Facilities improvements being reconsidered, K-State athletic director says

MANHATTAN, Kan. | Kansas State University is re-evaluating a planned $70 million upgrade of athletic facilities, new athletic director John Currie said.

Currie told university faculty and students during a Monday forum that the project has not been eliminated but is on hold pending the review.

The projects, championed by former vice president and athletic director Bob Krause, include a basketball practice facility, an expanded ticket office, a Kansas State hall of fame and renovations for the west side of the football stadium named for Snyder.

“Currently, those projects are on hold,” Currie said. “There are some of those projects we’ll re-evaluate, and we’re in the process of doing that now.”

The re-evaluation comes after a scathing audit released June 19 that detailed questionable financial practices at the university, including 13 undocumented payments totaling $845,000 to football coach Bill Snyder, Krause and former athletic director Tim Weiser.

The controversy prompted the Kansas Board of Regents to require state universities to conduct regular audits that include their athletic departments.

Originally, the university planned to finance the project with $35 million in private funds and $35 million in debt financing. Currie said the project may eventually rely more on fundraising because he is cautious about using debt financing for projects that don’t provide extra revenue.

“We can fundraise, hypothetically, for anything,” he said. “That’s going to be our priority.”

Currie and new president Kirk Schulz held Monday’s forum in response to the recent controversy.

Schulz said new rules are in place to prevent the conflicts of interest found in the audit. He specifically mentioned that the university won’t extend another $500,000 loan like one given to Weiser.

“We will never do another personal, individual loan again,” Schulz said. “That’s bad practice.”

David Littrell, a professor of music, asked if there was any chance that a secret agreement to give $3.2 million to former football coach Ron Prince could be nullified. The agreement was engineered by Krause, apparently without the knowledge of other administrators, including former president Bob Wefald. The university has filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the deal.

Schulz and Currie declined to comment on the agreement with Prince, which was the response Littrell expected.

“I knew they wouldn’t be able to answer that question,” he said. “I just wanted to express frustration on the part of a lot of people — anger, frankly. Three-point-two million? That’s more than most of us make in a lifetime, and this is for a coach who was less than .500.”

But Littrell also said he has some faith in the new administration.

“I think what (Schulz) said is entirely correct — for the people who are furious, give us a year,” Littrell said. “People have every right to say things out of anger, but just give (Schulz) a year, and I think you’re going to see a big difference.”