OPINION: John Currie — the good, the bad and the ugly

John Currie looks up at the scoreboard during the second half of the game against Texas Tech on Nov. 14, 2015, at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. (File Photo by Rodney Dimick | The Collegian)

The good, the bad and the ugly.

It’s a western movie starring Clint Eastwood and featuring an iconic song.

It also describes John Currie’s time as athletic director at Kansas State. Currie came to K-State in 2009, and he left Tuesday for Tennessee.

The good

Making money is not a bad thing. Even for a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation like K-State Athletics, revenue must exceed expenses.

Audited financial statements from June 30, 2016, show K-State Athletics’ revenue was $85.7 million and expenses were $75.7 million. A $10 million net revenue shows Currie knows how to balance a budget, which is something politicians in Topeka, Kansas, and Washington, D.C., haven’t figured out.

(Yes, I intentionally compared Currie to politicians. He was one of the most powerful people at K-State. He became the first athletic director to sit on a presidential search committee. And I think he enjoyed his power.)

The fact that Currie made Athletics profitable without any tax money whatsoever is even more impressive. Only a handful of university athletic departments across the country receive no tax dollars, and K-State’s is one of them.

Half a million dollars does come from student fees, but that number will decrease to $200,000 over the next three years, based on an October 2015 arrangement between Athletics and the Student Governing Association. The money is spent exclusively on student-employee wages.

Along with his wise stewardship of money, Currie made financial transparency a priority. K-State Athletics makes more financial information available in a more user-friendly way than any other athletic department in the Big 12 Conference.

Adding a women’s soccer team was a good move, but as you will read later, the good of adding women’s soccer came only at the cost of the bad.

The bad

Remember equestrian? The sport with horses at a university known for its agricultural roots, in which K-State was consistently ranked in the top 10? Women’s soccer replaced it.

The passionate emotions surrounding the issue were directed at Currie, much of it for his lack of communication.

Cutting equestrian came after the NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics recommended universities re-examine the sport due to a shortage of sponsorships for equestrian at all three levels of NCAA competition.

The NCAA considered dropping equestrian as a sponsored sport, which would have forced K-State to replace equestrian. By the time the NCAA announced it would keep equestrian, K-State had already decided to replace it with women’s soccer.

Once the NCAA kept equestrian, K-State could have, too. Because of NCAA bylaws and Title IX requirement, K-State must have a minimum of 16 varsity sports and an equal number of male and female ones. Keeping equestrian while adding women’s soccer would have meant K-State had to add a men’s sport.

Men’s soccer would have fit perfectly. In a conversation with Collegian staff, I once asked Currie why he didn’t keep equestrian and add men’s and women’s soccer. He said the base yearly cost of an additional sport is $1-2 million. Equestrian’s is much higher. There is also the startup cost for a new program.

But, as we established already, K-State’s profit could easily absorb that cost.

The firing of Deb Patterson in 2014 after an 11-19 season upset many K-State fans. She was the all-time winningest coach in K-State women’s basketball history during her 18 seasons. Fortunately, Jeff Mittie has worked out well.

The even blacker mark from Patterson’s firing was K-State’s refusal to allow women’s basketball player Leticia Romero to transfer.

Romero, who was from Spain, was recruited by Patterson. After Patterson was fired, Romero wanted to transfer. K-State rightfully earned negative national attention when they allowed former K-State football player Daniel Sams to transfer, but not Romero.

The ugly

Sportsmanship. It’s a word K-State fans don’t know, or that’s what you would think if you paid attention to the actions of K-State Athletics under Currie.

There was the court-storming. You remember, the one where Nathan Power chicken-winged KU forward Jamari Traylor?

After that, K-State students had to sign a “sportsmanship pledge.”

We are neither the first nor the last student body to storm a basketball court. Iowa State’s students broke a reporter’s leg when they stormed the court, but somehow the chicken wing is the one everyone remembers.

On Oct. 10, 2015, K-State football was tied 45-45 with No. 2 TCU. The security trotted out. I remember the wall of security coinciding with a significantly quieter student section, followed by a successful drive by TCU.

Trevone Boykin threw the winning touchdown with 37 seconds left, and I blame the security-obsessed K-State Athletics for quieting the student section at the most crucial time of the game.

Earlier that fall was one of my most memorable halftime shows as a member of the Pride of Wildcat Land. My spot was in the neck of a Jayhawk. The Starship Enterprise was also on the field as we played music from “Star Trek.”

The formation was a little off, and someone pointed out the appearance of a phallic shape in the Enterprise.

An unnecessary apology and self-imposed fine was issued, not for the appearance of a phallus, but for displaying another team’s mascot on the field. Apparently, that’s not allowed.

The Ohio State Best Damn Band in the Land regularly does so against rival Michigan. I didn’t see OSU issue an apology when a OSU “ship” sank a Michigan “ship” during a show featuring music from “Pirates of the Caribbean.” OSU also implied in a show that Michigan was the Wicked Witch of the West in a “Wizard of Oz” show.

Somebody should also send a memo to the Stanford band on what is and is not sportsmanlike.

A certain derogatory chant aimed at KU has been called unsportsmanlike. I agree, but the response by Currie and other K-State administrators has never made sense. Banning “Sandstorm,” for instance, forced the chant to move to other songs, like “Wabash Cannonball.”

Telling K-State fans they are unsportsmanlike for doing the same things college sports fans across the country do is part of the reason why basketball attendance is so low.

The other reason is we can’t seem to win a game.

The solution to that problem was obvious last spring when Brad Underwood was available. That’s the last of “the ugly” under Currie. The only thing making it uglier was that Currie ran off to escape the problem he created. He won’t be missed.

Jason Tidd graduated from Kansas State University's Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communication in May 2017. He was the spring 2017 editor-in-chief, fall 2016 news editor and spring 2016 assistant news editor. While at K-State, Jason played baritone in the Pride of Wildcat Land marching band.