LAWRENCE — The next chapter of former Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger’s career will take place just a short distance from where his previous ended.
Zenger has accepted a position as linebackers coach for Free State High School in Lawrence, the former A.D. confirmed in a Friday phone conversation with The Topeka Capital-Journal. The Lawrence Journal-World first reported Zenger’s new job.
Fired from his position at KU on May 21, Zenger said he was contacted by Free State head coach Bob Lisher about the opportunity the next day. Zenger’s son, Jake, will be a senior tight end next year for the Firebirds.
Zenger said he considers the opportunity a sabbatical year of sorts.
“Initially I just thought, ‘Boy, that’s really nice of (Lisher), but I’m going to jump right back in the fire somewhere,’ “ Zenger said. “But you know what? I get a chance to spend time with my family, four or five more months, and do something I’ve loved since I was fresh out of college and absolutely my life’s passion.
“If I’m going to go back into administration, if you think in terms of sabbatical, what better way to reconnect with the profession than to get back out there with young people and coaches and feel what they feel again?”
Zenger said he mulled the offer over internally for a week before sharing it with his wife and son and ultimately deciding to accept the position.
“At the end of the day, not to be really dramatic, but I thought, ‘If you have one year left, what would you like to do?’ “ Zenger said. “And I’m not sure there’s anything I’d rather do than this.”
It won’t be Zenger’s first gig on a football coaching staff.
He served as a recruiting coordinator at Kansas State from 1989-95 and didn’t fully transition to the administrative side until accepting a role as assistant athletic director at K-State in 2002. He was hired as KU’s athletic director in January 2011.
Asked whether he could foresee a scenario where this job creates an itch to return to the sidelines permanently, Zenger laughed and simply called next year “a special season” before his full-time return to the administrative side.
“You know, maybe in my 60s,” Zenger continued. “I always thought when I was done with full-time work I’d go get an office somewhere on campus and do research and teach a class or two, and then in the afternoon I’d go coach high school or small college football. All of a sudden at the age of 52 I get the chance to do it for a small span of time.
“Sometimes the universe, you’ve just got to keep your eyes open, and sometimes it knocks when you least expect it.”