Now that we're well into November and it seems that there is a K-State athletic event almost every day, I am reminded each day how lucky I am to be your Athletics Director. Remember that this month is also critical for our student-athletes as they complete term assignments and get ready for December's final exams.
From the Mailbag...
This morning I want to share with you a few emails I received earlier this week. The first is going to make you proud.
I'll set the stage by telling you that because of the late game time this past Saturday night in Stillwater we elected to fly the team back to MHK, which although an additional expense, enabled our student-athletes to get home about 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning instead of around 4 a.m. if we had bused (we did bus down on Friday).
Here is a comment that veteran Sun Country Airlines flight attendant Greg Gosiak took upon himself to send us Sunday evening:
"I've worked charters for many professional teams, baseball, hockey, and basketball, many college football teams, as well as Vice President Biden during his campaign. It's evident that your school prides itself on professionalism. Taking home a team that battled hard, but was defeated, is not what any of us want; however the team was extremely polite, well-dressed and all took the time to thank us and the pilots. It would be my pleasure and privilege to work for K-State in the future."
It can be hard to quantify what our vision of being a "Model Intercollegiate Athletic Program" means but little moments like these, in this case thanks to Coach Snyder's leadership, do accumulate and form the national image of K-State that we all know is reflective of our heritage. I know K-Staters appreciate comments like this in the same manner we were proud of our football squad battling the number two-ranked team in the country to the final play in an epic contest or for that matter our volleyball team fighting back from a 2-0 deficit to win a five-game thriller over Texas A&M earlier the same day.
The Other Side of the Coin...
Goal number five of the "K-State Pledge" -- click here for a refresher course :) -- is "The Best Fan Experience in the Big 12." Since my arrival I've been so impressed with the positive passion of our fans and the way you've joined the staff in offering a warm "Welcome to K-State" to visiting fans.
After the OU game, for the first time since my arrival in the spring of 2009, I received a number of emails about negative experiences and impressions, PRIMARILY FROM K-STATE FANS. Now, to be clear, I believe our atmosphere and hospitality of our fans to be among the very best in the country. This is not intended to be a lecture. But here is an email I received Monday that I hope you'll take time to read.
"First of all I would like to say that I have been a K-State fan my whole life. I am 34 years old and watch K-State athletics events every time I can. My family attended K-State and all graduated with a degree from the greatest college in the nation. Because of my work and home schedule, I cannot attend football games like I would really like, but I watch the games on TV every Saturday. Two weekends ago I had the opportunity to attend the K-State vs. Oklahoma game and let me tell you, I was so excited I barely could sleep the night before. I went to the game with my father-in-law who is, unfortunately, an OU fan. He graduated from there and grew up in Norman. I don't fault him for this, especially since I love his daughter, but it does make for a fun experience when we watch these two schools do battle... I would like to change the mood now. Our experience at the game was horrible. My father-in-law wore an OU shirt and a K-State hat (his son, my brother-in-law, attends K-State now) and we sat in the section right next to the OU band. There were many K-State fans sitting around us and from the moment we sat in our seats, he was chastised for wearing Red. The abuse he and I received was to the point where we wanted to start fighting. Instead we left at halftime and did not get to see the rest of the game. He was cussed at, yelled at, and at one point, a young man threw his drink at him...In my opinion, these kinds of actions should never happen to anyone, home fans or away fans, at a game. I have always been proud to call myself a Wildcat, but if this is how the experience is going to be, than I don't know if I CAN be proud anymore.... I hope this letter reaches sympathetic ears and future games I attend will be better. Thank you for your time, and GO WILDCATS!!!!!!"
Again, I don't think that this is reflective of how the vast majority of K-Staters want to be represented. Certainly, we've probably all experienced occasional negative treatment at other schools (the low point for me being on a team bus while its windows were broken by fans at a certain school in my previous conference). But, on my morning jog around Stillwater Saturday I received treatment that I believe is more like the K-State I know and love- warm smiles and kind waves. In my opinion, K-State can and should continue to set the standard for sportsmanship. And you as fans can help us provide a great fan experience by contacting game day workers or utilizing our in-game text service (text "catfan" followed by your message and seat location to 57375) for assistance if you feel that there are unruly fans in your area of the stadium.
