By Mark Janssen
Laird Veatch has traveled throughout the Big 12 Conference with administrative stops at Texas, Iowa State and Missouri.
But to the former K-State All-Big 8 Wildcat - on the field and in the classroom - there's no place like home.
Veatch, a former K-State linebacker from 1991-1994, is in his second year as associate athletics director for capital support.
Of fundraising for facilities, such as the proposed $20 million Basketball Training Facility, Veatch said, "As a player in the early-1990s, I had no idea what went into our new facilities, so it's motivating now in my role because I do know how appreciative student-athletes are to have excellent facilities."
K-STATER FOREVER: Growing up in Manhattan in the 1980s, Veatch says, "I was one of the kids running around in the south end zone where nobody was sitting. Our thing was seeing who could catch the most extra points and field goals in the stands. In the second half we'd take our game outside of the stadium because it wasn't much of a contest inside the gate."
By the time Veatch completed his all-state career at Manhattan High School, Bill Snyder was in the process of selecting his second recruiting class with Veatch being one of the targets.
"I was considering Missouri. Like a lot of other young kids, part of me wanted to go off and do my own thing," said Veatch, who had an older brother (Matt) who took his quarterbacking skills to San Jose State. "But when I heard coach Snyder talk, I just believed in him and thought it would be a great experience."
"His message was based on delivering. He had just gone 1-10 in his first year, so he wasn't selling winning, but his message was one of trusting and consistency. I just knew this was a man who wasn't going to sleep until he got the job done."
Veatch was part of what Snyder calls the "foundation" years with K-State winning 7, 5, 9 and 9 games, which included trips to the Copper Bowl and Aloha Bowl following 9-victory seasons in 1993 and 1994.
"If there's a game that stands out in my career it's the Copper Bowl," said Veatch, who led the 'Cats in tackles in the 52-17 victory over Wyoming. "My first memory was all the people in purple. I think it was Max Urick (KSU AD) who said, 'The horizon will turn purple.' That first sent the message of the great K-State fan support."
"Looking up in the stands that night, it was like it was a home game, and then when you start winning and it's in hand like it was, you have a feeling you can do no wrong. We had a chance to stop and smell the roses during the game," said Veatch.
In looking back on his playing years, Veatch said Snyder's "Keys to Success" were not viewed as fun or exciting things, "... but it was that amazing consistency and hard work that allowed us to get better every day. I'm constantly asked how coach did it. Well, there's no magic formula, but only the discipline of getting better every day. Coach had the consistency at a higher level than anyone I know. He doesn't accept anything else. He wouldn't let you fail if you were part of his system."
POST K-STATE: At every step of his career, former K-Staters touched the life of Veatch.
He first attended graduate school at the University of Texas and worked in the athletic department headed by former K-State AD and track coach DeLoss Dodds.
"DeLoss is a great manager. He hires great people and lets them do their thing," said Veatch. "There's still a financial challenge there because you have to keep feeding the monster. Their budget is twice as most schools, but so are their expenses."
Veatch then went to Missouri in a fundraising capacity where former KSU administrator John Kadlec took him under his wing.
"What a people person," Veatch said of Kadlec. "Nobody defines people person better than John Kadlec. You can't help but like the guy."
A stop at Iowa State followed where he was Senior Associate AD under ex-Wildcat Bruce Van De Velde, then it was back to MU where he was general manager for Learfield Communication, and eventually to Kansas City where he headed eight Midwestern schools for Learfield.
And now, he's back at K-Sate serving as Associate AD, focusing on major gifts.
"A lot of schools say that their people are their biggest asset, but at K-State that's really true," said Veatch, who added that returning to K-State was always an ultimate goal. "They are very sincere. They want to get to know you. Whether they give you a lot of money, or just a little, K-State people are very consistent, high-character people."
Veatch says that some schools want to "get-back" when they give donations, but at K-State he says, "You don't have the egos involved who want a return on what they are giving. They give because they want to be a part of it. They are high-character people."
That lesson was first taught by another former Wildcat who has been one of Veatch's biggest fans. That's "Mr. K-State" himself, Ernie Barrett.
"Absolutely fantastic," Veatch said of Barrett, a K-State Hall of Famer. "Ernie has always been willing to do whatever needs to be done to make K-State better. He always stressed that the most important thing was to get out and meet the people. He stressed the importance to go wherever it took to be on their turf. It's how relationships are built ... one-on-one, face-to-face. That will never change."
A $1 MILLION, PLEASE: When one is in his early-30s, Veatch admitted to taking "a gulp," prior to the first time he asked for a $1 million gift.
"It's definitely something you have to get used to," laughed Veatch. "It's a number I cannot relate to, but we're talking with folks who enjoy being in the position to do something like that to help their school. It's rewarding to them to be invested into their school. It makes every game mean more, and every time they see a picture of a facility, it further solidifies the relationship they have with their alma mater."
Veatch also has a full understanding that K-Staters are not giving to "Laird Veatch," but giving to "K-State."
"With individuals, it's only about trust that their money will be put to use in the right way," said Veatch, who played a significant role in the recently announced $20 million Basketball Training Facility. "Right now, we have great leadership in President (Kirk) Schulz, and John (Currie, AD), plus we have great people in place that are true K-Staters."
"I only look at myself as a facilitator to try to make the connection between coaches and our leadership team, with the donor that has the ability to help us do some positive things," said Veatch. "I'm a conduit between those two areas."
While it's been said that Kansas State will always have limitations, Veatch ignores such a suggestion.
"Coach Snyder was not in to self-limitations," said Veatch. "We don't have limitations, but we do have to make responsible decisions on what we do, and how we do it. We don't have the capacity that some places have, but we do have a capacity."
"We don't have the number of doctors and lawyers that some schools have, but we have some very successful K-Staters out there doing some amazing things," said Veatch. "They may not wear a tie to work every day, but they are bright, successful business people who want to hear your plan and want to be a part of that plan."