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 had 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."