John Currie came to Kansas State three years ago as an unknown. He had never been an athletic director, and he was taking over a department in need of a makeover.
A challenging situation, to be sure, but hardly the only one he has faced.
As recently as two months ago, he sat in front of a roomful of cameras defending his actions as K-State supporters questioned if he was the right person to lead the Wildcats after he was unable to prevent basketball coach Frank Martin from leaving for South Carolina.
Right or wrong, many fans blamed Currie for Martin’s departure, and voiced their displeasure.
Some are still angry. Others have thrown their support behind Bruce Weber, the first coach Currie has hired at K-State. Some are taking a wait-and-see approach.
But K-State president Kirk Schulz backed Currie, showing his confidence with a two-year contract extension announced Wednesday.
Now, Currie is a K-State staple with a deal through 2017-18.
"John has provided tremendous leadership for our athletics department and entire university family since his arrival in 2009,” Schulz said in a statement.
The new deal increases his annual salary to $450,000. His salary will grow $25,000 per year, he gets a $50,000 signing bonus, and he could make as much as $750,000 in incremental bonuses if he’s still AD on June 30, 2018.
Currie was one of the lowest-paid athletic directors in the Big 12. His new deal puts him in the middle of the pack.
Under Currie’s guidance,
the Wildcats brought in a record of nearly $23 million in revenue and donations during the 2011 fiscal year and raised enough funds to move forward on two major facility projects. Construction on a new $18 million basketball practice facility is nearly complete, and construction on a $75 million expansion to Snyder Family Stadium just got underway.
Considering where the athletic department was before Currie arrived – it faced a budget shortfall of nearly $3 million and was trying to move past the disappointing Ron Prince era with its football team – he has led a significant turnaround.
“I am tickled to death about the extension,” said Lee Borck, a prominent K-State alum and CEO of Innovative Livestock Services. “I think the operation of the athletic department the last three years is better than any other time in history. Coming out of the mess we were in when he came in here … We’re making money, we’re operating in the black, and the teams are winning. From football to basketball to track or any other sport you want to look at, we’re competitive in all of them.”
Of course, all of that means little to those still loyal to Martin. One of the most successful coaches in the history of K-State basketball is gone. That will always stick with Currie.
“I know there were some questions when Frank Martin left, but there would have been questions no matter who the athletic director was,” Borck said. “It wouldn’t have made any difference. I think Frank wanted to leave. Every athletic director is going to have that problem from time to time with a coach.
“But we brought in a name coach with a good history. We have to give Bruce Weber a chance. John Currie has made the right decisions on everything else. Why would that change now?”