By now, everyone knows that Kansas State University president Kirk Schulz is leaving to take the equivalent position at Washington State University. Schulz has been president at Kansas State since 2009 when he was hired to replace longtime president Jon Wefald, and will remain in Manhattan through the end of the current academic year (mid-May), as noted in a press release issued yesterday.
The reasons for Schulz's departure are not immediately apparent. On the one hand, he is making a move largely perceived as lateral, so career ambition was probably not the determining factor, although recent approval for a medical school at Washington State may suggest otherwise. On the other hand, Schulz' recent relationship with the state government has been contentious (Kellis Robinett, Wichita Eagle). He has openly opposed new legislation allowing concealed weapons on campus, and was against a proposal to freeze tuition. With more budget cuts possibly coming out of Topeka, he may have felt the writing was on the wall here.
Where does this leave us? It's tempting to think of this as a harbinger of doom, as the beginning of the end, but when the dust settles, it will be business as usual, at least in the opinion of this writer.
University presidents come and go, and the best of them leave their institutions better than they found them. Jon Wefald presided over an unprecedented era of football success at Kansas State, and that success led to other positive improvements in Manhattan. The end of Wefald's run may have tarnished his legacy somewhat, and he had probably overstayed his welcome at that point. Similarly, Schulz's tenure at Kansas State has seen enormous growth, both in terms of revenue/endowment dollars and in the school's academic stature. But his recent position on fan participation and enforcement of Big 12 policies were met with mostly negative reaction from alumni and fans. If he stayed longer, he'd risk losing the good will and reputation he's rightly earned through his fundraising efforts and various infrastructure projects (Marà Rose Williams, Kansas City Star), and through his willingness to engage directly with the Kansas State community via social networking.
In the end, it's probably best he's leaving now rather than a few years from now.
So what happens now? To the university, probably not a whole lot of immediate concern. The Kansas Board of Regents is already on the lookout for a new president, and in the meantime, a qualified individual already in university administration will be named to the post on an interim basis. Schulz's replacement will have an uphill battle with the state legislature on funding, but this is no different than in most other states in the current political climate. Schulz will be a tough act to follow, but he leaves the university on solid foundation to build on, certainly much better than when he arrived. Moreover, his successor will almost certainly be able to take credit for NBAF-related successes and fruition of the school's 2025 strategic plan.
But what about us, the fans? That's a tougher call. Athletic Director John Currie sought to assuage fan fears with a statement. It followed the usual pattern of congratulating the departing executive and expressing hope for the future, but did little to calm the waters.
Of immediate concern to fans, Schulz serves on the NCAA Executive Committee and will continue in that role through 2017. As a representative of Kansas State, he was likely to protect the school's interests in any way possible. We've lost a voice at the table, and that's big. Then again, Kansas State is an entity separate from its president, and if all the recent successes are worth anything at all, not having a voice at the table shouldn't matter.
In other words, we're very much in a wait-and-see pattern. So let's wait and see.
Ed: the above commentary reflects only the opinions of this writer and is not intended to reflect the collective views of Bring on the Cats or its editorial staff.
Jon Morse continues his excellent basketball post-season reporting with a look at the NCAA Men's Tournament Elite Eight field, and recaps the NCAA Women's Tournament Sweet Sixteen action.
Kansas State dropped yet another one-run game. This time, it was a 5-4 loss to Oklahoma State yesterday at Tointon Family Stadium. This is the team's third straight loss by a single run, and sixth consecutive loss overall.
The BatCats had to rally to overcome a 5-1 deficit against the Cowboys. They scored a run in the seventh and two in the eighth, along with another run at the top of the ninth. But the team came up short in the bottom of the inning when Tyler Moore went out on a soft line drive into right field.
Kansas State will try to salvage at least one win in the series when the teams take to the diamond again today at 2:05 PM. RHP Corey Fischer will make his first start since March 11.
The equestrian team is in its final throes. At the Big 12 Championships, the eighth-seeded Wildcats dropped their contest against defending champion Baylor by a score of 2899.5-2088 in Stillwater yesterday. The team will get a shot at a third place finish if they can defeat No. 6 TCU today.
Kansas State crushed Baylor 8-1 in the Hunt Seat part of the competition, and also won hard-fought 4-1 victories in Equitation over Fences and Equitation on the Flat. Unfortunately, those victories were not enough to overcome Baylor's 4-1 wins in horsemanship and reining.