Thursday afternoon was one for the future of Kansas State Athletics.
Gene Taylor, the athletics director, announced two-year contract extensions for sixth-year men’s golf coach Grant Robbins, 18th-year women’s rowing head coach Patrick Sweeney and fourth-year women’s soccer head coach Mike Dibbini.
“All three of these head coaches are tremendous representatives of K-State and have their programs trending upward,” Taylor said in a release. “Coach (Grant) Robbins and the men’s golf team are coming off a terrific year and in good position for another this season, while Coach (Mike) Dibbini and his staff are starting to build some momentum following the opening of Buser Family Park and several solid recruiting classes and Coach (Patrick) Sweeney continues to put together a competitive rowing team each and every year. And even more importantly, all three of these programs are led by head coaches who emphasize success not only in competition, but also in the classroom and being role models in the Manhattan community.”
Robbins is a veteran with two Coach of the Year awards from two separate conferences and has helped the Kansas State golf program rise. 2018-19 was a strong campaign for Robbins, who had Jake Eklund, Jeremy Gandon and Roland Massimino qualify for NCAA regional play. The team also had its lowest stroke average (286.5) and set a team record for rounds of par or better, with 18. Robbins and the Wildcats also had their first tournament title since 2012 at the Mission Inn Spring Spectacular in March.
“I’m extremely grateful to Gene Taylor, (Deputy AD) Jill Shields and (Executive Associate AD) Casey Scott — all of our administration — for their faith in me,” Robbins said. “This program has a lot of momentum right now, we’ve come a long way in the last five years. We still have a ways to go to achieve the goals and vision that I have for this program, but we’ve achieved some momentum and I’m thrilled that I’m able to continue my time here.”
Sweeney is in the midst of one of the longest tenures for a coach at Kansas State, having more than 40 years of combined international and collegiate coaching experience paired with time spent with the British and Belgian Olympic squads.
Sweeney’s rowing team put together a strong 2019 after tragically losing senior coxswain Samantha Scott, who died Oct. 27. The team had a third-place finish among the conference-affiliated schools at the Big 12 Championship, with two boats earning medals. The Wildcats also won a key matchup in the Sunflower Showdown against the Jayhawks 22-0, earned five medals at the SIRA Championships and four more medals at the Sunshine State Invitational during the spring season. The Wildcats were named the 2018 Big 12 Sportspersons of the Year for their response to losing Scott.
Sweeney thanked Taylor and executive associate AD Lindsey Babcock for “their continued investment” in the rowing program.
“The dedication of the coaching staff and of all the support services surrounding the rowing team continue to elevate the student-athlete experience and competitive performance each year,” Sweeney said. “In my time here, I am proud to see how the department has continued to meet the needs of our rowing team and provide our student-athletes with every possible opportunity to grow as both students and young adults. Ultimately, the athletes I have worked with in the past, the present and the future is what makes this job enjoyable. I’m looking forward to more years with this program.”
Dibbini started the soccer program from the ground up, managing the difficulties of building from scratch while facing teams that have been around much longer. In 2017, he led the Wildcats into their first official Big 12 season, and in 2018 the team went on a three-match winning streak to open the season before going 4-12-2.
This season already is notable in one aspect: the Wildcats (0-2-1) debuted at their permanent stadium, Buser Family Park, in a 2-1 loss to Arkansas State on Thursday.
“Despite the challenges of starting a program from scratch, in one of the best conferences in the country, we are feeling optimistic about the direction we are heading,” Dibbini said. “Our administrative leadership are in full support to keep growing it the right way and their loyalty and belief means so much to the program, the staff, and me. I want to thank President (Richard) Myers, Taylor, Jill Shields and Babcock for their support of our soccer program.
“I also want to thank my staff and players for their work in continuing to build our program brick by brick. My family and I are so blessed to be at Kansas State, and a part of this great community. I am honored to have the opportunity to continue being at the helm of this program.”