KANSAS CITY, Kan. —The Kansas State football team is coming off big-time wins at Miami and against then-No. 15 Baylor. But when K-State athletic director John Currie took questions on Tuesday night from the Kansas City Catbackers, few of them dealt with Bill Snyder's Wildcats, now ranked as the No. 20 team in the country.
Currie spent a little over an hour talking mostly about conference realignment, the future of the Big 12 and the possibility of Missouri leaving for the Southeastern Conference.
Currie handled the inquiries as best he could, often reverting back to the same idea: College sports are not as out of whack as they may seem.
"Part of that is there is an instant news cycle, and there's an impression created that everything is bad now," said Currie, speaking in the basement of Lucky Brewgrille in Mission, Kan. "But I'm here to tell you, I've been in intercollegiate athletics for 18 years, and the experience for a student-athlete is the best it's ever been in the history of major college athletics."
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As Currie talked about how college sports aren't a business but "an enterprise" with business principles, the Missouri Board of Curators was busy deciding to give MU Chancellor Brady Deaton permission to explore conference realignment — a decision that suddenly put century-old rivalries with K-State and KU in question.
While Currie only told a reporter "K-State and KU have been partners with Missouri since 1907, and we hope we can continue that partnership," he was more open with the Catbackers.
A man asked Currie if the Big 12 was going to get exit fees from Texas A&M, which is already headed to the SEC, and Missouri, if it were to leave. Currie dodged that question, but addressed Missouri's possible exit after a follow-up question.
"Missouri leaving our conference would be a tremendous loss to our conference, our heritage," Currie said. "It would also be a loss to Missouri to leave, and I think most people at Missouri don't want to leave. I know that most people at Texas A&M didn't want to leave the Big 12 Conference."
These are turbulent times in college sports, especially in KC, which has the most to lose if the Tigers indeed bolt for seemingly-greener pastures. The Big 12 basketball tournament, annually held in the Sprint Center, would possibly not return if no league members were based in Missouri.
Back at the Catbackers gathering, club president Gary Davidson was also feeling nostalgic about losing the Tigers.
"There's a lot of tradition and a lot of history, you know," Davidson said. "I can remember back when Jack Hartman and Norm Stewart would go at it. I hope they stay."
Certainly, the Catbackers' Q&A with the athletic director has taken on a different tone of late.
"Who knew it was going to be like this?" Davidson said. "Two years ago, we weren't talking about this. But money is money. And it's driving a lot of things right now. It changes the environment quickly."