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BotC Roundtable: It’s Been a Day

The staff convenes to talk about ALL THE THINGS

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 05 Texas at Kansas State Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Approximately 20 years ago today, Kansas State turned the college football world on its head, beating #1 Oklahoma 35-7 to win Bill Snyder’s first conference title ever.

I guess the only way to truly commemorate that event was for Kansas State to turn everything upside down again? That process — not an especially pretty one for the fans — began this morning with the announcement that offensive coordinator Collin Klein was taking the same position at Texas A&M under new Aggies head man Mike Elko. It seems like a lateral move on its face, but Klein’s rumored compensation package and a chance to coach and recruit in the SEC probably combined to form an offer too good to refuse.

Meanwhile, even as fans had hardly begun recovering from the morning’s collective meltdown, the fan rumor mills were working overtime, this time to figure out why/how Nae’Qwan Tomlin had not returned to Kansas State’s lineup. There were plenty of unsubstantiated allegations floating around, including the notion that university administration—specifically, Kansas State president Richard Linton—was the roadblock in Tomlin’s way. Fans mounted (a poorly attended and ineffective) protest on campus, and Kansas State AD Gene Taylor has now issued a statement that Tomlin is no longer on the team.

Weirdly enough, that has not quelled the fan storm. As if anything would!

In other words, a lot of stuff has happened, and we’re going to put our heads together and try to make sense of it.

  • So Collin Klein is moving on to definitely greener pastures. Was this a surprise? A disappointment?

Jon: A disappointment, obviously. For all the concerns about Klein’s playcalling at times, two things are inescapable: the team averaged over 37 points and 450 yards a game, and the performance of the offense dramatically improved once Keagan Johnson was completely healthy and Jayce Brown emerged from freshman hell. The offense was extremely improved from where it was at the end of the Courtney Messingham era, which is all the evidence you need to convict Klein of being pretty good at his job.

A surprise? It shouldn’t have been. Klein interviewed at Notre Dame last year. Of course he’s in demand by schools with deep pockets.

Luke S.: All K-State fans should be sad to see him go. He will always be a legend in Manhattan, both as a player and as a coach. Though disappointed, we should also thank him for all he’s done for us and wish him well. The uglier side of the fanbase who acts as if he “owes” K-State more has it all wrong. Few things are uglier than demanding absolute loyalty. It’s petty and selfish and, in this case, completely wrong-headed. Collin has given us plenty. We owe him gratitude and grace. Nothing else.

Surprise? Not really. Would it be a surprise if any of us left a job—even one we loved—to more than double our earnings and set our families up for life? Hardly.

Adam: It caught me off guard, just because I guess I wasn’t paying close enough attention to even know he was getting interest from other programs. Although it makes sense, for the reasons Jon pointed out about this year’s offense. And yeah, I’m disappointed, both because of Klein’s history at K-State and the offense’s strength this year. But this doesn’t mean he’s gone forever. In a few years, when K-State has a head coaching vacancy, a hot-shot SEC offensive coordinator would seem like a great candidate. I’m partly joking, but even I’m not sure how much of me is joking about that.

wildcat00: Let’s just stipulate to the following: Collin Klein was a great K-State quarterback and a pretty good offensive coordinator. He is, and will always be, one of us, even he puts on a different hoodie now. I’m not surprised, because change is inevitable. I will admit to a degree of disappointment, but that’s mostly because I’m stuck in this old-school paradigm of loyalty that demands a coach stay at a school until his services are no longer needed. Yes, I’m aware of exactly how unrealistic—and unfair—that is in real world terms. That said, for his own career development and personal growth, Klein obviously needed to leave and coach elsewhere, and part of me is glad it’s at a program Kansas State doesn’t compete with directly.

Good luck, Optimus Klein.

