not for misconduct but for disappointing results on the field.

This newspaper also reported that Miles had reached a secret settlement with a former LSU student who accused him of harassment about a decade ago.

On Tuesday, Long confirmed Kansas was aware of a court matter in Baton Rouge but the university was denied specifics until last week. Long said he'd asked Miles if there was anything to be concerned about, and Miles told him no.

Kansas spokesman Dan Beckler said in a statement last Thursday that KU had just received a copy of the Les Miles probe, and that Kansas officials "will wait to comment further" until after reviewing it more closely. Miles was placed on administrative leave the next day, then ousted on Monday.

Long has since come under fire for his role in hiring Miles. The two have known each other for decades, and, when Long was the athletic director at Arkansas, he expressed interest in luring Miles away from LSU during the 2012 season.

Despite the friendship, Long told reporters Tuesday Kansas ran multiple background checks on Miles before he was hired, and Long said he directly asked Miles if there was anything in his background that could "embarrass" the university. Miles told him no.

Still, KU and Miles reached a settlement for about $2 million of the $8 million he had left on a contract that was set to expire after the 2023 season, according to the Kansas City Star.

Miles had just finished the second season of a five-year contract worth about $2.75 million per year that expired after the 2023 season. In the contract, Kansas could fire Miles for "just cause" and not pay out any remaining salary for "discreditable conduct that is inconsistent with the professional standards of a head coach of a collegiate sports team."

When Kansas announced Miles' departure on Monday, Long said in a statement that KU will begin its search for a new head coach immediately, along with the assistance of an outside firm. 

Long told reporters Tuesday that he was "confident" that he could lead the search for the next Kansas football coach.

Email Brooks Kubena at bkubena@theadvocate.com.