The Kansas head coaching search picked up intrigue Thursday as a private plane landed at Lawrence Municipal Airport, with KU athletic director Jeff Long and deputy AD Sean Lester stepping onto the runway late Thursday afternoon.
Long did not speak to reporters gathered at the airport, but his presence on the plane verified some details on his search to bring in KU football’s next leader.
According to the website “Flight Aware,” the plane Long had been on went from Phoenix to Dallas to Lawrence. The site originally had a planned stop in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but a source confirmed Thursday that trip had been canceled, which made the final leg of the trip from Dallas to Lawrence instead.
So, knowing that, let the speculation begin.
Former Arizona State coach Todd Graham could be of interest in the Phoenix area. Graham compiled a 46-32 record in six seasons at Arizona State before getting fired following last year’s 7-6 campaign. He could fit the mold of what Long is looking for as someone who could immediately hit the recruiting trail without a current job.
Another possibility: Long could have been meeting with donors, as in the past, KU Athletics has held important booster meetings in that city.
For Dallas … North Texas coach Seth Littrell has been mentioned as a potential KU candidate, though there have been mixed media reports on whether he would be interested. Could SMU coach Sonny Dykes be involved? Or could it have been a meeting with a potential coach’s agent?
The tie to Baton Rouge — even if the plane didn’t go there Thursday — is obvious. Former LSU coach Les Miles has been a frontrunner for the job from the beginning, with CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd reporting Thursday that KU and Long had spoken about the open position.
During a press conference on Sunday, Long said he wouldn’t follow a strict timeline with his search, though he preferred to make a hire sooner rather than later. He then spoke about preferring to have a new coach in place by the end of the season, if not earlier.
Long appears to be working hard this week to move KU toward that goal.
The Star’s Gary Bedore contributed to this report.