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'He chose to crush me'

Bohl claims Williams forced him out as Kansas AD

Posted: Wednesday April 09, 2003 3:50 PM
Updated: Wednesday April 09, 2003 9:48 PM
  Al Bohl Al Bohl was hired in 2001 primarily to fix Kansas' football program. AP

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) -- The University of Kansas fired athletic director Al Bohl on Wednesday, and he said basketball coach Roy Williams was behind it.

"I believe the Kansas basketball coach had the power to hold his athletics director in his hand like a dove," Bohl said. "And he had a choice to either crush me with his power of influence or let me fly with my vision for a better, total program. He chose to crush me."

Bohl has had numerous clashes with the popular Williams, whose Jayhawks lost to Syracuse in the national championship game Monday night. Bohl was hired in 2001 to replace longtime athletic director Bob Frederick, a close friend of Williams.

Williams is expected to be a leading contender for the vacant coaching job at North Carolina, his alma mater. Williams turned down the position three years ago, but he has faced frequent questions about the opening since Matt Doherty resigned April 1.

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* Al Bohl insists Roy Williams forced him out as athletic director. Start
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Kansas Chancellor Robert Hemenway denied that he fired Bohl to convince Williams to stay.

"We have to trust him to make the right decision now," Hemenway said of Williams.

Bohl, however, is convinced that the decision to remove him was made by Williams, not Hemenway.

"It is bad when a basketball coach can have the ability to hire and fire someone," Bohl said. "There's no question I have been beaten up maliciously."

Williams said Bohl tried "extremely hard," but he acknowledged that the two men had their differences.

"It is always sad for the individual involved when a situation such as this occurs and a change is made," Williams said in the statement. "We had difficulties, and we were not as cohesive as the athletic department needs to be. This made the atmosphere somewhat difficult."

Hemenway said North Carolina athletic director Dick Baddour contacted him Wednesday about speaking with Williams.

 
Interim AD has long history with KU
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) -- Drue Jennings, appointed Wednesday as interim athletic director at the University of Kansas, is probably best known as the retired chief executive of Kansas City Power & Light Co. But he has a long and close relationship with Kansas athletics.

A 56-year-old native of Kansas City, Kan., Jennings attended Kansas on a football scholarship while earning a bachelor's degree in education. After graduating in 1968 he spent a year at Wyandotte High School as a coach and teacher, then returned to Kansas and earned a law degree in 1972.

Jennings joined KCPL as an attorney in 1974, advancing through the ranks to become chief executive officer in 1988 and chairman of the board in 1991. In November 2000, several months after the company's planned merger with Topeka-based Western Resources Inc. fell through, Jennings announced he would retire the following May.

Through the years he kept his ties to Kansas athletics and to the university, at one point serving as chairman of the Kansas University Athletic Corp.'s Finance Committee. He was member of the 2001 search committee that screened candidates to succeed Bob Frederick as athletics director.

Jennings was given the university's Distinguished Service Citation in 1999 in recognition of his service to the Endowment Association, the Medical Center Research Institute and the School of Law. He and his wife, Susan Kolman Jennings, who earned an education degree in 1968, donated $55,000 in 1992 to support expansion of the university's athletics facilities.

Outside the university, his board memberships have included the Greater Kansas City Sports Commission, the Johnson County Community Foundation and the panel that oversaw redevelopment of Kansas City's Union Station.

In an interview Wednesday, Jennings said he admired Kansas head basketball coach Roy Williams as a man of great integrity who, he
hoped, would remain in Lawrence rather than jump to North Carolina's basketball program.

"I'll keep my fingers crossed like everyone else," Jennings said.

Jennings said he saw nothing fundamentally wrong with the athletic program but would devote himself to his temporary appointment for however long it lasts. Some of his priorities, he said, include working to improve relationships with groups such as the Alumni Association and Endowment Association. 
 

"It's a little hard to say if it was asking permission or if it was notification, but they said that they wanted to talk to Roy, and I was not surprised that they called," Hemenway said.

Williams, 52, has led the Jayhawks to four Final Four appearances, and two trips to the championship game, in his 15 years.

Hemenway appointed A. Drue Jennings, a Kansas graduate, former football player and the former chief executive of Kansas City Power & Light, to take over as interim athletic director. Hemenway said Williams supported the appointment of Jennings, who will not be a candidate for the permanent job.

Hemenway said he discussed leadership of the department with Bohl during the past few months, as well as with coaches, other athletic department staff members, alumni and donors.

"On the basis of these conversations and my own evaluation of the situation, I came to the conclusion a change of leadership was needed at this time," Hemenway said, adding that he made the decision before the end of the basketball season.

Bohl met with reporters at his home later in the afternoon.

"They wouldn't even let me talk with the media on campus," said the 55-year-old Bohl, who was hired specifically to repair the school's struggling football program.

Bohl served as athletic director at Toledo and Fresno State, and was credited with turning around the football programs at both schools.

His biggest move at Kansas was firing head football coach Terry Allen with two games left in the 2001 season, replacing him with Oklahoma offensive coordinator Mark Mangino.

Williams expressed his displeasure with that move, and he was especially angry that Allen was fired during the season. Just a few months before Allen was let go, Williams attended an ethics seminar and endorsed a proposal urging schools not to fire a coach whose sport was in season.

"And then it happens at my very own school," Williams said at the time. "How embarrassing."

Bohl countered: "Roy is the basketball coach, and I am the director of athletics. I was hired to fix this football program, and that's what I'm going to do."

Bolh's support among alumni and important contributors was affected when his clash with Williams went public.

During a pep rally at the Final Four in New Orleans, Bohl was booed by Kansas fans. He was later asked if it were possible for him to be effective while being that unpopular.

"The cheers far outweighed the boos," he said. "Yes, they booed. Are you kidding me? You guys have been writing it like it's a case where Bohl's got to go, so Roy's going to stay here. Hey, it's been pretty good music that we've been to two Final Fours. Those people, they don't even know Al Bohl."

Williams said Tuesday he planned to meet with former North Carolina coach Dean Smith, and it was expected he would again receive an offer to return to Chapel Hill. Bohl had pledged to do all he could to keep Williams at Kansas.

 
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