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Letter from A.D. John Currie - July 25

Good Afternoon K-State Nation!

It's time for the final installment in our five-part series reviewing progress towards our Vision of a Model Intercollegiate Athletics Program which we introduced July 10, 2009, (click here to see that announcement) along with 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

Last Friday we covered Goal No. 4 - Championship Level Athletic Performances. Today we focus on our first, and perhaps most important, goal: A World-Class Student-Athlete Experience.

With all the headlines about the "business" of sports, conference realignment, etc., it is easy for some to forget that at the core of our enterprise is the student-athlete experience. This past year K-State was represented by 458 young people in 16 different sports who hailed from 14 countries, 35 states and were pursuing degrees in seven colleges plus the Graduate School.

When we make decisions or prioritize resource allocation we must always have goal No. 1 in mind and ask ourselves, "What is in the best interest of our student-athletes?"
We have mentioned the academic and athletic successes of our student-athletes in previous letters, as well as the $125 million of comprehensive facility improvements that are currently underway - all of which directly benefit each of our student-athletes.

Reaching the World-Class Student-Athlete Experience goal requires resources and dramatic growth in private giving through the Ahearn Fund, which over the last four years has enabled us to make significant strides towards this goal.

For example, while the hard work and efficiency of our staff has enabled us to keep our head count among the lowest in the big five conferences, we have been able to add a number of specialists and new positions that work directly with our student-athletes on a day-to-day basis in academic services, strength and conditioning, sports medicine and life skills, as well as a full-time sports psychologist.

We have also increased compensation for our department's graduate assistants, who provide critical front-line support for student-athletes and athletics day-to-day operations.

Our new Student-Athlete Performance Table in the new West Stadium Center will give us the ability to better meet the personalized nutritional needs of each student-athlete. Our new full-time nutritionist/dietitian will work directly with our student-athletes teaching healthy eating choices, cooking skills, etc., that will benefit not only their performance ability but help set the stage for a healthy post-competition transition.

We want Wildcat student-athletes to have a lifelong relationship with K-State and their teammates and to that end over a five-year period we sponsor a major department-produced reunion for all athletic teams. With the support of the Big 12-leading K-State national Alumni Association and the Ahearn Fund we've strengthened our database of former student-athletes and have welcomed back to Manhattan some who had not returned since graduating 20, 30 or even 40 years ago!

Our communications and fan experience offices work to maximize national recognition for K-Staters and last year it was special to honor former football player Mark Simoneau on campus for his induction into the National Football Foundation's College Football Hall of Fame. Mark joined Gary Spani as the second K-State player to be inducted into the hall of fame and became the first Bill Snyder-coached player to receive this highest of honors.

Our staffs work constantly on building relationships with our local, regional and national media and generating coverage for all of our student-athletes. The 2012-13 season afforded us a tremendous opportunity to spread the K-State brand across the nation - from Collin Klein's national award tour through Florida, Maryland and New York to Arthur Brown's stop in California for the Lott IMAPCT Trophy and our baseball team's Super Regional appearance in Oregon, the K-State brand is visible coast to coast! Congrats also to Collin for being named the 2012-13 Big 12 Athlete of the Year earlier today! While we work daily in assisting the media to help tell our story, our own resources through K-StateHD.TV and our daily K-State Sports Extra email allow us to spotlight interest in Wildcat teams and student-athletes. Thanks to the 3,000-plus K-StateHD.TV subscribers and the 40,000-plus K-State Sports Extra daily readers, we are also able to take the K-State story to our fans.

To expand our recruiting reach and exposure we attempt to compete in different parts of the country and in or near the hometowns of some of our out-of-state student-athletes. For instance, the men's basketball team has played road games in hometowns of student-athletes, including Washington D.C. (Rodney McGruder) and New York City (Shane Southwell, Omari Lawrence and Jordan Henriquez).

We have enhanced our annual survey for our student-athletes and conduct in-person exit interviews with nearly all student-athletes as they finish their eligibility. I personally conduct many of these exit interviews, across all sports. The feedback from both the survey and in-person interviews is invaluable!

Our student-athletes began hosting the Powercat Choice Awards banquet annually in 2009-10. Similar to the ESPY Awards, the Powercat Choice Awards is a great night put on by our SAAC representatives -- our student-athletes dress up, walk the "purple carpet" and participate in a first-class celebration of their academic and athletic accomplishments. We appreciate Mark Chapman's support which underwrites this event.

As a component of the Powercat Choice Awards, our SAAC committee has implemented the Wildcat Cup competition, tracking personal, academic, athletic, career and service achievement of all student-athletes and rewarding an overall team champion annually in those areas. Congratulations to this past year's winner, our equestrian team.

A student-athlete graduation reception and senior ring ceremony in conjunction with the fall and spring K-State commencement is a special time to recognize graduating student-athletes and their families who have supported them along the way!

We have increased membership in the Career Athletes program to more than 350 professional business leaders who provide networking and mentorship for student-athletes, including mock-interview opportunities at the annual Career Cat luncheon.

Regularly, we offer organized media training seminars for student-athletes and coaches.

Safety and accountability are paramount and our reporting lines for trainers, doctors, strength and conditioning staff, compliance and academic support staff are clearly and intentionally defined.

Student-athletes participate annually in training and required personal development seminars on topics such as sexual harassment and diversity.

All 150-plus department staff are required to be certified in CPR.

As the K-State 2025 quest to become a top 50 public research University continues, a key component is international awareness and experience. K-State Athletics is a leader in this area with 23 current Wildcat student-athletes hailing from 14 different foreign countries, while many of our teams have also had the opportunity to travel internationally for once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to not only improve as athletes but also broaden their educational and cultural experiences. Last year our men's basketball team took a summer trip to Brazil, our volleyball team just returned from Russia, where it represented Team USA in the World University Games, and our women's basketball team will head to Italy later this summer. We work regularly with Dr. Marcelo Sabates, who is providing terrific leadership as associate provost for international programs at K-State.

I appreciate the many comments I have received during this five letter series -- I am so proud of our dedicated fans, hard-working staff, the best group of head coaches in the country and, most importantly, our student-athletes who have poured their time and energy into helping achieve the progress of the last four years.

But, while we are making great strides toward of our vision of being a model intercollegiate athletics program, we are certainly not done and definitely not resting on our laurels!

Next up will be an outline of some of our goals and initiatives for this upcoming year and beyond, as well the unveiling of our 2013-2014 fiscal year budget.

Thanks as always for your support, have a great weekend and...............

Go Cats!

John