Well… Folks are pissed.
I realize starting off a column that way isn’t very “professional writer” of me, but sometimes you have to lay the facts out bare and simple and well, folks are pissed.
Former K-State player and assistant Brad Underwood is off to Stillwater, Oklahoma, to take the helm at Oklahoma State. #BringBackBrad failed in a painfully predictable way as K-State fans young and old saw the chances of their native son returning his alma mater back to national prominence fade away like a child crying and staring out the back windshield as Disney World fades from sight as their parents drive home.
Except, odds are, that child will have the chance to return to Disney World while K-State fans will most likely never, ever, ever see Underwood back in Bramlage Coliseum wearing purple.
In a world where money is considered both speech and power, the average, everyday K-State fans will get as much done yelling at a wall as they will tweeting their frustrations.
A brief aside: I join almost every K-State fan who I’ve seen sound off on Twitter since the announcement in wishing Underwood the best as the head coach of the Cowboys. It was because of teams he helped coach that I fell in love with basketball and became deeper entwined with my K-State fandom. I owe him (along with Frank Martin, Bob Huggins and the other members of their staffs) a debt because who knows if I would be doing what I am now without experiences of watching the tenacity of those K-State teams from 2006 to 2011.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, boy, oh boy does this make things interesting for the top brass at K-State. The kraken of discontent is about to be fully unleashed. A storm is coming.
You wouldn’t know it, though. Yes, thumb twiddling season is in full effect at K-State. Athletics Director John Currie has received a large amount of feedback since the end of basketball season. His response: a press release about skipping postseason play and stats to hopefully satiate the weary and worn K-State fan. Surprisingly that didn’t work.
People don’t enjoy being ignored. I think disagreeing is one thing, but ignoring the anger and frustration that a fairly vocal majority has placed in the past week doesn’t sit well. The message that it sends is not one of “family,” something any K-State fan has had drilled in their head for quite some time now.
The message it does send is this: If you are just a fan, or a large collection of fans, your voice is just not expensive or important enough to be listened to. In a world where money is considered both speech and power, the average, everyday K-State fans will get as much done yelling at a wall as they will tweeting their frustrations.
And it’s not just about the Underwood thing. That is the most recent and brazen look at the issue. The disconnect has been long documented. The administration is out of touch with their patrons. It’s their way or Bill Snyder Highway.
That’s not how public universities or public anything works.
We’re not banging our heads against the wall and throwing some kind of tantrum because we’re not getting exactly what we want. We’re doing it because we’d like to be heard. We’d like to believe that the people who get the money from season tickets, concessions, merchandise and other purple and white paraphernalia actually care about what we think.
But since Currie and K-State President Kirk Schulz took the reigns, more and more it seems like they’re the guy mom married after the divorce who’s trying to ship fans off to military school.
They’re Alec Baldwin in Cat in the Hat. If you haven’t seen it, don’t; it’s not worth getting the joke.
The fans want respect, and right now, every move the administration makes slowly but surely eliminates all respect for them.
Do you know why Bill Snyder is so beloved? Among countless other things, he openly respects and cares about the fans. He knows how important they are to his process. He loves them.
When Snyder calls K-State fans family, it’s because he truly and deeply means it. I don’t get the same vibe from Currie and Schulz. Sure, they sound like they mean it, but their actions show that it is lip service and resume building through and through. No ifs, ands or buts about it.
I don’t know what the next basketball season will bring. Winning makes everything better and if Bruce Weber and his staff can get back on track, you’ll get no complaints from me. But even if things do get better, the administration’s behavior has left a permanent mark on the trust and confidence of K-State fans.
Families are built on trust. Between K-State and its fans, there is no trust, thus, at least for now, there is no family.
We can only hope that time can mend that. I’d hate to lose the very essence of what makes K-State and Wildcat fans special. I’d hate to lose my family.