Eric: Disappointed, and honestly, a bit concerned. I do think he’ll be like Frosty and be back again someday, but seeing him leave on top of the portal defections make it hard to believe something isn’t a bit off in the locker room. His performance as OC has been undeniable, and it stands to reason the dude is getting paaaaaiiiiiidddddd. Klein can go get that bread, and come back and be our next head coach. Anxiously awaiting who and how that hole is going to be filled, though.

JT: I went through several emotions both when the news broke he had offered and was seriously considering, and then later when it was announced he had accepted. As a fellow K-State alum, I’m sad to see anyone that talented leave our Alma Mater. But it’s also great seeing one of our own get recognized outside our own circle for being great, and getting paid handsomely in the process. Selfishly, I wish he would stay. But in the end, I’m happy he’s getting his bag, he’s getting experience away from Manhattan, and I just hope that in 5-10 years after Klieman decides to retire that he’s ready to come home and take over.

Luke T.: Disappointing for sure, and I experienced a flash of anger at first. How could a guy who is so through and through Kansas State leave Manhattan, potentially putting our already precarious quarterback situation (thanks to the transfer portal) into flux even more? And to go to a team that still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth any time I’m compelled to say their name? It wasn’t easy to come to grips with from a pure fan perspective. But as the day wore on I began to look at it from more of a business/career perspective, and it’s totally reasonable for Collin to take a massive pay upgrade to go coach in a better conference. Ideally, it will even benefit us eventually when he makes a heroic return to Manhattan. Then again, that would mean success for Texas A&M, so do I really want that? This is hard.

  • The first big question in the wake of Klein’s departure is about our next OC, i.e. who is it? Any candidates in mind? Does the program have the resources to make a splashy hire?

Jon: I don’t really have any specific candidates in mind. I think it’s safe to assume Klieman won’t go chasing after some high-profile retread like Bill O’Brien. We’ll either promote from within or go after a lower-profile OC who’s done really nice work off the radar, I suspect.

Luke S.: No idea. Gene Taylor has hired good coaches in his tenure, and Chris Klieman knows better than I would who fits his vision. I trust the experts to figure it out.

wildcat00: I’m not fixated on any particular type of coach for the role, although I suspect one or more of Conor Riley, Brian Lepak, and/or Josh Buford will end up in the OC chair. If not, I expect Chris Klieman to reach back into his NDSU days to mine those contacts for a coordinator he trusts will be a good fit for the role. On that note, and in the wake of Craig Bohl’s retirement, current Wyoming OC Tim Polasek is a prospect I find intriguing.

Eric: Y’all would know better than me. Just not Brian Ferentz. I know he’s going to be available, and punting is not fun to watch.

Adam: I don’t know that K-State can make a headline-grabbing hire, with the way coordinator salaries have grown in recent years. But how often do those hires pan out, really?

JT: We can be pretty delusional as K-State fans, and we really love to try and recreate the best parts of the “glory years” by hoping former players come back to coach. And certainly there are probably some good candidates out there with K-State ties. But I’d really rather Klieman just go hire the best guy for the job. This is a great opportunity for Klieman to show he can hire good offense guys, and not just good ones on defense.

Luke T.: Historically K-State football has done better with hires that aren’t flashy, so maybe it’s a good idea to try to continue that trend. I saw the idea of Conor Riley floated out there and I’m not sure how realistic that is or if he would even want that right now, but based on all the great things we’ve heard about him I feel like there are certainly worse choices out there. We’ll see.

  • What about Avery Johnson? He has the QB room nearly to himself now, but with Klein leaving, will Johnson be motivated to stay? If he does leave, what happens to the Wildcats?

Jon: Well, if he leaves over the off-season we’re pretty much toast unless we land a top-notch QB off the portal and one who’s willing to understudy. That said, I think Avery understands what the program did for him specifically, and will at the very least be here in 2024. Make an OC/QBC hire (or hires) he’s comfortable with, and it’s probably not even an issue.

