Following a short vacation, Ken Long's next task will be to hit the ground running as Newark High School's new athletics director.

Following a short vacation, Ken Long's next task will be to hit the ground running as Newark High School's new athletics director.

"Boy, that's just so much to do with another school year already upon us," he said after the school board approved his hiring last Monday with a one-year contract worth $75,000. "But it's my goal nowto do my part in taking Newark athletics to another level."

Long, who is replacing Kevin Jarrett after Jarrett took the same job at Granville, already has shown the effect he can have on a sports program. As strength and conditioning coach for the Kent State men's basketball team from 1999-2005, the Golden Flashes enjoyed a golden era. They won three MAC-East Division titles while finishing second twice, and the 2001-02 team won the MAC postseason tournament en route to an appearance in the NCAA's "Elite Eight."

Long spent 23 years as an associate athletics director at Kent State, where he also served as an assistant football coach. He was athletics director at Coventry High School for two years and also at Alliance the past two years before accepting the Newark position.

Long was one of about 15 applicants and among six who were interviewed for the job, Newark personnel director Cara Riddel said.

"(The search committee) liked his experience and his connection to higher education," Riddel said of Long, whose contract begins Saturday. "He also was able to provide specific answers on how he can further advance both boys and girls sports."

Long, who celebrated his 56th birthday last Friday, is a Pittsburgh native but grew up in northeast Ohio and graduated from Ravenna High School in 1971. An offensive lineman, he played football at Purdue and was named a captain as a senior in 1975. He then played five seasons in the NFL with the Detroit Lions and Denver Broncos, although much of that time was spent on the injured-reserve list.

"Maybe the best part of my experiences is all the contacts I've made," said Long, whose NFL records listed him at 6-foot-3, 265 pounds during his playing days. "It's really nice to be able to pick up the phone and call a coach and say, 'Hey, there's a kid here I'd like you to look at.' That's a nice perk."

Long said he will be staying with his brother, Jim, a long-time teacher in Upper Arlington, until he is able to find a home in the area. His wife, Nancy, and their 14-year-old son, Ethan, will stay behind for now.

"At least I've already got a roof over my head," Long said with a laugh. "All joking aside, though, my wife and I have been wanting to get into the greater Columbus area for some time now. And quite candidly, this is an opportunity for us to do that and be a part of a big-time school district. It's a good fit for us, and I'm hoping it's a good fit for the fine people in Newark."

New superintendent Doug Ute, whose hiring also was approved last Monday, attended the board meeting and vowed his support.

"I'm a former (boys) basketball coach and athletics director (at New Washington Buckeye Central)," Ute said. "Every district needs to offer every student an opportunity to grow, and sports can be a big part of that. I see athletics as an extension of the school day."

That being said, Long, whowas inNewark to sign paperwork last Tuesday,is eager to get started.

"I'd like to see all the sports programs feed off what the (boys) basketball team there at Newark did a couple of years ago (winning the Division I state championship in 2008)," Long said. "Not every season can end like that, obviously, but I think one of the things I share with the community is that we all have the same fundamental goals.

"Coming in late like I am, well, I'm scrambling a little bit and playing catch-up. But come August we'll all roll up our sleeves and start working in that direction."

Kurtis Adams can be reached at kadams@thisweeknews.com.