Kansas fires athletic director Sheahon Zenger

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Kansas AD firing puts pressure on Beaty (0:54)

Adam Rittenberg breaks down how Kansas' firing of athletic director Sheahon Zenger affects the status of head football coach David Beaty. (0:54)

Kansas fired athletic director Sheahon Zenger on Monday, citing a lack of progress in key areas.

Chancellor Douglas Girod announced the decision in a letter posted online, writing that he met with Zenger on Monday morning to inform him of the decision. Girod named deputy athletic director Sean Lester as interim athletic director.

"Sheahon has been a loyal Jayhawk, and our athletics department has improved in many areas under his leadership," Girod wrote. "But athletics continues to face a number of challenges, and progress in key areas has been elusive."

Prominent alumnus Drue Jennings, a former interim athletic director at Kansas who led the search that brought in men's basketball coach Bill Self, will lead the process to find Zenger's successor, Girod wrote. Jed Hughes, a consultant for executive search firm Korn Ferry, will assist Jennings.

The firing comes a year after Zenger received a four-year extension on his contract and an increase in base pay to $700,000 per year. The university will pay Zenger more than $1.4 million under that contract.

Girod also wrote that he met with David Beaty on Monday and expects the football coach to "continue recruiting hard and getting his team ready for the season." Beaty is 3-33 in three seasons at Kansas. No other Jayhawks coach was mentioned in Girod's letter.

"It's certainly been a difficult day," Beaty said in a statement. "Sheahon gave me the opportunity to be the head coach here at Kansas, a place that is special to both of us, and I will be forever grateful for that. I appreciate Chancellor Girod reaching out to me directly. Although this is a tough day, we will move forward as a program and continue to keep all of our focus on preparing for the season ahead."

In November, Girod gave both Zenger and Beaty a vote of confidence, noting that upgrades to the school's "outdated facilities" will help KU better compete in football in the Big 12.

Zenger, 52, became Kansas' athletic director in February 2011 after holding the same post at Illinois State. A former football player who began his career as a recruiting coordinator for three college football programs, Zenger hired two football coaches at Kansas: Beaty and predecessor Charlie Weis, who went 6-22 before being fired in September 2014.

Kansas' men's basketball team thrived for much of Zenger's tenure, winning the Big 12 each year and making two Final Fours and four Elite Eight appearances.

"I'm proud of our successes during the past seven years, most of all the accomplishments of our student-athletes and coaches," Zenger said in a statement. "I hope our fans know I did my best and always prioritized our student-athletes."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.