Kansas State University

Emptying the notebook on a long interview with Kansas State athletic director John Currie

K-State athletic director John Currie gives a tour of the new expansion to the west section of Bill Snyder Family Stadium. (Aug 29, 2013)
K-State athletic director John Currie gives a tour of the new expansion to the west section of Bill Snyder Family Stadium. (Aug 29, 2013) The Wichita Eagle

Earlier this week, Kansas State athletic director John Currie held an open forum with local reporters. The highlights of the media session included his thoughts on K-State’s mediocre athletic year (at least in football, men’s basketball and baseball) and the Big 12’s never-ending debate on expansion.

You can read that story here if you haven’t already. But it was a lengthy interview, and Currie touched on many other subjects of interest.

Here are a few more:

Conference realignment, then and now

When Nebraska and Colorado left the Big 12 during the first wave of conference realignment in 2010, there was legitimate fear the league would not survive. The Pac-12 (Then Pac-10) came close to poaching Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Texas A&M nearly left for the SEC. And the remaining schools, didn’t know what to expect.

“We had a couple times where we thought the Big 12 might not survive,” Currie said.

All of those teams eventually decided to stick together within a 10-team Big 12, but Texas A&M and Missouri left the following season, making way for the additions of TCU and West Virginia. More chaos ensued, but the Big 12 once again survived as a 10-team league, as it remains today.

Still, Currie admits K-State and other Big 12 members had several contingency plans.

“We had a few conversations, but it was such a non-linear deal,” Currie said. “Who are your partners? Who aren’t your partners? I am working on this thing, but I am also working on this thing. You are trying to build alliances. I am glad the result that happened, happened. I think we are imminently more prepared for 2025 (when the Big 12’s grant of rights expires) than we were for 2010.

“We had some different conversations in September of 2011. There was a point where I was like, ‘Hey, this is going to be great.’ Whether it was a repopulated Big 12 or whether it was a merger with somebody else, we weren’t going to quit. There were advantages to certain scenarios.”

Currie and other Big 12 athletic directors may have to reexamine contingency plans at some point, but for now he is confident in the direction of the conference.

“I do believe that we are not in imminent jeopardy of our conference falling apart,” Currie said. “We are in the strongest position we have been in. We are in the most unified position we have been in ... I don’t worry like I did in 2010 or 2011. We are much stronger than we were back then and we have great leadership.”

K-State’s next football coach

Bill Snyder, 76, can’t coach football at K-State forever.

Currie knows this, and says he spends “every minute of every day” thinking about quality candidates to hire whenever Snyder decides to retire. He has no idea when that will be, but he wants to be ready.

Currie said he keeps a list of potential coaches in his mind, and has done so since he arrived at K-State in 2009. The list is always changing.

“It’s a constant exercise,” Currie said.

The current fan favorite to replace Snyder is Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables, a former K-State player and coach, but Currie didn’t share his thoughts on specific coaches. He did share a few qualities he looks for in all of his employees. He said he looks for candidates with integrity and people willing to embrace the advantages of K-State. He said he would consider both head coaches and coordinators. To him, demonstrating success is more important than experience.

Big 12 championship game setup

There is a possibility the Big 12 will bring back a football championship game without expanding to 12 teams.

In such a scenario, the conference would have to decide how it selects two teams for the game. Snyder has long lobbied for the Big 12 to break into two five-team divisions and hold a championship game between the divisional winners. Currie supports that plan, but he said there is currently more support for the conference to continue it’s round-robin schedule and place the top two teams in the final standings in the championship game.

The biggest worry in either scenario, Currie said, is a championship game rematch between teams that played a week before.

Patient approach

A patient approach to Big 12 expansion may be the best approach. At least, that’s what Currie said when asked about the possibility of adding teams that currently sit outside of the Power 5 Conferences.

“The opportunity to add schools that aren’t currently in the power, higher resource conferences, those don’t go away,” Currie said. “So maybe that gives you the chance to watch some people’s universities grow and develop.”

The teams most often mentioned as candidates for Big 12 expansion are Cincinnati, BYU, Memphis, Connecticut, Colorado State, South Florida and Central Florida.

Sorry Arrowhead

When asked if he would like to schedule a future football game at Arrowhead Stadium, Currie said yes. But such a game is unlikely to take place.

After all the recent renovations at Snyder Family Stadium, Currie would prefer to play as many games as possible at home.

“As much as I love the idea of playing at Arrowhead Stadium or playing at Soldier Field or wherever I want to play games in Manhattan, Kansas,” Currie said. “We have a place now that people have invested in. We have got a pretty good scene. We want to play as many games as we can right here.”

Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett

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