If anything was apparent about Gene Taylor on Monday, it’s that the new Kansas State athletic director wants to hit the ground running.
Taylor, who officially starts on May 1, is anxious to start developing relationships with the people who will soon call him their boss and get the train rolling on the future of K-State athletics.
Taylor could barely contain his excitement in talking about his new position in a crowded theater inside the Vanier Family Football Complex.
“There were a lot of good jobs out there, but there’s always the right job,” Taylor said. “To me, I felt this was the right job for me. That’s why I was really excited for the opportunity.”
The theme with those who interviewed and helped hire Taylor was how well he fit everything they were looking for.
Alumni association president Amy Button Renz, who chaired the search committee for an athletic director, said Taylor stood out in the interview process and then even more so when he returned to Manhattan to meet with her and K-State President Richard Myers.
“The committee really connected with him, and then when we moved some individuals on to visit with President Myers, it was very clear,” Button Renz said. “I think he’ll be great for our coaches.”
Myers said the university didn’t hire an outside search firm because K-State athletics is in solid shape. He thanked former athletic director John Currie, who left for Tennessee in February, for the work he did in putting K-State in a good position to find his replacement.
Button Renz said Currie’s work helped the school develop interest in the job nationwide.
Ultimately, Myers said Taylor was what the committee was looking for to help the athletic department take the next step.
“He is not a Kansan, not a K-Stater, but you don’t have to be,” Myers said. “What you have to be is a good fit with our family. I think Gene Taylor and his family are a great fit.”
Taylor’s been interested in K-State since a visit to Manhattan for a basketball game between North Dakota State and the Wildcats in 2004. He returned in 2013 to see the Bison beat K-State in football.
The last time K-State was looking for an athletic director, when Currie was hired in 2008, Taylor said he applied for the position.
“I wasn’t quite ready,” he said. “We had a lot to do at North Dakota State.”
After that, he continued to build the NDSU athletic department before leaving for Iowa in 2014. His three years there helped him gain the experience needed to qualify for the K-State job.
Taylor said he’ll be an approachable manager for athletes, coaches and staff. His philosophy with athletes goes beyond the playing field to guiding them with advice for careers and other opportunities.
“The greatest thrill I have as an athletic director is watching our young people prepare and work extremely hard, and then go out on those fields of competition and have success,” he said. “And even when they don’t have success, to be there for them. To me, that’s our role as athletic administrators.”
On the coaching side, Taylor said his staff will know they can trust him.
“They know that I’m going to have their back,” he said. “I’m fine with a coach coming in and shutting the door and if he’s frustrated or she’s frustrated, let’s have that conversation. We’re going to work through it together. They’re going to understand at the end of that meeting I’m there to help them be successful.”
At some point during his tenure at K-State, Taylor could potentially be tasked with finding a replacement for football coach Bill Snyder. Taylor said he spoke with Snyder on the day he accepted the job, and they had a short conversation.
But for now, he doesn’t want to spend much time dwelling on that future decision.
“I just want to enjoy working with him,” Taylor said. “I just hope it’s a long time. Will it come up? Yeah. Someday you’re going to have to replace the guy that’s statue is out in front of the stadium. I get that. I don’t want to think about it now until Coach Snyder’s ready to say.”
Taylor headed back to Iowa and returns on Friday for a busy schedule, that includes the Spring Game.