Kansas hires Northwestern administrator Travis Goff as next AD

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
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Kansas has hired Northwestern administrator Travis Goff, a Sunflower State native who graduated from the school, to be its next athletic director during a crucial moment for its football program and high-profile men’s basketball program.

The school announced the hiring Monday night, shortly after reaching a deal with Goff to return to Lawrence. He will be introduced Wednesday during an on-campus event at the Lied Center.

“With a long history of success, unwavering partnership with campus leaders and the unparalleled passion of the Jayhawk fanbase, this is one of the most humbling responsibilities and opportunities in college athletics,” said Goff, who grew up in the southwestern Kansas town of Dodge City. “I’m thrilled to return to Lawrence with my family and to continue to make this department a point of pride for our entire university.”

Goff has has been at Northwestern since 2012, most recently as deputy athletic director and assistant vice president for development. He played a key role in fundraising that led to massive facilities upgrades at Northwestern and oversaw the baseball, volleyball and football programs – experience that will come in handy at Kansas.

“We are fortunate to have Travis return to Lawrence to lead our department and after speaking with him, it is clear he is exactly what we need,” basketball coach Bill Self said. “He will be a tremendous partner to all of our head coaches and sports programs and will ensure that our student-athletes have a world-class experience.”

Kansas has been searching for an athletic director since Jeff Long resigned almost a month ago.

Long was responsible for hiring Les Miles, with whom the school parted ways amid sexual misconduct allegations dating to the football coach’s time at LSU. Long initially said he would lead the search for Miles’ replacement, but criticism about the due diligence he did in hiring his longtime friend forced him to reconsider and ultimately resign.

Goff’s first big task will be to set the course for a moribund football program already going through spring practice under wide receivers coach Emmett Jones, picked to serve as the interim coach last month.

The downtrodden Jayhawks lost all nine of their games last season. They have not had a winning season since Mark Mangino was on the sideline in 2008, cycling through Turner Gill, Charlie Weis, interim coach Clint Bowen, David Beaty and Miles without finding a way to return to prominence.

Goff is expected to lead the search for the next football coach, though the timeline for that hiring remains unclear.

Along with deep-seated fan apathy, the Jayhawks have some of the worst facilities in the Big 12 – despite a new indoor practice facility – and have struggled for years to generate money and support to upgrade Memorial Stadium.

Goff also must deal with potential NCAA sanctions facing the Jayhawks’ storied basketball program.

The program was hit with five Level I charges tied to recruiting, one directed at Self, as part of the fallout of an FBI investigation into college basketball corruption. Kansas has staunchly defended itself against the allegations, and the case is going through the NCAA’s new independent appeals process, with a decision expected later this year.

“Travis understands the challenges we face and the changing landscape of collegiate athletics,” Kansas Chancellor Doug Girod said. “At the same time, he is well-positioned to help us build on our recent successes in student-athlete health care, diversity and inclusion, and student-athlete academic achievement. The fact that he is a Jayhawk is an added bonus.”

Goff returns to Lawrence having worked under former Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips, who left the school in the Chicago suburb of Evanston earlier this year to become Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner.

Goff graduated from KU in 2002 with degrees in journalism and sociology, then earned an MBA from Tulane, where he worked as associate athletic director for external affairs.

He is the sixth athletic director for the Jayhawks since Bob Frederick retired in 2001.

“When you grow up in Dodge City like Travis and I did, you get to know everyone,” Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork said. “I have been fortunate to know Travis and his first-class family for more than 30 years, and it is so exciting to see him become the athletics director at Kansas. As both of us have evolved in college athletics, we have become great friends. I’ve always known this day would come for Travis at the right time and the right place.”

Lane Kiffin staying at Ole Miss with ‘a lot of work left to do’

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Mississippi coach Lane Kiffin says he has informed school officials he will be staying at Ole Miss, putting an end to speculation that he was the leading candidate to fill the head coaching vacancy at Auburn.

“Same as I said last week: I’m staying here and we have a lot of work left to do,” Kiffin told The Associated Press in a voice message.

Kiffin added he has not signed a contract extension with the school.

The 47-year-old Kiffin is 23-12 in three seasons as Rebels coach. No. 20 Mississippi finished its regular season 8-4, losing four of its last five, including a 24-22 loss to Mississippi State.

