Editor's Note: Today, Mark Janssen of "K-State Sports Extra" begins a three-part question and answer visit with Kansas State University President Dr. Kirk Schulz. Today, we examine this past year in athletics.
By Mark Janssen
Sports Extra: Kirk, a year ago, seemingly every headline concerning the program had a negative nature. Twelve months later, the waters truly do seem to have smoothed.
Dr. Kirk Schulz: Last summer in visiting with K-State folks, I was hearing about audits, Mr. (Bob) Krause as an AD and coaching contracts, but today our K-State people really do seem to be very positive and very excited. You can feel the energy and enthusiasm about Kansas State. John (Currie, athletics director) has bought in a professional set of fund raisers that are well liked by our folks out there and are people who bleed nothing but purple. Our Ahearn Fund was $3 to 4 million over last year. That's a great testament to how our people feel about our program.
SE: But as always, I'm sure that there are concerns.
Schulz: Sure, but they're good concerns. The question I hear now is, 'Can we retain our people?' Our people have to get used to the fact that our people love this University and this is no longer a stepping stone place. People say, 'John's doing a great job. Can we keep him?' Well, my view is that we're going to hire great people, compensate them well, and they're going to stay here like Coach (Bill) Snyder has done. He's an individual who clearly had opportunities to go elsewhere, but he stuck with K-State. When I hear, 'I hope people will stay,' I take that as a compliment in that we're hiring the right people.
SE: Football went 6-6 in 2009. Did that meet your expectations?
Schulz: A concern I hear is that we maybe overachieved in football. Well, I would have definitely taken six wins at the beginning of last season. Now we have the anticipation of improvement, and I think we will. I'm just amazed at the positive nature of direction of K-State Athletics.
(Soft chuckle) I'm telling people we'll win the national championship this year. (Turning more serious) What I tell people is that we're going to hire good coaches and then give them time to develop their program. It might take Coach Snyder a couple years to get back to that 2003 championship level, but I also truly believe that this year's team will be improved.
SE: The Big 12 Conference. Kirk, how many sleepless nights did you have this summer concerning the future of the league ... and of K-State?
Schulz: Several. We used every bullet that we had this summer in presenting the value that K-State brought to our league. John had three cell phones going trying to keep up with what was going on within the league. At the same time, we were at the 'Y' in the road planning our future depending on what Texas did.
SE: What were some of the options?
Schulz: First, we clearly wanted to stay in the Big 12. After that, we clearly wanted to stay in a BCS Conference and be in the central time zone so our fans could drive to games. If we couldn't find a good fit, then we wanted to work with our former Big 12 partners and put together some type of league.
What I was disappointed in during all the talks was the aspect of how much school our student-athletes were going to miss because of all the time zones we were potentially going to go through with some of the ideas being thrown out there.
SE: Kirk, had the Big 12 Conference not stayed together, did you get a sense of the mood of the non-athletic K-State family?
Schulz: I misjudged the passion that our people have toward the success of our athletic program. Had we not been able to stay in the Big 12, I do think it would have shaken the psyche of our people. All of a sudden, our school would not have been in a major conference. Wichita State University is a fine institution, but we're perceived at a different level because we're in a BCS league and they're in the (Missouri) Valley, and that's nothing against the Missouri Valley.
I just think we would have been shaken a little bit, and I think the Kansas City business people would have been shaken because some of the major events they've become accustomed to wouldn't have been taking place.
Thursday: President Schulz discusses football and basketball scheduling and how he wants to use athletics as a model for academics.
We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact either Mark Janssen at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Kansas State Director of Athletic Communications/SID Kenny Lannou at email@example.com.