Since John Currie's introduction as director of athletics on May 18, 2009, K-State's intercollegiate program has experienced a tremendous turn-around and enjoyed an unprecedented combination of athletic, academic and administrative accomplishments and national attention. With the vision of K-State president Kirk Schulz, the re-earned trust of Wildcat fans nation-wide and the efforts of K-State's outstanding coaching staff, Currie's rebuilt senior leadership team has turned an inherited deficit into national acclaim as the NCAA's most financially solvent program, initiated $100 million in comprehensive athletic facility improvements and launched the nation's No. 1 premium digital network all while navigating the tumultuous waters of conference realignment and helping the Big 12 emerge ready for a new era of excellence.
Athletically Currie's tenure has been marked by across the board success which included a Big 12 football championship and BCS bowl berth and NCAA Championship appearance in volleyball in Fall 2012. Last year, K-State advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 in volleyball, finished No. 8 in the final BCS football rankings, earned an AT&T Cotton Bowl berth and went on to become the lone Big 12 school and one of only five in the nation to advance to a bowl and win games in the NCAA volleyball, men's basketball and women's basketball tournaments, while high jumper Erik Kynard won his second straight NCAA Outdoor Championship and qualified for the London Olympic games. The 2010-11 athletics year saw a record-number of teams advance to the NCAA postseason as the football team appeared in a bowl game, both basketball and baseball teams made the NCAA Tournament and both track and field teams finish in the Top 20, while piling up a 13-1 head-to-head record against in-state rival KU. Individually the Wildcats sported two NCAA championships in track & field, and women's tennis sensation Petra Niedermayerova was both Big 12 Player and Freshman of the Year.
From implementing a new communications plan the day he was introduced as K-State's 15th Athletics Director, to consistently emphasizing the importance of transparency and accountability as well as the student-athlete and fan experience, Currie has laid a solid foundation for K-State achieving its vision of a model intercollegiate athletics program.
K-State's fundraising efforts have been completely overhauled in Currie's tenure with a new emphasis on personal interaction and communication for Ahearn Fund donors of all levels. K-State supporters immediately responded by increasing gifts more than 50 percent versus the previous year, while fiscal year 2012's 25.8 million total means that cash giving has doubled since Currie's arrival in 2009.
K-State donors have stepped up with 11 private gifts in excess of $1 million since fall 2009, enabling the department to begin construction in 2011 on the $18 million Basketball Training Facility and building momentum towards the department's new comprehensive facility improvement benefitting all 444 Wildcat student-athletes. On April 28, 2012, ground was broken for Phase II of the Bill Snyder Family Stadium master plan thanks to a national effort that has included a $5 million gift, the largest in the history of the department. An essential step in advancing K-State's competitive future, the $75 million West Stadium Center will feature the traditional limestone of K-State's beautiful and historic campus and new amenities for all Wildcat fans including improved ADA access, 200% more general restroom and concession facilities as well as new revenue generating premium seat capacity. A key element of the facility will be a long desired training table to serve the nutritional needs of all K-State teams.
Providing K-State student-athletes a world-class experience is a priority as Currie's staff initiated new events such as the Powercat Choice Awards to showcase K-State's student-athletes and a special graduation reception and ring ceremony to honor their accomplishments on the field and in the classroom. K-State has claimed the Big 12's No. 1 graduation rate among all student-athletes in four of the last six years, while all Wildcat programs are also above the recently increased NCAA .930 APR standard.
Fiscal integrity is another key pillar of the K-State Pledge. Despite inheriting a $2 million projected budget deficit on arrival in June 2009, Currie's staff instead achieved a first-year surplus of $5 million, thanks to new measures promoting efficiency and cost containment, coupled with tremendous fundraising success. In May of 2011 USA Today recognized K-State as one of just 22 athletic departments in the nation to operate in a surplus in 2009-10 and one of only five to do so while decreasing expenses from the previous year. And, in May of 2012, ESPN.com recognized K-State's FY 2011 final budget margin as the nation's leader, ahead of traditional stalwarts Texas, Florida and Michigan.
Currie has negotiated and implemented new contracts for legendary football coach Bill Snyder, 2009 Big 12 Baseball Coach of the Year Brad Hill, K-State's all-time women's basketball and volleyball wins leaders Deb Patterson and Suzie Fritz, respectively, internationally renowned track and field coach Cliff Rovelto, and rowing coach Pat Sweeney, who is a six-time Olympian. On March 31, 2012, Currie brought another coach of nationally respected integrity and ability to K-State, introducing 300-game winner Bruce Weber as the Wildcats' 24th head men's basketball coach.
Currie's award-winning Fan Experience staff has created new ticket initiatives that have led to the two largest home-opening football crowds in school history and 14 sellout crowds at Bill Snyder Family Stadium under his tenure that rank among the school's Top 20. The Wildcats have also set new season total and average attendance records in baseball, sold a record number of season tickets for volleyball and had the largest average attendance increase in the nation in men's basketball while ranking in the top 25 the past two seasons in women's basketball attendance.
In an effort to support President Kirk Schulz's visionary K-State 2025 plan to move the University into the ranks of the top 50 public research institutions, the department has implemented a gradual phase-out of direct university funding as a source of revenue, enabling K-State to redirect those funds towards critical academic needs.
In August 2011, K-State capitalized on the Big 12's unique retained rights opportunities when it launched an exclusive, high-definition digital television network known as K-StateHD.TV, ensuring that all Wildcat volleyball, baseball, men's and women's basketball home contests are produced and distributed in HD format. The network provides a world-wide connection for K-State fans and alumni and has established the university as an international leader in programming, accessibility and exposure. In fact, K-State took over the No. 1 spot in total subscriptions across the CBS College Sports network, K-State's online network provider, and remains No. 1 almost one year later.
Currie received a signal national honor as one of only two intercollegiate athletics directors named to SportsBusiness Journal's 2011 prestigious Forty Under 40 list of national sports leaders. He was a featured AD panelist at the 2011 SportsBusiness Journal Intercollegiate Athletics Conference in New York and has served as a faculty member of the Division I-A Athletic Director's Institute. Currently a member of the NCAA Division I Administrative Cabinet and the Fiesta Bowl Board of Directors, Currie also serves the Big 12 as a member of the Game Management/Officiating Subcommittee as well as the Championship and Awards committee. Previously he served as president of the SEC development officers and chaired the 2007 CASE national athletic development conference. Currie earned his master's in sports management from Tennessee in 2003 and is a 1993 Wake Forest graduate.