Obviously this weekend we have another tough Big 12 game...against a school that is making its final trip to MHK. I trust and expect that K-Staters will show their class and treat our visitors from College Station with respect. Although you'll notice from the number of vacant seats in the upper deck visitor sections that there aren't many Aggies traveling to MHK, remember that many of those who are will be parents and family of TAMU players- none of whom had anything to do with the politics of the decision. Let's let them leave the Big 12 having experienced a first class and respectful (and extremely loud) environment that they will always remember.
And as a reminder that isolated incidents don't define us, click here to read a great column from Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman regarding his experience in Manhattan for the K-State/OU football game. We all know that Manhattan is the epitome of a classic college town and are very proud of all the people and characteristics that make K-State and the Little Apple a special combination. Thanks for doing your part!
And Now Back to Your Regularly Scheduled Programming...
A Wild Wildcat Week!
After last night's women's basketball win over Washburn, it continues tonight with our 17-8 volleyball team hosting Oklahoma at 7 p.m. in Ahearn Field House before a live FSN television audience.
On Friday come check out the home equestrian show beginning at 10 a.m., featuring a rematch of last spring's national championship finals with the Aggies before our men's basketball team opens its regular season with a 7 p.m. matchup with Charleston Southern. Saturday will be full of events as our cross country teams participate in the NCAA Midwest Regionals in Illinois and the volleyball team travels to Texas for a 4 p.m. match.
On Saturday Coach Snyder and the 14th-ranked Wildcats host Texas A&M in an ABC-televised matchup at 2:30 p.m., while Coach Patterson and the women's basketball team hosts Dartmouth at 8 p.m. Tickets are available for as little as $20 for Friday night's men's hoops game, while $3 GA tickets are available for the women's basketball game with your Charleston Southern men's ticket or Texas A&M football ticket. Tickets are still available for the football game as well for $50 each.
Cats for Cans
Prior to Saturday's Texas A&M football game, our Student-Athlete Advisory Committee will hold its 16th-annual Cats for Cans food drive. Fans are encouraged to help our student-athletes fight hunger in the Manhattan area by bringing canned foods or cash donations to the game. Our student-athletes will begin collecting two hours prior to kick in the parking lot and at all entrances. All proceeds from the event will go to the Flint Hills Breadbasket in Manhattan.
Big 12 Update
As you are aware, the University of Missouri announced earlier this week its withdraw from the Big 12 Conference. We will miss our partner of 100+ years but at the same time are excited about the recent addition of West Virginia University to the Big 12 and the future of our league. Many details in regards to scheduling and other items still need to be finalized, but we have confidence in Interim Commissioner Chuck Neinas and our Board of Directors as we work through these issues. President Schulz is doing an unbelievable job in his leadership role as vice-chair of the Big 12 Board of Directors.
Check out the New AhearnFund.com
We recently launched a new and improved AhearnFund.com website in a continuing effort to provide the best fan experience in the Big 12 and offer all current and prospective Ahearn Fund members an improved web experience. Grass-roots support has helped propel K-State Athletics to outstanding successes over the past year and position the Wildcats for a strong future. I mentioned recently that we now have members at the $50 level or higher in all but two states - immediately we were joined by a Vermont K-Stater so now Maine is our final Ahearn frontier.
Bowl Game Planning
This weekend we welcome bowl representatives from the Sugar, Alamo and Holiday Bowls, and we've spent time on the phone over the past few weeks with all our bowl partners. They've been impressed to hear that we've been taking pre-orders for K-State's 2011 bowl game since October 15. Remember that although our priority deadline is November 30th, pre-orders NOW are hugely helpful for us in positioning K-State for the best possible post-season destination. Fans can also still donate to the Ahearn Fund through November 15 to improve their priority point standing for bowl game seating. Click here for more information and please forward this information to your K-State friends.
Whether at Ahearn Field House, Timbercreek Stables, Bramlage Coliseum or Bill Snyder Family Stadium I look forward to seeing you this week. Thanks for all your support and...