Kansas State University introduced their new Director of Athletics on Monday.
University President Richard B. Myers
“What a great day for Kansas State University, for the K-State family and for the Taylor family. We are just delighted that we are able to introduce Gene Taylor to everyone today. His wife Cathy is here with us along with their two children, wearing the appropriate colors. We appreciate that, thank you. They have been here less than 24 hours and they are already part of the family. First, I have to thank Amy Button Renz and the search committee for the work that they did. We had a large pool of applicants and then narrowed that down to some finalists. They were from across the nation. We had a very diverse pool and we could not be happier with the number of folks that we had apply and could not be happier with the work that Amy, our president of the Alumni Association, and her committee did to narrow the field down. We finally selected Gene Taylor.
“One of the reasons we had such a diverse pool is because the state of K-State Athletics is solid. We are on solid financial footing. We have competitive teams. We have great facilities. So, we have to tip our hat to John Currie, our departing athletic director, who was here when a lot of these improvements were made. So, thank you John. We also have to thank Laird Veatch, who then stepped into the breach as the interim athletic director and got us through the end of our basketball season, the NCAA Tournament, the start of baseball and so many other things that Laird had to do day-in and day-out. We thank you and your family for your commitment and all the great work that you have done here and hopefully continue to do here at Kansas State University.
“Gene, of course, spent a lot of time at North Dakota State University. He was the athletic director through several football championships and took North Dakota State from Division II to Division I, and I can only imagine how difficult that would be. He is not a Kansan, not a K-Stater, but you do not have to be. What you have to be is a good fit with our family. I think Gene Taylor and his family are a great fit. In all of the interviews we did, the impression I got is that he is going to fit in and start from day one and then build relationships with old folks that he has to work with, and work for him, and our coaches. This is about ‘fit’ in the end. We are so happy that Gene accepted our offer and that his family is here today showing their support, not just for him, but for our university. We thank you all very, very much for that.”
Athletics Director Gene Taylor
“Wow, thank you for being here. This is very exciting. This is a dream come true. I had goals when I first started in this business and the opportunity to be a Power 5 institution as the director of athletics is one of them. To be able to be at a place like Kansas State is very special. I have done my research on this place for a long time. One of the first times I wanted to be a part of K-State was at North Dakota State. Early on in my career, we came here with our basketball team. I was very impressed at that point. Then, we came back in 2013 and I saw the changes and the transformations with this campus and with the athletics program. I told myself at that point, that if John Currie were to ever leave, I was going to do everything I can to put myself in a position to get this opportunity.
“I am very excited to be here. I want to echo a lot of the thank yous that President (Richard) Myers just talked about. I want to thank you, President Myers, for having the confidence in me to lead this outstanding athletics program. I am very honored. Amy Button Renz, you and your committee has done a phenomenal job with your research. It was the most efficient and the most thorough search. I appreciate you very much and all your support. Thank you guys for being here as well. Laird (Veatch) again, your leadership is outstanding. I will tell you Laird, the number of people who called me and talked about you at such a high level was amazing. I cannot wait to get to work with you. What you have done as the interim I know cannot be easy. But the fact that you are sitting here is a sign that we are going to make a great team. I really thank you for your leadership during this time. To the K-State staff in the room, I know a transition is not easy and the fact that you are sitting here today is awesome. I appreciate everything you have done in support of Laird during this process and during the interim process. I can hardly wait to get to meet every one of you. I plan to do that early on in the process.
“I am really excited to be here. This is a phenomenal institution with a phenomenal athletics program and proud tradition. The fact that I have been selected as the next athletic director really means a lot. I understand what it means to stand in front of you to be your director of athletics. I understand the expectations. I understand what you guys expect out of your leader. I will certainly do everything I can to uphold your values and the values of this institution and the values of this athletics program. You are here to win Big 12 Championships. You are here to qualify for NCAA Championships. I am going to do everything I can to support that. We as a team are going to do everything we can to support that. I can hardly wait to get started.”
On pursuing this job…
“I was not pursuing this early on. But, I will say, I sent something in when John Currie was hired the first time. I was not quite ready. There was still a lot of stuff to do at North Dakota State. But when it came up again, I pursed it. I sent my resume in. That is why I talk about the process. The efficiency of the process happened very well.”
On leaving North Dakota State for Iowa…
“At North Dakota State, I had the same aspirations, which was to be a Power 5 athletic director. As opportunities came up I really was not getting the chances to sit at the table and interview for those. Gary Barta at Iowa was looking to create a position because of some senior staff. He had a lot of senior staff that just recently retired. He wanted to create something, so he said, ‘Gene, have you ever thought about being a deputy?’ I had a good friend of mine who was in the business who asked me, ‘Gene, what are you doing for yourself to put yourself in an uncomfortable positon to make yourself better, to give you the opportunity to interview for those types of jobs?’ I looked at Iowa and the opportunity to be at a Power 5 institution, a Big Ten institution with budgets that are very different at the FCS level. That experience was something I was looking for. Gary gave me a lot of responsibility, which allowed me have the opportunity to interview for the positon and ultimately achieve the goal.”
On impressions of K-State facilities…
“The only time I have been here for the athletic events were the basketball game and the football game. When you come in you do not get a lot of chances to tour and look around. Obviously, I spent most of my time the first time in Bramlage. The second time we came, I could see the transformation of the football facilities in particular. But the passion of the fan base that sits up in Bill Snyder Family Stadium was unbelievable. I could just sense a different feel for some reason, which was something I had not really experienced the first time around. I have a lot of respect for John Currie and what he did and what his staff has done collectively, from this department to the buildings. There were a lot of good jobs out there. But there is always the right job. For me, I felt this was the right job for me and who I am as a person and what I believe philosophically and that is why I am excited for this opportunity.”
On relationships with student-athletes and coaches…
“I think it is just being approachable. I try to go to as many practices as I can. I go to events and games. I welcome student-athletes to come see me and get a chance to know me. It really goes beyond just them as an athlete. I spend a lot of time talking to them about careers and opportunities. A lot of times athletes are interested in sports administration or coaching, and over the years, you get to be around them and get to know them and you feel comfortable. I ask them not to call me Mr. Taylor but to call me Gene. As time went on at North Dakota State and we became a family, we had student-athletes come in and Casey (Taylor) was working in the athletics department. You eventually get to know them as individuals and you get to be around them and you get comfortable with them. I am really open. I am approachable. I really enjoy learning about them, what their goals are and what they want to do. To this day, I have long-lasting relationships built with them. My phone was blowing up with former athletes from North Dakota State who were congratulating me and athletes from the Naval Academy that were congratulating me. I value that and I enjoy it.
“The greatest thrill I have as an athletic director is to watch our young people prepare and work extremely hard when you go out on those fields of competition and have success. Even when they do not have success, just to be there for them if they have had a rough game or a serious injury. To me, that is what our role is as athletic administrators and coaches. It is the same with the coaches. They need to know they can trust me. They need to know that I am going to have their back. I am fine with a coach coming into my office and shutting the door and getting their frustrations out. Let us have that conversation. But at the end of the day, we are going to work it out together. They are going to understand that at the end of the conversation or meeting, I am there to help them be successful. They are going to understand that.”