John Currie explains why K-State benefits from occasional Thursday football games

The wait is over. This afternoon, Kansas State announced that it will play Auburn on Sept. 18, a Thursday, next season. With that, the Wildcats’ 2014 football schedule is finally set.

K-State had been waiting on ESPN, which will televise the Auburn game nationally, for a decision on the date of the game.

When asked in December about the possibility of moving the Auburn game to a Thursday, Wildcats football coach Bill Snyder had this to say: “It’s the last thing in the world I want to do.”

Weekday games are always met with mixed reactions in Manhattan. While some are excited about playing in front of a large audience, others complain of inconveniences such as rushing to the game after work.

On Monday, K-State athletic director John Currie explained why he supports (occasionally) playing football games on Thursday in a letter to fans.

From the letter:
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Cotton Bowl Countdown: A quick look at ‘The greatest stadium in the world’

It didn’t take long for Cotton Bowl chairman Tommy Bain to brag about the place the Cotton Bowl calls home. During a teleconference with media earlier this week, he proclaimed new Cowboys Stadium to be, “The greatest stadium in the world.”

In most cases, one would pass off such a statement as obvious hyperbole. I mean, look at the guy who is saying it. It is Bain’s job to make the Cotton Bowl’s venue seem as attractive and appealing as possible.

But he just might be telling the truth here. The $1.12 billion dollar, state-of-the-art stadium Jerry Jones built in 2009 is arguably the best there is. It is 3 million square feet, features a massive video board that stretches from 20-yard line to 20-yard line and is so big that from a distance it looks like the top half of the Death Star.

(Quick aside: A friend of mine who lived in Dallas for several years tells me the Death Star is an acceptable nickname for Cowboys Stadium with the locals, but Jerry World and the house that Jerry built are not)

When asked how this venue compares to the actual Cotton Bowl stadium, which is where K-State played in its last two Cotton Bowls, Bain replied: “It’s upgraded in every way you can imagine.”
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Kansas State football prepared for 3 or 4 nonconference games in 2012

The Kansas State football team is tentatively set to play North Texas, Missouri State and Miami at Snyder Family Stadium during nonconference play next season.

But, depending on when West Virginia joins the Big 12 and if Missouri finalizes its expected move to the SEC in time to join that conference next season, the Wildcats may also play a road game against Central Florida.

K-State athletic director John Currie said he was unsure which scenario will play out. But he is happy with the Wildcats’ upcoming schedule either way.

“We have four nonconference games under contract, because we still have Central Florida under contract,” Currie said. “If we have a 10-team league with nine conference games, then we’ll be playing the three home games we have under contract. If we lose somebody, then we have Central Florida under contract and we’ll go on the road and play them.

“So I’m not really doing anything on scheduling for next year right now.”
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Kirk Schulz excited about West Virginia

For the second time in a few weeks, Kansas State president Kirk Schulz proudly welcomed a new member to the Big 12 today.

This time, he welcomes West Virginia, a university out of the Big East that has won two BCS bowl games and recently went to the Final Four.

“They immediately bring very competitive athletic programs to the conference,” said Schulz, who serves as the chair of the Big 12′s expansion committee. “They are consistently the top football program in the Big East. Under coach Bob Huggins they have been outstanding in men’s basketball, as well. They have been successful in other sports. They bring a lot to the table, immediately.”

Schulz also said West Virginia will be a nice academic fit with the Big 12.

The Mountaineers won’t, however, be an easy geographical fit for the Big 12. When the conference added TCU, it added a school from within its footprint. No matter where you are, it’s easy to get to Fort Worth for a game. But Morgantown, W. Va.? That’s a different story.

“It clearly is a concern,” Schulz said. “Part of the conversation we had was really focused around the additional travel time we would face with them in the conference, but at the same time we felt that the other positive attributes about West Virginia were more important than the travel considerations.

“… As a conference, we’re competing against the Pac-12 and the SEC. The only way to do that is to bring in the strongest programs that we can. That’s what we’ve done.”
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Where K-State stands with realignment

While Kansas State athletic officials remain committed in their efforts to save the Big 12, at least one possible contingency plan seems to be developing should the Wildcats’ current conference crumble: The Big East.

A source told me today that the Wildcats currently view a move to that conference, especially if rival Kansas is involved, as an acceptable backup option should its current league crumble.

The source stressed the meaning of the word “backup,” though. A move to the Big East would put considerable travel demands on K-State’s athletic teams, and mean less television money than they are set to receive in the Big 12.

While making multiple trips to the East coast would be doable two or three times a year for football, it would be a headache for every other sport. Having in-state rival Kansas to play, and possibly Missouri would help ease those travel concerns.

But all sorts of different scenarios could play out in this current round of conference realignment (everything from Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to the Pac-12 and Texas to the ACC has been reported) and they would need to play out in a very specific way for K-State to seriously ponder membership in a new conference.

The top priority remains helping the Big 12 expand after the expected loss of Texas A&M. Should any combination of the Oklahoma schools, Texas or Texas Tech jump to the Pac-12 shortly after, there are differing opinions on whether the Big 12 could be rebuilt. But I’m told K-State also considers that a possible backup option.

