Curtis Kitchen Was Right: It's High Time K-State Starts Acting Like a Winner

Thanks first must go to Catfan33 for catching and posting the two stories from the TCJ this morning chronicling Tim Weiser's departure from K-State.  Unfortunately, I didn't see them before I posted the reaction to last night's debacle against Baylor, and in the process buried them.  As I think this is an issue that deserves fuller discussion, I've decided to dedicate some front page space to it.

To put it mildly, I find these stories extremely disturbing.  First, let's be absolutely clear that, from an academic standpoint, Jon Wefald and Bob Krause's tenure at Anderson Hall has been nothing short of a remarkable success.  They took K-State from an afterthought in a flyover state and turned it into one of the premier land-grand institutions in the United States.  It would be an accurate statement that Wefald and Krause's academic achievements are the single biggest reason that I attended K-State.

 

Along the way, Wefald correctly realized that K-State would never reach its full potential if its football team continued to carry its Futility U moniker.  Two problems were presented.  One, with a football team that was lucky to tie a game every couple years, the outside perception of the school was that it must be a mess, much like its football team.  Never mind its powerful regional reputation in veterinary medicine, or engineering, or architecture; surely no school that was completely inept at football could have any organization on the academic side either.  Two, K-State was very nearly dropped from the Big 8 conference, allegedly saved only by a single vote.  Needless to say, losing our major-conference affiliation would have been disastrous, probably causing the university to spiral downward to the level of, at best, a mid-major institution athletically.

That we avoided that fate is, at least partially, to Wefald's credit.  However, it is my strong belief that Wefald has received far more praise for bringing in Bill Snyder than he deserves.  He never served as athletic director, the job whose responsibility it is, at least theoretically, to hire and fire coaches.  Sports Illustrated noted in 1998 that athletic director Steve Miller and associate athletic director Jim Epps were the ones who found Snyder, and it stands to reason that they played more than a bit part in his hiring.  Undoubtedly, Wefald signed off on the hiring, but the notion that he was the sole reason Snyder came to Manhattan is ludicrous.  Alas, history has mostly forgotten that fact, preferring to credit one man with the resurgence of respect for both academics and athletics at K-State.

Anyway, to bring this to the present day, it now appears that Wefald's excessive meddling in athletic department affairs led to the departure of former athletic director Tim Weiser.  That, along with continued meddling and cronyism from Wefald, has given us our present situation where we have Bob Krause, a man with zero athletic experience, installed as the AD of a major-conference university.

From reading today's story by Austin Meek and Kevin Haskin's opinion column on the same issue, it appears that Wefald and Krause's athletic incompetence has cost K-State a significant amount of money.  We all know the story by heart: Weiser wanted to fire Jim Wooldridge in 2005, but Wefald intervened and forced him to keep Wooldridge on.  Later, Weiser didn't want to increase the buyout for a football coach whose team had imploded in November and missed the postseason with a 5-7 record, but Wefald was insistent that such performance merited increased job security.  This issue culminated in an impasse, in violation of a previous letter outlining the athletic director's job responsibilities, that would lead Weiser to resign at K-State and take a job with the Big 12 conference.

Upon resigning from K-State, Weiser received a negotiated settlement that guaranteed him $1.9 million over a five year period.  I'm not an expert in all these legal matters, but clearly if he received a settlement after resigning, there were some serious issues at the end of him employment there that could have led to legal action.  Or, perhaps Wefald essentially fired Weiser but wanted him to "resign" so he didn't look like the bad guy.  With Wefald, I'm never really sure.

Weiser's departure cleared the road for Wefald to appoint Krause as the new athletic director.  In turn, this cleared the road to an increased buyout and a contract extension for Ron Prince, despite no evidence that he deserved such a renegotiation.  When Prince's 2008 Wildcats imploded in similar fashion and the combination of the clear downward trajectory of the program and fan unrest reached a critical mass, Prince was fired.  Because of Wefald's and Krause's ill-advised renegotiation of contract terms, the university ended up paying $900,000 more to buy out Prince than it would have under his previous contract.  Effectively, this series of moves by Wefald cost K-State $2.8 million that it didn't need to pay, not to mention an athletic director who was light years better than his replacement.  That's not an insignificant chunk of change for a school whose athletic department budget consistently ranks in the bottom third of the Big 12 conference.

Now don't get the idea that I'm going to paint this as a white knight/black knight situation.  Real life is never as clean as fiction would like us to believe it is.  Tim Weiser is a human being after all, and certainly made some mistakes in his capacity as athletic director.  I'm sure he'd admit to that.  As it turns out, not firing Wooldridge in 2005 actually ended up working out for the better, because we ended up with Bob Huggins and, eventually, Michael Beasley.  Who knows who we would have ended up with had we hired a coach in 2005?

But just because it worked out doesn't change the fact that Jon Wefald overstepped the bounds of his office.  Throughout his tenure on campus, Wefald has been known as a master delegator, but it appears that in this situation he was unable or unwilling to cede the task of athletic department personnel decisions to the man in charge of the athletic department.  Whether that was out of a sense of ego based on his belief that he was responsible for the first Snyder Era at K-State or a concern for his legacy or because he thought Wooly was a particularly nice guy (he was) doesn't matter.  He hired Weiser to be the athletic director, he needed to let him be the athletic director.  Also, I should note that I believe Haskin wrongly assigns to Weiser the blame for the Prince hire, as it has always been my understanding that Weiser wanted to keep looking but Wefald had fallen in love with Prince and was sure that he was the one.  This position finds support in Weiser's later reluctance to extend an increased buyout to Prince, in obvious opposition to Wefald's position on the matter.

To make matters worse, Wefald rewarded a longtime university vice president with a promotion to athletic director that was neither deserved nor wise.  Thus far, I would have to call the Krause era a spectacular failure between the Prince extension, the bizarre Prince firing, the Mickey Mouse press conference to announce the Prince firing, the botched Gary Patterson hiring - which was not Tim Fitzgerald's fault and it is absolutely true that we had come at least to tentative terms with Patterson - and a million other things, not the least of which include a story from the KC Star where Krause essentially blamed the fans for Prince's firing.

We've said it a million times before, but this excellent reporting by Meek and Haskin and whoever else may have been on the story in Topeka only serves to confirm our beliefs.  Wefald and Krause have done excellent work with K-State academics.  But when it comes to K-State athletics, they've been miserable failures.

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