The University of Tennessee finally hired its replacement for departing athletic director Dave Hart. And no, the person selected for the role is not Phillip Fulmer. It is former Kansas State athletic director John Currie.
Currie’s perceived rocky relationship with former Wildcat basketball coach Frank Martin and current football coach Bill Snyder has been well documented.
Currie and Martin were found to be at odds with each other while negotiating the contracts for Martin’s assistant coaches. Martin’s boss also valued a clean-cut public relations brand and Martin’s abrasive and often foul-mouthed language didn’t fit into what Currie wanted the Wildcat brand to resemble. Perhaps the final straw for Martin was when Currie took a proactive approach and suspended Jamar Samuels as the NCAA was investigating the player for improper recruiting benefits. Martin would soon decide to leave Kansas State for South Carolina.
The fractured relationship between Currie and Snyder is more trivial. Snyder’s daughter was a highly regarded competitive horse rider. Naturally, Snyder wanted his daughter to attend Kansas State. There was just one problem with that wish, equestrian was on Currie’s chopping block. To the dismay of Snyder, Currie would replace equestrian with women’s soccer. If this indifference to the Snyder family weren’t enough, Currie took over non-conference scheduling. Snyder would no longer have the luxury of playing his slate of cupcakes. Instead, Currie scheduled games against the likes of Auburn and Stanford.
These examples are seen by many Wildcat fans as negatives. But Currie’s treatment of Martin and Snyder should be seen as positives.
Currie had a vision for Kansas State athletics and he remained true to that vision. In the situations that transpired between Currie and Martin, and Currie and Snyder, the athletic director acted not only as the leader of Kansas State athletics but he also acted as the boss.
Acting on what it means to be the boss isn’t always an easy job. That is particularly true when one your employees is a legendary coach such as Snyder. But to his credit, Currie didn’t back down from Snyder and ultimately made decisions which he believed to be in the best interest of the Kansas State athletic department.
Making decisions based on what was best for the athletic department was also what Currie did when dealing with the situation Martin and the basketball program found themselves in with Samuels. It would have been easy for Currie to follow Martin’s recommendation and to allow Samuels to play in that NCAA tournament game. But doing so would have opened the athletics department up to additional NCAA scrutiny.
Kansas State now finds itself at a crossroads. Bill Snyder is 77 and was recently diagnosed with throat cancer. Neither his age or his medical condition are considered harbingers of retirement. Whoever is hired to replace Currie will likely be responsible for hiring Snyder’s replacement. Whenever that day comes.
One of the names being floated as Snyder’s replacement is his son, Sean Snyder. Some writers, like ESPN’s Max Olson, believe that the odds of the son replacing the father have increased now that Currie has accepted the Tennessee job. I would have to agree with Olson based on Currie’s track record of standing up to the head coach and making decisions based on what is best for the athletics department as opposed to what’s best for Snyder’s children.
Martin hasn’t been at Kansas State since 2012, so, at this point, he’s completely out of the equation. However, a decision will need to be made about current men’s basketball coach, Bruce Weber. Weber isn’t loved in Manhattan, Kansas but always seems to do just enough to create job security. That job security could quickly turn into a house of cards with a new athletic director.
As is the case with any person in a position of influence, Currie was both admired and shunned for the job he did while in charge of the Kansas State athletics department. Some of the names that have surfaced as potential replacements for Currie are current Kansas State deputy athletics director Laird Veatch and current Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt. Whoever is hired to replace Currie will eventually be placed in the unique position of hiring Snyder’s successor and possibly a new head basketball coach.
It’s an exciting time to be a Kansas State fan.
E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.
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