The main thing K-State administrators seem to be in agreement on is that no matter what conferences look like when the smoke clears, the Wildcats will be a member of a BCS conference. Everyone I’ve talked to insists that.
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K-State issues statement on Big 12

Kansas State officials said they were committed to the Big 12 when Texas A&M was considering a move to the SEC, and their stance hasn’t changed now that the Aggies are officially on their way out of the Big 12.

“K-State remains fully committed to the Big 12 Conference and continues to be excited about its future,” said K-State president Kirk Schulz and athletic director John Currie in a joint statement.

“There is great solidarity among the nine league institutions and an eagerness to achieve the stability our students, fans and alumni deserve. We remain actively engaged with our conference administration and fellow presidents and athletic directors in proactively determining our next steps.”

Big 12 Board of Directors Chairman and University of Missouri Chancellor Brady Deaton released a similar statement this afternoon.

“The chancellors and presidents of the Big 12 are committed to keeping our conference competitively and academically strong,” Deaton said. “We have a process in place that enables us to move aggressively regarding the possible expansion of the conference and to assure our members and student-athletes that we will take advantage of the most productive opportunities in the best interests of all.”

And here’s one more statement from Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe:

“The presidents and chancellors of the nine remaining member institutions are steadfast in their commitment to the Big 12. As previously stated, the Conference will move forward aggressively exploring its membership options.”

What John Currie learned from the first conference realignment scare

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to talk with Kansas State athletic director John Currie about what it was like for him dealing with the conference realignment scare of 2010.

How did he handle it? How stressful was that time? What did he learn? Those type of questions.

The conversation came near the end of June, when he was so confident about the makeup of a 10-team Big 12 that he said, “We emerged stronger than ever as a league and we have a great, great future.”

Today, I’m guessing he would say something a little different. Now that the rumblings of Texas A&M plotting a move to the SEC have gone national, there is concern across the Big 12.

A lot of dominoes need to fall in just the right way before panic sets in as it did last summer, when it briefly looked like teams such as Kansas, Missouri, K-State, Baylor and Iowa State would be left without a conference to call home.

This whole act could be nothing more than a bluff from the Aggies, the SEC expanding to 13 doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and there’s a decent chance the Big 12 could survive the loss of A&M and continue as a nine-team league.

Still conference realignment is once again a topic of conversation.

One thing that should help everyone involved this time around, should serious negotiations need to be made, is that they’ve been through this dance before. Here is how Currie remembers it:
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A few more thoughts from John Currie

It’s hard to believe, I know, but I have a few interesting tidbits about John Currie and his plans for Kansas State athletics that didn’t make it into my profile of him over the weekend.

Don’t know that this blog needs any further buildup than that, so here they are:

Football Scheduling
One of the most challenging tasks for K-State’s athletic director has been working with coach Bill Snyder to schedule nonconference football games. In little more than two years on the job, Currie has called off scheduled games with Oregon and Virginia Tech and added a series against Texas-San Antonio.

Those moves coincide with Snyder’s long-held preference of playing beatable opponents at home early in the season. Currie told me he likes that approach, but every now and then a big-name team will show up on K-State’s schedule. After much debate, he decided to go ahead with a series against Miami. And there has been talk of setting up a series with Wisconsin.

Now, don’t expect that caliber of opponent to show up on the Wildcats’ nonconference schedule every year, but they will be there every two or three years. Currie said he has received lots of positive feedback from K-State fans who made the trip to Auburn for a road game in 2007. They enjoyed the experience, so Currie will try to keep those games on the schedule in a limited capacity. And while we’re on the subject of Auburn, the defending national champs owe K-State a return game in 2014. Unless an “extraordinary opportunity” presents itself, Currie told me he expects that game to be played as scheduled.
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K-State breaks even on Pinstripe Bowl

Kansas State’s trip to the inaugural Pinstripe Bowl didn’t turn out to be a big money-maker, but the Wildcats didn’t lose millions on the game either.

“We roughly broke even,” said K-State senior associate athletic director Reid Sigmon.

According to an expense report filed with the NCAA, obtained through an Open Records request made by the Eagle in January, K-State spent $1,348,511 on the trip. That number came in under the expense allowance of $1,473,600 handed out by the Big 12 Conference, meaning the school profited $125,089 on the game.

Those numbers don’t factor in coaching bonuses that come with qualifying for a bowl game, though. Nor do they account for national exposure gained by the team. Figure all those in, and the bowl becomes essentially a wash.

“The Pinstripe Bowl was a tremendous opportunity for our student athletes and fans,” Sigmon said. “It gave us great exposure and was a great experience. Our goal going into it was to break even, and that’s what we did.”
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Notes from the Madness

After a year off, Madness in Manhattan was better than ever. Close to 7,000 fans crammed into Bramlage Coliseum on Friday and loudly celebrated the start of college basketball.

They were treated to speeches from players on both the men’s and women’s basketball teams, an extremely funny video featuring Kansas State grad Eric Stonestreet and the cast of Modern Family, dances and all sorts of high-flying plays.

K-State coach Frank Martin loved every moment of it. He says the event is here to stay.

“Let’s have a party now, kickoff the season and then let’s all go work,” Martin said. “It went really well tonight, and our fans and players both deserve it.”
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