As soon as Gene Taylor heard the Kansas State athletic director job was open, he wanted to take a shot at it.
After 13 years as the athletic director at North Dakota State, Taylor left to become the deputy AD at Iowa in 2014 with the goal of leading the athletic department at a Power 5 school.
Taylor’s experience trying to get the K-State job showed him there couldn’t be a better fit.
“It’s a perfect fit for me personally, professionally and philosophically,” Taylor told The Mercury on Sunday. “I couldn’t be more happy to be here.”
Taylor says the application and interview process went quickly. He submitted his resume at the last minute after doing research on the school. Taylor interviewed for the job with an internal search committee on April 5 and returned to Manhattan for a meeting with President Richard Myers and Alumni Association president Amy Button-Renz on April 10.
Two days later, while visiting Fargo, North Dakota, he got the job offer.
“A lot of people there were trying to balance not telling people I got the job of my dreams, really,” Taylor said. “(It’s) ironic that I left Fargo to get a job like this and find out while I’m in Fargo. It’s kind of unique.”
Before the process, Taylor’s previous trips to Manhattan came while he was at North Dakota State. He came with the NDSU basketball team after it transitioned from Division II to I, and he returned in 2013 when the Bison beat K-State in its football season opener.
Both trips made an impact on him.
“I’ve been impressed with K-State for a lot of years,” Taylor said. “Just the transformation and the energy and the passion. I couldn’t be more happy to be here and very fortunate.”
Taylor left NDSU in 2014 so he could get experience at a Power 5 school under his belt. It’s an experience that changed his career.
He was celebrated at North Dakota State for helping the department increase its budget from $5.5 million to $17 million when he left, but Iowa was an eye-opening experience. In his first year with the Hawkeyes, he aided an athletic department with a $95-million budget.
“You just make decisions differently,” he said. “I knew where every dime was going to be spent and how it was going to be spent at North Dakota State. At Iowa, the decision-making is different, but it’s still the same. You still have to budget appropriately so your teams can be successful, and you still have to make sure the revenues and expenses all balance at the end, but there’s just more flexibility.”
Taylor said he prides himself on having a balanced budget every year at North Dakota State. The Bison were one of the few FCS programs with greater external funding than internal.
Taylor’s philosophy as a manager of the department will be focused on student athletes first. Taylor said he sees his style as using an inverted hierarchy pyramid that puts athletes, coaches and staff at the top and himself at the bottom.
“I’m there to support everyone’s chance to be successful,” he said. “Whether that’s helping them raise money, hiring coaches, putting the budget in the right place — it’s really about how we can make them successful and from there win Big 12 championships.”
In his more than 30 years in athletic management, Taylor said one of his strengths has been connecting with people along the way. A likeable personality has made it easier for him to relate with supporters of the school.
“(I) can get along with a person whether it’s a $100 donor or a $1 million donor and everything in between,” he said. “The staff will find out I care a great deal about them. If you were to ask my coaches and staff, that’s probably one of the things they would highlight.”
Taylor has a five-year contract with K-State. He’ll make $450,000 this year with an increase of $50,000 each year.
Taylor and his family flew into Manhattan on Sunday afternoon to prepare for an official introduction Monday morning. After that, it’ll be time to get to work.
“I’m very fortunate to be here because I have a pretty strong feeling there were some really qualified candidates that came into this opportunity,” Taylor said.