Kansas State athletic director Gene Taylor will wait until the season ends to make a full assessment on what Bruce Weber and the Wildcats’ basketball team accomplish this year, but he likes what he has seen so far.
“I have been really pleased,” Taylor said over the weekend. “It’s been a fun team to watch. When I got here this summer, coach talked about how much he liked this team. He liked being around them and they were in the gym. You could just tell they were going to be a team that jells together. There were times this year they played really well and made some runs. There were other times they had to respond … It just goes to show you the team they have.”
K-State (21-10, 10-8 Big 12) is in good position to make the NCAA Tournament after finishing fourth in the Big 12. With one more victory, the Wildcats will have their most wins since 2013, Weber’s first year on the job.
Behind all-conference players Dean Wade (first team) and Barry Brown (second team, all-defensive team) the Wildcats have surpassed preseason predictions, as they were picked to finish eighth by the Big 12’s coaches.
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Without a scholarship senior on the roster, Taylor says K-State has “absolutely” taken a step forward this season.
“We have got a lot of these guys coming back,” Taylor said. “That’s a good thing.”
K-State fans remain divided on Weber. He ranks fourth among K-State coaches in all-time wins with a record of 121-78 and is on pace for his fourth NCAA Tournament appearance in six seasons. He also shared a conference championship in 2013. But his 55-53 conference record is less impressive, and he hasn’t made it past the Round of 64 since he coached at Illinois.
Attendance also dipped at Bramlage Coliseum this season with home crowds for most conference games closer to 10,000 than the arena’s capacity of 12,528. Still, the Wildcats had one of the better home-court advantages in the conference.
Taylor gave Weber a contract extension last August that runs through 2021.
One thing that can’t be overlooked, Taylor said, is Weber’s track record of coaching the right way.
“With what is going on in the world of college basketball I couldn’t be more proud of Bruce and his coaches and these kids,” Taylor said. “They do everything you want them to do, both on the court and off the court. To have somebody like that and to have a program like that, we are pretty lucky.”
Scandal rocked college basketball before the season began and a FBI probe into unethical recruiting and other practices continues to hang over the sport like a dark cloud.
Weber and K-State have not been connected to it.
“I think it is huge right now,” Taylor said. “Not only do you have a coach who is doing everything the right way, you have players that are good academically … Every time I open the paper I don’t worry about seeing our logo or our stories out there with a negative.”
Beefing up the schedule
One topic Taylor will discuss at length with Weber this offseason is scheduling.
K-State played one of the weakest nonconference schedules in the nation this season. Early games against American, Northern Arizona, USC Upstate and Southeast Missouri State drove away fans and could now hurt the team’s seed on Selection Sunday.
“It is important for us to find ways to strengthen our nonconference schedule,” Taylor said. “(Weber) is not opposed to that, trust me. The good news is with basketball you do it on an annual basis … We need to get that better for a lot of reasons.”
K-State already has a few games scheduled for next season: At Tulsa, Vanderbilt (Sprint Center), a road game in the Big 12/SEC Challenge and three games at the Paradise Jam, a Thanksgiving week tournament that also features Missouri. Weber recently said he is looking to add a home-and-home series against a notable opponent.
Together, Taylor and Weber will look at options.
“Who is out there we can get a home-and-home with? Who haven’t we thought of?” Taylor said. “Are there other power-five programs we haven’t talked to?”
For now, he can think of an in-state program that seems like a viable opponent.
“We would like to do a home-and-home with Wichita State,” Taylor said.
New contract for Bill Snyder
K-State football coach Bill Snyder signed a rollover contract in 2013 that has no expiration date, but the salary scale featured in his deal expired on Jan. 31.
For now, Snyder’s salary remains at $1.89 million (he receives an additional $1.26 million from a licensing agreement with K-State). But Taylor said he is working with Snyder on a new contract with firmer compensation figures.
“It’s really about his salary,” Taylor said. “His salary is for a period of years, but the contract kind of continues. We have to decide by January, technically, on a new salary. I made an offer. He is considering it. It’s all about what we are going to pay him for the next few years. Will it be the same? Will it be progressive?”
Taylor hopes to finalize a formal agreement soon. Snyder asked to hire new assistants to his coaching staff and finalize their contracts before working on a new deal of his own.
New coaches Brian Norwood (defensive backs), Eric Hickson (running backs) and Zach Hanson (tight ends) join promoted coordinators Andre Coleman (offense) and Blake Seiler (defense) next season.
“It will be a fun group,” Taylor said. “Everyone is taking on a new role. I look forward to watching them jell and seeing what they come up with.”
K-State has raised $13 million for a new baseball and soccer facility. A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for May 11.
The project will provide exterior upgrades to K-State’s baseball stadium, including a new facade and roof, and a new clubhouse along the third-base grandstand. The clubhouse will feature new locker rooms, meeting rooms and a rehabilitation area.
It will also give the soccer team a permanent stadium, built on the site of the existing temporary facility.
What’s next? Taylor will decide after he completes a master plan of other potential future facility projects that he hopes to finish in the coming months.
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett