A Letter from A.D. John Currie - June 9, 2016

Good Afternoon K-State Nation,

It’s been a busy few weeks since my latest update, and I am penning today’s letter from 35,000 feet having departed from MHK via our trusty American Airlines morning flight to DFW and now en route to Eugene, Oregon, where 16 of our track and field student-athletes are already competing at this week’s NCAA Outdoor Championships.  Last night Brett Neelly scored our first point of the meet with an eighth-place finish in the shot put.  We wish our all our student-athletes the best of luck as we look to bring home more Championship Athletic Performances.  You can follow the action on Twitter (@kstatesports and @kstate_gameday) with full recaps and videos also available at k-statesports.com.  And, national live coverage continues tonight on ESPNU (6:30 p.m.) and ESPN (7 p.m.).

Another element of K-State's national image and Vision of a Model Intercollegiate Athletics Program was spotlighted this week when ESPN named “The Wabash Cannonball” the best pregame football tradition in the Big 12click here for that story.  It was July 2009 when we unveiled our five core goals, the fifth of which is The Best Fan Experience in the Big 12, and we salute the Pride of Wildcat Land Band, our incredible students and all of our fans who bring passion to Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Bramlage Coliseum and all of our venues every contest!

Without further ado let’s get right to the updates.

Big 12 Momentum Accelerating Following Meetings
Much media attention has been given to the most recent Big 12 meetings in Dallas as several hot topics were on the agenda, including the talk of a football championship game returning, student-athlete welfare, possible expansion, among others.  Our interim president, General Richard Myers, jumped right into his first conference meeting and quickly established credibility and insight which will be important for the entire league.

I couldn't have been more pleased with the robust and collaborative discussion amongst our presidents, chancellors, faculty athletics representatives, SWA's and AD's last week.  And, at the end of the week, following a unanimous vote, Commissioner Bowlsby and Chairman Boren announced that the Big 12 football championship game will return in 2017 as our 10-member institutions will be likely divided into two divisions (breakdown of division members will be decided and announced at a later time) while still playing a round-robin schedule.  This excellent response to a fan question from FOX's Stewart Mandel provides a thoughtful analysis.

During our meetings we had lengthy discussions regarding player safety, and although somewhat overshadowed in the press by the championship game announcement, we were thrilled to see reports (and then announce) that concussions in Big 12 football have fallen by 32% over the past three years! I am really proud of the medical and athletics training professionals in our conference who have been proactive in educating our players, staff and coaches, and it is good to see the steps we have taken, like our conference-wide contact practice limitations, having the desired effect.  Also unanimously approved, this fall the Big 12 will for the first time also have a third party medical observer in the replay booth who has the power to stop the game if necessary to allow for the removal of a possible injured or concussed player.

Finally, although expansion continues to be an option for study, the announcement that our league will distribute a record $30 million per school in television, bowl and NCAA basketball revenue is a true testament of the viability of our 10-school model, the power of our league and the passion of our Big 12 alumni nationally and sports fans in our region.  Competitive results, fan support and attendance, financial standing and academic reputation place the Big 12 Conference squarely in the upper echelon of the top leagues in the country, and we are proud to be #Big12Strong!  You can click here to watch Commissioner Bowlsby’s comments following our meetings.

New Kansas Hall of Fame Class Full of Purple
Congratulations to four current and former Wildcats on being named to this year’s Kansas Sports Hall of Fame Class as Steve Anson (baseball), Jaime Mendez (football), Austra Skujyte (women’s track and field) and new Wildcat family member Coach Jerry Kill have been selected as members of the 55th Anniversary Class of 2016.  The induction class of 2016 will be enshrined in ceremonies on October 2 at the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame in the Wichita Boathouse. Steve, Austra and Jaime were all recently inducted into our K-State Athletics Hall of Fame, while we are excited that Coach Kill is now a member of our athletics family as Associate AD for Administration following his hall of fame coaching career in the state and most recently at Minnesota.  Click here for our full release.

Phase 3B on Track/New NE Video Board in Place
Those attending the Wildcat Kickoff concert featuring Zac Brown Band and Train and of course our six home football games beginning September 17 will be welcomed by our new northeast corner video board which towers over the new showcase stage for the Pride of Wildcat Land Marching Band and 360-degree concourse.  Stay tuned later this week for new photos and next week for a video tour of the inside progress of Phase 3B.  We anticipate another season sellout for football, extending our home streak to 33 straight sellouts, and ticket sales have been great so far which includes a sellout of our ICAT student tickets.  Single game tickets and combo ticket packages will go on sale June 20 so stay tuned next week for details on availability for each game.

Not Too Early for Basketball Season Planning
It may seem like the distant future, but it is not too early to start thinking about planning and tickets for both men’s and women’s basketball season as prices and options for both teams are now available.  We are excited for both seasons as evidenced by the interest and enthusiasm shown so far on the Catbacker Tour and the announcement of being one of only 16 schools nationally and three from the Big 12 to have both its men’s and women’s basketball programs finish in the Top 35 nationally in attendance in 2015-16.  If you haven’t already, click here for a video feature on rising senior D.J. Johnson, and stay tuned for more really cool story-telling “hometown” features on our returning players.  And, of course, defending women’s national champion UCONN will be making a trip to Manhattan in December, and we are excited about the prospects for Coach Mittie’s third season led by All-America candidate Bre Lewis.  We hope you can be in Bramlage this season.

Busy Week on the Links for K-State Golf
It has been a busy time for K-State Golf as former Wildcat Robert Streb recorded a Top 20 finish at the Memorial Tournament last weekend on the PGA Tour, while recent graduate Kyle Weldon and incoming freshman Levi Valadez both advanced to next week’s sectional qualifying for the 116th U.S. Open Championship. Colbert Hills, the No. 1 public golf course in Kansas, will also play host to the Colbert Charity Classic Adams Tour Golf Tournament beginning June 20, so come on out and enjoy some professional golf in our own backyard!  Lastly, congratulations to women’s head coach Kristi Knight on her recent appointment as President of the Women’s Golf Coaches Association – you can click here to read our full release.

That’s it for today.  We appreciate the thousands of K-Staters who have attended various Catbacker events across the state so far this summer.  Attendance and excitement has been terrific, and next stops on the tour include Kansas City, Marysville and Junction City this week.  Click here for our full summer tour stop schedule.

Go Cats!

John