Auburn was playing at No. 8 Alabama in the Iron Bowl, and its coaching search figured to heat up soon after its season concluded.

Auburn fired coach Bryan Harsin earlier this month and has gone 2-1 since under interim coach Carnell Williams, the former star running back for the Tigers.

With Kiffin off the market, Auburn is eyeing a former Mississippi coach to be its next coach.

A person familiar with the search told the AP that Auburn is interested in Liberty coach Hugh Freeze. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because Auburn was not making details of its search public.

Freeze coached at Ole Miss for five seasons before leaving in disgrace in 2017 after the school discovered he used a university cellphone to call an escort service.

He landed at Liberty and has gone 34-14 in four seasons with the Flames.

Nebraska signs Matt Rhule to 8-year deal

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After six straight losing seasons and more than 20 years removed from its 1990s heyday, Nebraska is turning to Matt Rhule to rebuild its program and make it competitive in the Big Ten Conference.

Rhule signed an eight-year contract to be the Cornhuskers’ next coach and will be introduced at a news conference, the school announced.

The 47-year-old Rhule quickly turned around downtrodden programs at Temple and Baylor before leaving for the NFL to coach the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers fired him in October after he started his third season with four losses in five games.

“It is a tremendous honor to be chosen to lead the Nebraska football program,” Rhule said in a statement. “When you think of great, tradition-rich programs in college football, Nebraska is right at the top of the list. The fan base is second to none, and I consider it a privilege to have the opportunity to coach in Memorial Stadium on Tom Osborne Field. My family and I are so grateful to become a part of the Husker Family, and we can’t wait to get started.”

Rhule was 11-27 with Carolina and left with about $40 million remaining on the seven-year, guaranteed $62 million contract he signed in 2020. The contract made Rhule the sixth-highest paid coach in the NFL when he signed in 2020, according to Forbes.

Nebraska said it would release details of Rhule’s contract.

“It is a privilege to welcome Coach Matt Rhule, his wife, Julie, and their family to Nebraska,” athletic director Trev Alberts said. “Coach Rhule has created a winning culture throughout his coaching career, and he will provide great leadership for the young men in our football program.

“Matt is detail-oriented, his teams are disciplined and play a physical brand of football. Matt also has the personality and relationship-building skills to build a great staff and excel in recruiting.”

About an hour after Rhule’s hiring was announced, wide receiver Trey Palmer announced on Instagram that he would declare for the NFL draft. Palmer, who transferred from LSU after last season, had three 150-yard games this year and set the Huskers’ single-season record with 1,043 yards.

The Huskers are among eight Football Bowl Subdivision programs with at least 900 wins, and they have won or shared five national championships. The last one came in 1997 under Hall of Fame coach Tom Osborne.

Five coaches have come and gone since then, most recently the quarterback of that ’97 team, Scott Frost.

Alberts fired Frost on Sept. 11 after the Huskers opened 1-2, with losses to Northwestern in Ireland and to Georgia Southern at home. They were 3-6 under interim coach Mickey Joseph and finished the season 4-8 following a 24-17 win at Iowa.

Nebraska was 16-31 in four-plus seasons under Frost, never finishing higher than fifth in the Big Ten West or going to a bowl.

In four seasons at Temple, Rhule coached the Owls to 28 wins. That included 26 from 2014-16. Temple was 10-4 in 2015 and reached the American Athletic Conference’s inaugural championship game. In 2016, Rhule led the Owls to a 10-3 record and an AAC championship. The conference title was the first in 49 seasons for the Temple program, and the Owls reached bowl games in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history.

Rhule was named Baylor’s coach in December 2016 in the wake of an investigation that found the private Baptist university had not responded adequately to allegations of sexual assault by players, resulting in the firing of Art Briles.

Rhule’s trajectory was similar at Baylor, where he went from 1-11 in 2017 to 7-6 with a bowl game the next season. In his third and final season, Baylor was ranked in the top 10, played in the Big 12 championship game and finished 11-3 after a Sugar Bowl loss to Georgia.

Rhule’s collegiate success provided him the opportunity to take over as the Carolina Panthers’ head coach in 2020. He guided the Panthers to five wins in each of his first two seasons before this year’s 1-4 start got him fired.

Rhule has ties to the Big Ten. He moved from New York City to State College, Pennsylvania, as a teenager. He played linebacker at Penn State from 1994-97 and began his coaching there as a volunteer assistant.