The University of New Haven has named Salina native Sheahon Zenger as its new director of athletics and recreation. Zenger is a well-respected, veteran athletics administrator with a proven track record building and leading successful intercollegiate athletic programs. He replaces Chris Palmer, a former football coach who spent decades in the National Football League, who retired earlier this year.
With more than 25 years of experience in administration, development, coaching, and academia, Zenger brings unprecedented experience to the Chargers. Most recently, he served as an assistant to the chancellor at Texas Christian University and an adviser to the director of athletics. Prior, he was director of athletics for the University of Kansas (2011 to 2018) and Illinois State University (2005 to 2011).
Zenger, who officially joined the University on September 1, leads the University’s intercollegiate athletics program and oversees its recreational offerings. He has been charged with directing the University’s early exploration of a potential move to the Division I level.
“President Kaplan’s growth of the University’s programs, facilities, and endowment during his tenure has been nothing short of phenomenal,” Zenger said. “And his excitement about expanding the University’s athletic footprint and reputation is exceptional. I am very pleased to be joining this remarkable community and can’t wait to begin contributing to the University’s success.”
Zenger was selected following an extensive national search that was conducted by a university-wide committee, in consultation with DHR International, a respected global executive search firm. During the recruiting process for this vital position, President Kaplan and Zenger connected on a multitude of levels. The duo will jointly teach a seminar for honors students that will take place during the fall semester.
As director of athletics at the University of Kansas, Zenger raised tens of millions in funds, built nine athletic buildings, and created a culture of collegiality in the athletic department. During his seven years, the athletic teams combined to make nearly 70 postseason appearances. The program earned four national Coach of the Year awards and 11 Big 12 Conference Coach of the Year awards. Twice during his tenure the athletics department set a record for the program’s highest cumulative GPA.
“We are thrilled to bring Sheahon’s broad background and talent to the University of New Haven and look forward to his vision and leadership of our athletics program,” said President Kaplan. “He brings a unique combination of strengths and experience that are aligned with our ambitious vision to ensure that our student-athletes compete at the highest level on and off the field.”
Zenger joins the University at an exciting time in its history. Earlier this year, the University announced that The Charger Challenge, the University’s inaugural comprehensive campaign, which was launched as a precursor to the University’s Centennial in 2020, exceeded its original goal of $100 million. The milestone, which does not include more than $28 million in federal and state contracts that have also been secured during the campaign, was reached almost a year in advance of the start of the 100th year, leading the University to increase its campaign goal to $120 million to raise additional funds for, among other priorities, athletics. According to President Kaplan, continuing to build the athletics program will help advance the momentum that has taken place on campus.
“Our student-athletes have long proven to be stars on the field, in the classroom, and in the community, said President Kaplan. “I am confident that Sheahon will take our already successful athletics program to an even higher level. I look forward to the many important contributions he will undoubtedly make.”
About Athletics Director Sheahon Zenger
Sheahon Zenger is a well-respected veteran athletics administrator with a proven track record building and leading successful athletic administrations. With more than 25 years of experience in administration, development, coaching, and academia, Zenger brings wide-reaching knowhow to the Chargers from his stops at Kansas, Illinois State, Wyoming, South Florida and Drake. For a full biography and to learn more, please visit www.NewHavenChargers.com
About the University of New Haven
The University of New Haven is a private, co-educational university that was founded on the Yale campus in 1920.