The 164th Landon Lecture featured questions from audience members to a panel that included ESPN president John Skipper in McCain Auditorium Wednesday night.
The panel also included recently retired University of Texas athletic director Deloss Dodds; Big XII Conference Commissioner Bob Bowlsby; and K-State President Kirk Schulz, who serves as one of 19 members of the NCAA Executive Committee.
Audience members said they liked how open and straightforward the panel seemed.
“I liked hearing how direct they were in answering [the questions],” said Caden Laptad, freshman in applied mathematics and secondary education. “A lot of times I feel like it gets really political, so it was great that there was just the natural, ‘here’s how we feel,’ ‘here’s what we’re thinking.'”
Hunter Harrison, freshman in finance and entrepreneurship, said he appreciated how candid the panelists were, as opposed to other press conferences where the panel might have faced more standard, expected questions.
“I think here, too, they’re not under the public eye as much,” Harrison said. “Obviously through K-State, but it’s not like they’re going to get hammered for what they say.”
Sophomore in finance and accounting Matt Millar also said that the panel’s bluntness and honesty helped make the connection with the speakers more personal.
“If they’re in a press conference, that’s just like they’re showing face to the public,” Millar, said, “whereas this is almost like a teaching experience to them.”
The night started out with introductions of distinguished audience members, including the president and CEO of the Kansas Board of Regents, Andy Tompkins, K-State first lady Noel Schulz and K-State men’s head basketball coach, Bruce Weber, who attended with his wife.
Immediately following introductions came a series of questions determined in advance for the panel. K-State athletic director John Currie facilitated the questions, which included various topics about sports and ESPN’s role in society. Skipper said that ESPN and sports in general plays a unifying role: society doesn’t listen to the same music any more, and politics has become so polarizing that it is hard to talk about.
“There is this sort of real fragmentation of our culture,” Skipper said. “One of the few things people can talk about together is sports.”
Other topics included revenue sharing between athletic conferences and the potential for a college revenue system in which athletes are paid monetarily rather than in scholarships.
K-State student body president Eli Schooley said he thought the lecture was among the coolest he had seen, particularly because it was a topic so many students had interest in. Schooley also said he thought the panel spoke about a lot of the most-discussed topics in society.
“I think they not only addressed a lot of the student concerns as well as audience concerns, they also addressed a number of the really hot topics that are being discussed across the nation as they relate to NCAA athletics right now,” Schooley said. “So I think it was timely, I think it was relevant and I think that we all learned a thing or two about leadership in the process of getting to see some great leaders in action.”