We’d like to welcome Gene Taylor and his family to Manhattan, and to wish him well. He’s got some major challenges ahead, but at first blush he seems like a good person to tackle them.
Mr. Taylor, as you probably know, was introduced Monday as the new athletics director at Kansas State University. He steps into a situation many would covet; he’s going to make a half-million dollars a year, he has a Hall of Fame football coach and a men’s basketball program that just made the NCAA tournament.
Also, his department has also run a budget surplus for several years, and his university is part of the winners’ club known informally as the Power 5 conferences. Television money gushes through the door as a result. (And even if you don’t care about sports, you ought to care about the athletics department because it is a huge economic engine in the Manhattan area.) But all of that is due to the work of his predecessors, including John Currie, Bob Krause, Tim Weiser, Max Urick and Steve Miller. It’s due to Kirk Schulz and Jon Wefald in the president’s office, and to the steady hand of Richard Myers as KSU’s current president.
The questions Mr. Taylor faces are pretty obvious: What to do when Bill Snyder departs as football coach, and what to do about the men’s basketball program that has gone sideways in the last three years. That’s almost certainly going to define his tenure here. Mr. Taylor isn’t answering those questions yet because he doesn’t have to, and that’s about what we’d expect. But eventually, he’s going to have to deal with them: Coach Snyder is coming off cancer treatment at age 77, and Bruce Weber will either have to get a contract extension or be let go after next year.
Mr. Taylor comes to the job after having guided North Dakota State’s $17 million athletics operation to some significant success, including national championships in football. More recently he’s been second in command at the University of Iowa, a five-times bigger operation. Those experiences set him up for success here. In particular, we’re impressed with the way North Dakota State’s football program, as an underdog, played hard-nosed, fundamental football and beat a very good K-State team here in Manhattan in 2013.
That’s exactly what K-State is about: We’re the underdog, the little guy that has to work harder and smarter in order to win. That’s what Bill Snyder and Jack Hartman — the two pillars of K-State athletics success in the past century — embodied. That’s what to look for as a model for the whole department, in our humble opinion.
But we’re probably getting ahead of ourselves. The main thing is: Welcome, Mr. Taylor. We hope you like Manhattan. Best of luck.