NCAA Leader Comes Home

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in the Kansas State Official Sports Report. To register for your free subscription to the Kansas State Official Sports Report, visit

by Mark Janssen, Senior Writer, Kansas State Official Sports Report

Jim Isch was caught in a dilemma Saturday.

The Interim President of the NCAA is normally neutral to each member institution.

That's normally.

Saturday, however, Isch was in Bramlage Coliseum and on the campus of his alma mater with a bit of an "Every Man a Wildcat" strut to his step that he hopes the folks of Kansas "Rock Chalk" University understood.

"This is a thrill to me," said Isch on the opportunity to view his first Wildcat-Jayhawk clash in over 20 years. "When I was announced as Interim President last fall, Dr. (Kirk) Schulz and John (Currie) reached out to me and extended an invitation to come back and attend a game. (Chuckling) The fact that I chose Kansas State - Kansas was not by accident."

A 1972 graduate of Kansas State, Isch is a native of Morrill, located just northwest of Hiawatha in northeast Kansas.

"I tell people I was smart enough to be in the top 15 out of a class of 13," laughed Isch in reference to the size of his home town. "It's a good thing there weren't 16 in the class, or I wouldn't have been in the top 15."

Isch wasn't a student-athlete for the Wildcats, but without question, he was a student-fan.

"Oh, those were some fun years. I mean, Ahearn (Field House) was a place that used to rock," he reflected. "We had such great basketball in those days. Those are some fond memories."

And yes, Isch was one of those standing in line prior to every home game waiting for the doors to open so he could race to a prime mid-court seat.

"People were so enthusiastic and happy ... it was something you just enjoyed doing," Isch said. "The fans interacting with one another were part of the fun and tradition for the students. In a way, it was just as entertaining as some of the games were."

In the fall, few cheered with more gusto than Isch did for football coach Vince Gibson.

"Purple Pride," Isch said with a drawl of one of Gibson's favorite slogans. "The Lynn Dickey years," he added of the great Wildcat quarterback.

"Vince created such an excitement for a school that had struggled so much," Isch said. "He transformed the program starting with KSU Stadium, but also in just everything that he did."

A member of the Sigma Nu Fraternity, Isch recalled, "He would personally come by the house to promote ticket sale, or he would have players come by. It was really a fun time."

Isch went into the military following his graduation, but returned to K-State in 1977. During the next nine years, he obtained a doctorate in philosophy, and then became assistant vice president for facilities planning and budget (1985-86), budget director (1982-85) and assistant budget officer/accounting instructor (1977-82) during the Duane Acker era.

Chuckling at the memory, Isch said, "Dr. Acker was one of my mentors and someone I turned to for advice. I remember him telling me if I wanted to be in higher education in central administration, 10 years is all you probably needed to spend in one place. At 10 or 11 years, you get to the point that you have done all you can do.

"If you've made progress and change, you've also upset enough people that it gets much more difficult to get anything done after that amount of time," Isch said. Laughing, he continued, "As the old adage goes, friends come and go, but enemies accumulate."

Isch left K-State in 1986 for Montana State, so he missed the arrival of coach Bill Snyder and the "They Said It Couldn't Be Done" era.

"I was one of those fans (in the 1980s) who wouldn't leave until the last second of the game ticked off the clock," said Isch. Laughing, he added, "I was pretty lonely at times."

And his answer is, "No," when asked if he truly believed that any coach could pull off "The Miracle in Manhattan" that Snyder accomplished in his first 17-year stay.

Isch joined the NCAA family in 1998 as senior vice president for administration and chief financial officer, with his responsibilities including budgetary matters, benefits, human resources, payroll, information technology, risk management, facilities and operations.

In viewing his alma mater from the outside over the last decade with the NCAA, Isch said, "Kansas State has so much to be proud of both athletically and academically. Anyone who graduates from Kansas State has to feel good with what has occurred on that campus in terms of academics and research."