SE: Holzman Carries K-State Lessons Through Successful Career
As the commissioner of the West Coast Conference, Lynn Holzman reflects on her time as a student-athlete often.
Holzman played women’s basketball at K-State from 1990-94. She captained the team her senior season and learned a lot about college athletics during her time as a Wildcat.
“My student-athlete experience, without question, prepared me for what I’m doing now professionally,” explained Holzman, who took over as the West Coast Conference Commissioner in June 2014. “I went through coaching changes as a student-athlete. I had teammates who stayed in the program and teammates who left the program. The success of the football program in the early 90’s, the energy that it brought, frankly, was one of the reasons why I wanted to build a career in college sports.”
During Holzman’s years at K-State, the football program, under the helm of Bill Snyder, registered its first winning season in nearly a decade and won its first bowl game – the 1993 Copper Bowl – in school history. The women’s basketball team was also in the midst of a program turnaround as it endured a coaching change from Susan Yow (1990-93) to Brain Agler (1993-96).
Holzman watched and learned as the athletics department she was part of as a student-athlete began undergoing change.
Graduating from K-State with a degree in exercise science and gerontology, Holzman found she enjoyed the world of collegiate athletics and decided to change her path to begin a journey into collegiate administration.
“When I finished playing basketball and was finishing my degree, I worked with the K-State athletics department at Bramlage in the ticketing office,” explained Holzman. “It was a great experience, and the former K-State Athletics Director, Max Urick, encouraged me to take on sport administration as a career.
“From there, I went to the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill for my sport admin program,” she continued. “I worked at the NCAA office as an intern and was there for a long time. Then I went to the West Coast Conference. So, my student-athlete experience was challenging at times – I wasn’t a great college student-athlete – but it absolutely prepared me for the rest of my life and where I’m at today.”
Following her time at North Carolina, Holzman worked with the NCAA for 16 years where she climbed as high as Director of Academic and Membership Affairs before heading to the West Coast Conference in 2012. Prior to being named commissioner, she served as the West Coast Conference’s Executive Senior Associate Commissioner/Chief Operating Officer.
Now, as the third full-time commissioner in the history of the West Coast Conference, Holzman is responsible for strategically building on the historical success of the conference within the values and philosophy of the conference membership. She is the primary spokesperson for the West Coast Conference and also actively serves on NCAA professional organization boards.
“It’s been a really exciting year. June was my one-year anniversary as commissioner, and it’s been a great ride,” said Holzman. “It’s challenging in a lot of ways; there are a lot of things that we read about in the papers, and it’s one of my big roles as a commissioner to represent our 10 schools and speak on their behalf in all those conversations.”
Though she hadn’t been back to Manhattan in nearly five years, Holzman came for a quick visit last Friday. She met with K-State Director of Athletics John Currie and President Kirk Schulz – both of whom she knows from the NCAA board – and took tours of all K-State’s new facilities.
“It’s so impressive,” she said after taking a tour of the Ice Family Basketball Center. “It really is. In my career playing at Kansas State, obviously our games were in Bramlage, but we were practicing in Ahearn a lot. There was a lot of shuffling that went along with that, so now seeing the opportunities that the student-athletes in both men’s and women’s basketball and many of the other sports have, to see what’s happened with the facilities here, it’s phenomenal.”
As a conference commissioner, Holzman has seen her share of athletics facilities around the nation, and said she is proud her alma mater now stacks up with the best.
Whether it’s through her work with the NCAA, the numerous boards she still serves or with the West Coast Conference, Holzman has certainly made a difference in the world of collegiate athletics since her time at K-State.
“What I really remember about being a women’s basketball student-athlete here at K-State was the support we had from the fans, the students and the community,” Holzman closed with a smile. “Knowing that you had those groups that had your back even when our program struggled at times, that really meant a lot as a student-athlete and contributed to my overall experience. Without question, there is something special about the people here, and whether it’s the support that women’s basketball got or any of the other athletics teams got, what that contributes to the overall student-athlete experience is huge. It sticks with you.”