For more on Tennessee’s new athletic director, we checked in with Bring On The Cats, SB Nation’s Kansas State blog. Our thanks to Jon Morse, the blog’s managing editor, for answering our questions:
Describe the landscape John Currie walked into at Kansas State in 2009.
K-State was in a bit of turmoil when Currie arrived. Bob Krause had just been fired after only 11 months over the mini-scandal of offering Ron Prince a secret contract extension with an increased buyout just months before Prince was fired. Krause, in turn, had replaced Tim Weiser, who had left to join the Big 12 office partially to dodge the question of Prince's future.
All of this was part of the tumultuous end of Jon Wefald's 23-year tenure as K-State's president. Those last years were a chaotic mess, although they did see the arrival of Bob Huggins and Frank Martin at Bramlage (Coliseum). Currie's primary task, with Martin and Bill Snyder already in place, was to restore order and responsibility to the department. In that, he was a success.
What were Currie's most significant accomplishments during his time in Manhattan?
The most obvious was the makeover of Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Over a period of four years, several hundred million dollars -- every penny of which came from donors -- were put to work rebuilding the entire west side of the stadium including the press box, a complete overhaul of the locker room and football offices, and finally, just last year, closing the bowl by adding north end zone seating.
However, Currie also oversaw the construction of a state-of-the-art rowing facility (hi, conference-mates!), renovations to the baseball and tennis stadiums and some minor work on Bramlage, and the construction of a purpose-built soccer stadium to house the brand-new women's soccer team which began play in fall 2016.
And he did all this while keeping the budget seven figures in the black.
What did you perceive to be his greatest weaknesses?
Although he's great with people he wants money from, he never seemed to connect with the fanbase at all, and has openly antagonized the fanbase by banning Sandstorm and allowing the Big 12's sportsmanship committee to walk all over K-State. The infamous Starship Enterprise apology looms large here.
(Editor’s note: In case you forgot...)
We apologize for anyone offended by our halftime performance depicting the starship enterprise and the Jayhawk mascot.— KState Marching Band (@KStatePride) September 6, 2015
He tends to make decisions perhaps too quickly, zeroing in on what he wants. The Bruce Weber story is well-known, but he also had stolen women's basketball coach Jeff Mittie from TCU almost before Deb Patterson's belongings were boxed up.
That hire, of course, has worked out pretty well. But Patterson's firing wasn't handled well (and cost K-State the services of some former Wildcat legends in the process). His handling of the Leticia Romeo transfer in the wake of that firing was ham-handed and widely criticized, as well, as was his termination of K-State's equestrian team (although that did directly result in soccer coming to Manhattan).
Currie is also a rabid believer in compliance, sometimes too much so. He ordered the suspension of Jamar Samuels from the NCAA Tournament in 2012 after Samuels received a $200 wire transfer, even though the source of that transfer turned out to be legitimate.
His biggest weakness, however, is a refusal to admit a mistake's been made. See Bruce Weber.
What happened at the end of Frank Martin's tenure in 2012?
Alluded to above. Beginning with a previous suspension of Jacob Pollen and Curtis Kelly over a discount at Dillard's, Currie and Martin were at loggerheads. The Samuels suspension was widely seen as the last straw, but the writing had been on the wall for awhile.
With Bill Snyder such an important figure at Kansas State, how influential did you perceive Currie to be in the football program?
This is all hearsay, but rumor is that Currie and Snyder weren't ever great buddies either. Currie reportedly had zero patience for Snyder's desire to pass the job to his own son, and honestly had Currie left for almost anywhere other than Tennessee we'd assume he'd finally lost that battle.
The one resume item Currie never got to complete in Manhattan was hiring a head football coach. Thing is, he may never have truly had that chance anyway, a state of affairs which may answer your question all on its own.
Any other thoughts to share on Tennessee's new athletic director?
Currie will, in time, be remembered as a decent AD by Wildcat fans. His contributions to fundraising and facilities, bringing soccer to the school, and being the AD when K-State swept all three major Big 12 men's sport championships -- a feat only four schools have pulled off in the last 25 years -- will ensure that. But he also alienated a great many people, the Bruce Weber albatross will probably never come off his shoulders, and yesterday in the moment K-State fans were elated that he's leaving.
Were I a Vol, however, my greatest concern would be this: Currie's strength is not a strength Tennessee NEEDS; he hauled in big-boy money from a fanbase which is geographically limited (which, to be fair, is also a testament to the fanbase), but he won't have to wring blood from a stone in Knoxville. Which means the thing Tennessee needs him for the most is managing coaches, and that's something he at best hasn't proven he can do and at worst has sort of shown he can't.
If y'all really want to get rid of Butch, though, at least you just got a guy who's probably itching to finally hire a football coach on his own, so there's that.
Good luck, and I hope he doesn't zero in on Houston Nutt or something...