Luke S.: Only Avery knows for sure. I certainly hope he stays and suspect he will, at least in the short term. Though Collin Klein left, I suspect he has developed relationships with other coaches and many, many players that will color his decision.

wildcat00: I don’t think Avery Johnson is leaving. Partly this is because A&M has a full roster of highly rated quarterbacks, but also because I think Johnson came to Manhattan because of Klieman and not because of Klein, so this departure probably doesn’t have that strong an impact. That said, I hope the coaching staff is scouring the transfer portal for quarterbacks right now, just as a fallback plan.

Adam: At least he doesn’t have to worry about sharing first-team reps in practice with anyone, and playing time is such a big factor for a lot of decisions to transfer.

Eric: He should be motivated to stay as QB1 on a P5 football team in his own state, and still has a great coaching staff and great teammates around him. And purple is a pretty cool color. Anything else, and all the sentiment about staying home and whatnot when he signed with K-State just becomes mealy-mouthed hot air.

JT: I don’t see a benefit to Johnson leaving, at least not right now. This is his town, his show. The fans already love him and he hasn’t started a game yet. If he left for A&M, he’d be behind a 5-star recruit, and would have to deal with the pressures of an SEC fanbase that would be hard-pressed to care much about a kid from Kansas, no matter how fast he is, or how glorious his hair is.

Luke T.: This is definitely the part of Klein leaving that is most likely to keep me up at night, but I still think it probably won’t happen. After all, we’re talking about a Kansas kid with a chance to take over as the clear #1 for the state’s premier program and a fanbase that appears to be almost 100% behind him right now. Surely he won’t want to pass that up.

  • Moving on to basketball, what actually happened here? Does a section of the fanbase need to have just a bit more chill?

Jon: I mean, speculation is why we’re here in the first place, so you know what, I’m just gonna not (other than to point out that Tomlin was in some sort of trouble with the program before the bar fight, and this all of this ultimately may have nothing to do with that incident). And “yes.”

I “hear stuff” all the time. A lot of it ends up being complete nonsense. Even when it isn’t, I keep things close until I’m sure about it. If you’ll recall from the Death of the Pac 12, I had been informed a week before the announcement that the Big 12 had already agreed to accept Arizona, at Arizona’s unofficial request. I sat on that for that whole week, even though I could’ve dropped it and exploded our page views or stirred up a hornet’s nest by trying to be coy about it. But I didn’t, because it was off the record and I couldn’t source it. And if you can’t source it, you don’t report it. If you can source it, you report it as news, not as rumors.

It’s easy to make Richard Linton the scapegoat here if you’re a journalist with access, because Richard Linton isn’t going to stop talking to you if you call him out because he doesn’t talk to you anyway. Gene Taylor and Jerome Tang, not so much, and frankly unless someone’s going to show some backbone and provide a sourced account that it was Linton’s decision rather than Taylor’s and/or Tang’s, this is all still just nothing but speculation.

Speculating that it must have been Linton is curious, too. Surely we all remember Jerome Tang’s somewhat emotional press conference explaining Tomlin’s suspension and his reasons for it? As in, the reasons why he himself felt it was the appropriate action?

And honestly, fans are just mad that K-State may have done something which K-State fans decry other schools for not doing — taking action if a player fails to meet the standards. If Douglas Girod bounced a player off the Kansas roster (or Travis Goff, or Bill Self) in a similar circumstance, the reaction in K-State fan circles would be 100% different.

So ask yourself: would you rather win at all costs, or be the sort of school we all claim we are, where character matters?

Luke S.: You think? “Need a little bit more chill” could practically be a national motto, but in this case, the atomic reaction to speculations, assumptions and shadow sources was especially embarrassing. FERPA prohibits school officials disclosing information about student situations like this. It’s a bright-line rule. But let’s not let something inconsequential like the law get in the way of fan entitlement and morbid curiosity.

wildcat00: I have nothing to add to Luke’s excellent point about how the law operates here. Instead, I’ll just quote from an opinion by a moderately famous federal judge: “The parties are advised to chill.”

