During his nine years as director of athletics at Kansas State, John Currie was able to achieve record-setting fund raising which paved the way for upgraded facilities through renovations and new construction.
Currie, however, was never able to completely connect with some of the Wildcat coaches nor the fan base, an issue that began six years ago when popular basketball coach Frank Martin left K-State for South Carolina.
Currie, with his reputation for fund-raising and running a clean department that avoided trouble with the NCAA, was linked to numerous AD jobs over the years and finally found the one he wanted, returning to his roots at Tennessee.
The new job blew up in his face, being dismissed at Tennessee nine months into his stint after a botched search for a new football coach.
Currie’s sudden departure was the headline story of 2017 at K-State, a year in which the athletic department achieved positive results on the playing fields.
Currie was hired at Tennessee, where he spent 10 years as assistant AD prior to coming to K-State, on Feb. 28.
“He did unbelievable things at Kansas State,” Wildcats basketball coach Bruce Weber, who was hired by Currie to replace Martin, said at the time of Currie’s departure. “In my time here, what he has built here is spectacular. I don’t know if anybody else in the country has done anything like this.
“He’ll be missed, but I guess he felt it was him time to make a move and try another challenge. It’s a hard profession to stay at a place for a long, long time.”
At Tennessee, Currie fired football coach Butch Jones and his offer to hire Ohio State offensive coordinator Greg Schiano as the Volunteers’ coach caused an uproar among fans that — with subsequent failed courtships with other big-name candidates — led to Currie’s dismissal on Dec. 1.
K-State hired Gene Taylor, deputy AD at Iowa and former AD at North Dakota State, on April 14.
“There are a lot of good jobs out there but there’s always the right job and I felt this was the right job for me and who I am as a person and what I believe in philosophically,” Taylor said at his introductory press conference.
Other notable Wildcat events in 2017 included:
— Weber guided the Wildcats to a 21-14 record in the 2016-17 season, returning to the NCAA Tournament after a two-year absence and winning a First Four game over Wake Forest before a first-round loss to Cincinnati. Weber was given a two-year contract extension by Taylor on Aug. 1.
— The women’s basketball team was in the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row and was picked to host the opening-round games at Bramlage Coliseum. The Wildcats beat Drake before losing to No. 6 Stanford to finish with a 23-11 record behind first-team All-Big 12 performers Breanna Lewis and Kindred Wesemann.
— K-State football didn’t have quite the season it was expecting but coach Bill Snyder’s 26th edition of the Wildcats overcame numerous injuries to win five of the final six games, including 35-17 win over UCLA in the Cactus Bowl on Tuesday, to post an 8-5 record. Offensive coordinator Dana Dimel is off to become head coach at UTEP, and now Wildcat fans are anxiously awaiting the annual year-end decision by the 78-year-old Snyder as to whether he returns for another year or retires.
— The top team performance at K-State came in women’s track and field, which won its first Big 12 Outdoor Championship since 2002. Leading the way was freshman Nina Schultz, the meet’s high-point scorer with 25 points as she placed first in the high jump, third in the javelin, fifth in the long jump, seventh in the 100 hurdles and ran a leg on the sixth-place 1,600 relay team.
— On July 13, football player Scott Frantz did an interview with ESPN to reveal he is gay. The sophomore offensive tackle from Lawrence, who has started every game of his two-year career, came out to his teammates during his freshman year in 2016 and let the world know on ESPN. He became the second openly gay player at an FBS program, a story that was a hot topic later in July at Big 12 media day then became a non-story as the season progressed.
— Wildcats made their way on to the next level with their selection in professional sports drafts. Jordan Willis was a third-round pick in the NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals (No. 73 overall) and Elijah Lee was drafted in the seventh round by the Minnesota Vikings (he was released and is now with the San Francisco 49ers). Wesley Iwundu was a second-round selection in the NBA Draft by the Orlando Magic (No. 33 overall) and Breanna Lewis was taken in the second round of the WNBA Draft by the Dallas Wings.