Good Afternoon K-State Nation!
Does it seem to you that June came and went in a blink of an eye? It sure does to me, and I realized over the weekend I haven't written to you since June 3. Since then our entire staff has been working at a tremendous pace as we brought fiscal year 2013 to a successful close yesterday.
June highlights included the finest baseball team in K-State history advancing to within two 9th-inning runs of our first-ever College World Series trip. Coach Brad Hill and his team have represented K-State so well and with Major League draft picks Ross Kivett and Shane Conlon announcing their intentions to return to K-State next year, along with many other strong leaders and our fine young pitching staff, we are very optimistic for another great year in 2014. It was extremely gratifying not just to see the Manhattan community pack Tointon Family Stadium for our three-win NCAA regional sweep, but also our fans realize and embrace how much fun NCAA baseball can be. When we eventually advance to the CWS I know K-Staters will turn Omaha Purple, just as fans who watched the title series between Mississippi State and UCLA saw the Bulldog faithful paint the ballpark maroon.
Coach Cliff Rovelto's track team also advanced to the NCAA Championships where several Cats scored points, including Erik Kynard, who concluded his spectacular K-State career with a second-place finish in the high jump to go along with his two previous NCAA titles. Erik plans to join many other world-class post-graduate track athletes training in MHK and has already claimed a USA Championship to advance to this summer's World Championships in Russia.
Speaking of Russia, K-State's volleyball team will embark July 4 on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Kazan to compete as Team USA in the World University Games. Coach Fritz and our student-athletes are so excited and grateful for this opportunity. Many fans may be surprised to learn that such trips are not necessarily funded by national organizations. In fact, much of the USA's amateur and international competition/representation could not happen without the support of intercollegiate athletics departments. For example, you may have seen my recent tweet about the USOC recognizing the support for the Olympic movement by institutions that had an active student-athlete medal last year in London.
In the case of K-State volleyball, we are funding the cost of the trip out of the athletics budget, accompanied by some uniform assistance from NIKE. It is an investment in our program that only happens because of the generosity and support of Ahearn Fund donors and ticket buyers!
On the subject of the Ahearn Fund, Chad Weiberg came into my office Friday afternoon with the incredible news that the FY13 annual fund has surpassed the $16 million mark! Coupled with capital (building), endowment and other gifts, athletic cash donations for the fiscal year now total $36.8 million, which means giving has nearly tripled compared to FY09! Individual outright gifts from 9,000-plus Ahearn members this year literally ranged from $50 (1,073 individual donors to be exact) to $5 million (one West Stadium Center gift). The $36.8 million total is a $10 million increase over FY12 - and - Ahearn Fund donors have now given more than $97 million in gifts since July 1, 2009!
It was on July 10, 2009, (click here to see that announcement) that we introduced the K-State Pledge and unveiled our Vision of a Model Intercollegiate Athletics Program and our five core goals of:
- A World-Class Student-Athlete Experience
- Value to Our University, Community and State
- Integrity and Transparency in Matters of Ethics, Finance and NCAA Compliance
- Championship Level Athletic Performances
- The Best Fan Experience in the Big 12
So, as we lead up to the fourth anniversary of the unveiling of our vision and goals, we start a series of letters with a review of the fifth goal, "The Best Fan Experience in the Big 12." Here are a few highlights:
- Comprehensive facility improvements that have benefited our fans include the new east-side upper deck restrooms at Bill Snyder Family Stadium (2011), seating and safety enhancements at Ahearn Field House (2010, 2012) and outdoor track (2012).
- In August 2011 we made a significant investment to launch K-StateHD.TV, our high definition, world-wide network, and two years later I couldn't be more pleased with how it has evolved and put us in a leadership position to leverage exposure for our programs. K-StateHD.TV provides Wildcat fans, parents and recruits across the globe access to K-State events and coverage, and it quickly became the No. 1 internet-based network among all CBS college sports properties and remains No. 1 two years later. Not many schools in the country match the professionalism and expertise of our staff which produce more than 200 live games and special events annually 100 percent in-house, many of which, especially volleyball, baseball and women's basketball games, were then aired live nationally across FOX platforms. And we still have room to grow! Click here for information on K-StateHD.TV, which will also broadcast exclusively our September 14 home football game against UMass.
- In just 60 days, Phase II of the Bill Snyder Family Stadium Master Plan will provide the brand new West Stadium Center, a quantum leap forward for the experience of all our fans! ADA seating has been enhanced and for the first time on the west side our handicapped fans will be under shelter. Our restroom fixture count has more than doubled, and we'll have 133 ticket scanners at west side entry points versus 94 previously. Additionally with the record Ahearn giving and increased conference revenue, we've been able to expand the scope of Phase II and are excited to announce the addition of a new landscaped area in the southeast corner of the stadium that will feature a wider concourse, picnic tables and even a few shade trees for fans and families to relax and spread out a little before or during the game. The north concourse of Bramlage Coliseum will now be open five hours before all football games to provide additional restrooms, pregame concessions, as well as an air conditioned pedestrian corridor between the east and west parking lots. Also underway are a much-needed resurfacing of the East parking lot and the addition of new parking lot lighting on both sides for increased safety and security of our fans. Finally - have you seen these pictures of the old-style East stadium pole lights being replaced with new, more efficient (and definitely more attractive) lighting banks?
- Speaking of football, for the first time ever available season tickets are sold out! Nothing makes a great experience better than a packed house and K-State fans have truly taken it upon themselves to make it happen! We now have season ticket holders from 46 states! Thank you K-State fans!!!
- Many fans have commented on the improvement in our signage and way-finding graphics, which has been a result of a department-wide branding initiative. Our staff has done a good job of developing standards and consistent use of our athletic marks and logos and we will continue to make improvements in this area.
- Perhaps the one area I am most proud is how Wildcat Nation has responded to the "Welcome to K-State" greeting our staff launched in 2009. Hats off to our operations and event management staff, ticket takers, ushers and parking lot attendants stepping up with a hearty "Welcome to K-State" greeting that is intended to let both our fans and visitors know we are excited to have them in Manhattan, on the K-State campus and at each of our venues! "Welcome to K-State" has become a staple amongst our fans and has spread to many other events and occasions around campus.
We attempt to capture feedback from our fans during and after every event. Thousands have filled out our electronic surveys and sent suggestions and constructive criticism that help us get better! Please continue to share your thoughts and opinions and let me know what you would like to see next as we continue to strive toward our Best Fan Experience in the Big 12 goal!
In my next letter I will tackle a progress report on our goal of providing "Value to the University, Community and State."
Thanks for all that you do in support of our student-athletes, and......