Adam: College sports are a microcosm of the world, viewed in a funhouse mirror. Some people will find a conspiracy behind every setback, and some of those people are K-State fans. My advice to those people is to take a series of deep breaths — in through the nose, out through the mouth — count to ten, go for a walk, and pet a dog.

Eric: OK, gloves are coming off, but not before I pet my dog first - thanks, Adam, for the reminder to do that. There are a couple of particular K-State fan websites that many people frequent (read: pay for) that peddle rumors and conjecture* as “news”, and their subscribers run with it as gospel. At best, it is irresponsible. What I have witnessed today surrounding Nae’Qwan is utterly disgusting, including the continued doubling-down on said rumors, and every single person associated with said websites should be absolutely ashamed of themselves, from the top down. This is not journalism - stop the charade.

Further, every single person that took that information as truth and acted on it - especially those idiots that decided to go protest at President Linton’s house or at Anderson Hall - shame on them too. What a selfish, myopic, pathetic display of lack of understanding.

There are things that, as Fans, we are owed. We are owed a team that puts out a good effort and is competitive, in good faith. We are owed a team that represents Kansas State University (and us Fans) well, and in good faith. That’s it. That’s the list. Beyond that, they don’t owe us Fans anything. We are not owed the knowledge of details surrounding Tomlin’s situation. We simply are not. And frankly, other than for his own well-being, as Fans, we shouldn’t care. This is one of those cases. Nae’Qwan effed up, and the accountability and penance for said eff-ups needed to be handled. Luke touched on the legal side of it - I’m speaking strictly from the pragmatism of a supporter of the athletic programs at K-State. There are things that occur that are none of my goddamn business, and it should stay that way.

Honestly, one could wonder if the terminus of this situation — as far as K-State Basketball and Nae’Qwan Tomlin are concerned — is the direct result of what happened today; because a not-insignificant portion of the fans, spurred by rumors pushed by these websites, decided to try to take matters into their own hands.

How arrogant.

SO, back to the original question: does a section of the fanbase need to have a bit more chill? No. A section of the fanbase needs to grow up and realize not everything revolves around them. If they’re so hellbent on having things done the way they see it, they are free to apply for a head coach position when they run our current coaches out of town with this asinine nonsense.

On a side note, we just beat Nova, and we’re 7-2 without what would have been our best player. Be happy, for crying out loud. They’ll get it figured out.

(Jon: * - On message boards, protected behind paywalls, rather than having the faith in their own sources to present the story as front page news which might show up in search results.)

JT: Pretty much all of my thoughts were laid out by Jon and Eric. We’re working on a lot of “things” people have “heard”. But nobody is saying anything publicly. And I’m not talking about the university president, athletics director, or head basketball coach who are all legally prevented from talking. No, I’m talking about the fans and people on message boards that like to allude to things without actually saying anything, and without sticking up for what they are saying in public.

The scenes like today, online and in person, only serve to drag K-State through the mud, and doesn’t actually accomplish anything positive for the school, any of it’s programs, or any of the student-athletes.

Luke T.: I know all these overtime games are stressful, but wins are wins, right? After all, K-State could have done something really stupid, like losing to Jackson State at home. :( There are a lot of new pieces on this season’s team and I still #TrustTang enough that I’m not going to worry about struggles in December.

Oh, and as for that other thing, it’s pretty embarrassing for Kansas State fans and even more embarrassing for those people that call themselves journalists who are pushing this ridiculous-on-its-face narrative without actually presenting any real evidence. I wish it would stop and while they’re wondering whether this rumored intervention by the university president is going to drive Jerome Tang out of town, I’m wondering if maybe he’s feeling as annoyed by all this speculation as I am and thinking about what it might be like to work for a team with credentialed media members who don’t act this crazy any time they don’t immediately get all the answers they want.

Final thought: Full credit to Jerome Tang and his staff for making it abundantly clear from the beginning that regardless of Nae’Qwan Tomlin’s status with the basketball team, they are doing everything they can to make sure he earns a degree and gets his life back on track as much as possible after his unfortunate lapse(s) in judgment.