Kansas chancellor Douglas Girod said Monday night that a report of KU cheerleader hazing and also the FBI probe involving college basketball and potential payments to Jayhawks basketball players had no impact on his decision to fire athletic director Sheahon Zenger.
Girod, during a brief interview with The Star at Union Station in Kansas City, was also asked if football was the primary factor in deciding to let Zenger go.
“Football’s most certainly the most prominent challenge that we have right now,” Girod said. “But it’s also getting excitement behind a vision, getting a fanbase moving behind a vision to really take athletics to the next level. We had lost some momentum there.”
The KU cheer team was put on one year's probation in September 2017 for hazing, according to the university’s latest organizational conduct status report. Two cheerleaders, who were granted anonymity, told the K-State Collegian this month that they were victims of hazing. They said they were told to remove clothes after answering questions incorrectly and one said she was seen naked by two men. The cheerleaders said veteran members of the team and three KU alumni were involved.
In a different matter, Adidas employee James Gatto was cited last month in a federal indictment as part of a group that conspired to illicitly funnel payments to two KU players, believed to be Silvio De Sousa and Billy Preston, in order to secure their commitment to the school and to Adidas upon entering the NBA.
Girod repeated “none whatsoever” when asked separately if both incidents played any part in Zenger’s termination.
“It got to the point of realizing we had lost a lot of momentum,” Girod said when asked about the timing of the announcement, made Monday morning. “We weren’t making progress in the direction that we needed. It seemed like it was time to make a change.”
Girod said he spoke with some of the athletic department’s top donors and boosters before making Monday’s decision.
“I consulted a lot of people trying to understand people’s feelings about where we were going and what they were feeling about the program,” Girod said. “We always do that.”