Big 12: Jon Wefald

A lesson on the history of the Big 12

September, 22, 2011
9/22/11
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Outstanding story from Cole Manbeck at the Manhattan Mercury here, looking back at the history of the Big 12, as told by former Kansas State University president Jon Wefald.

You should read the full thing for all the insight from Wefald, but if you're a little fuzzy on the details of the Big 12's creation, a merger of the Big Eight and half of the Southwest Conference, here's a rundown of the details.

In 1990, Arkansas announced its departure from the league and joined the SEC. Penn State joined the Big Ten after being independent.
"The dominoes are real shaky in 1990," Wefald said, reflecting back on that time period. "The dominoes were falling and I was concerned about the future of the Big Eight. It's very similar to July of 2010, and now late summer, early fall of 2011."

The Big Eight saw a chance that the future could hold instability or have the league end up in poor position moving forward. The answer? Get aggressive.

"What I was worried about was Texas would join the Pac-10 in 1990, kind of like the same thing we found last year and now," Wefald told the paper. "They'd be leaving the Southwest Conference and that would be a powerful force to maybe trigger Oklahoma into joining the Southeast Conference."

The hope was a full merger with the Southwest Conference and a 16-team league.

Later in 1990, most of the presidents of the 16 schools met in Kansas City, where they were, coincidentally, meeting for another event.
A partnership between the two leagues was discussed, but University of Texas president Bill Cunningham shut down the talks relatively quickly.

"We were talking about the merger," Wefald recalled. "After about a half-hour or 45 minutes, Bill Cunningham said 'we're not interested.' They were the only one to say that.

The Big Eight let it stand for a couple years, before approaching Texas and the rest of the Southwest Conference again.

Bob Berdahl took over as the university's president in 1993, when Cunningham became chancellor of the 15 institutions in Texas.

This time, 15 of the 16 schools met again, with only Rice not taking part.

The meeting lasted two hours. Early on, they asked who would be in interested in a merger.
"We're going around the room and it's one after the other 'I, I, I, I,' and ironically the last school was the University of Texas."

Fitting that it would once again come down to Texas. There sat new president Bob Berdahl, pondering the decision.

"The 14 schools said let's do it and we got to the University of Texas and Berdahl said 'I've got to think about this, I've gotta take it to our board of regents.' I just said to myself in my mind, 'oh darn-it, it's not going to happen.' That's just how influential the University of Texas is."

No one wanted the merger in limbo long, so within weeks, they scheduled a conference call.
Fifteen minutes into that call, Wefald spoke up.

"I just said 'what do you guys in the Southwest Conference want to do?" he asked.

The first person to chime in: Bob Berdahl, the president of Texas.

"He said 'we've decided you should invite four schools: Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor and Texas Tech," Wefald recalled.

There's more great stuff about the divides between Nebraska and the rest of the league, dating back to the issue of partial qualifiers, which the Mercury clarifies.

Texas got its way and Nebraska, which used 20-25 of them, had to deal with that number being trimmed significantly.

It also looks into the issue of unequal revenue sharing and how it came to be, when the SEC and Big Ten were sharing equally at the time.

The old Pac-10 distributed revenue unequally, but the new Pac-12 has adopted equal revenue sharing.

Seriously, go check it out. It's been a couple decades. I can promise you, you'll learn something.

The Big 12 seems to be immune to death these days, but now is as good of a time as ever to look back on its birth.

Big 12 lunch links: Dave Campbell's magazine still strong at 50

June, 22, 2009
6/22/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Happy Monday.

Teams are doing their spring conditioning drills, even as many coaches are vacationing for the next couple of weeks.

But that doesn't mean we don't have links around here.

Here's a bountiful helping to go with your lunch.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Welcome back to the work week after the long Memorial Day weekend.

Here are some Big 12 links to get you through the malaise.

Big 12 lunch links: Clemons headed to Colorado

May, 21, 2009
5/21/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Today is a reminder of rebirth and renewal.

Lawrence, Kan., was burned to the ground by pro-slavery forces 153 years ago today on May 21, 1856.

On that date, a pro-slavery posse led by Sheriff Samuel J. Jones burned the Free-State Hotel, destroyed the printing equipment of two anti-slavery newspapers and also looted several businesses in what has come to be known as the sacking of Lawrence. One man was killed in the ransacking of the city when he was struck dead by a stone falling from the burning hotel.

From those horrific events, one of America's most beautiful college towns has emerged.

I always think of the story of "Bleeding Kansas" every time I visit Lawrence. It puts all my thoughts about athletics into perspective.

Today, we have a large collection of Big 12 links for your reading pleasure.

Fallout from KSU contract snafu tarnishes Wefald's legacy

May, 20, 2009
5/20/09
7:18
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

It wasn't good news Wednesday for Kansas State or its outgoing president Jon Wefald, who only has a few weeks left before his retirement on June 30.

Several school officials including Wefald admitted they originally weren't in the loop for the negotiation of a $3.2 million in contract payments to former football coach Ron Prince into a company called In Pursuit of Perfection, LLC. The agreement was signed without the knowledge of anyone else in Kansas State's administration, according to Wefald.   

If determined to be valid, K-State's athletic corporation would have to make the payments to In Pursuit of Perfection between 2015 and 2020.

Whether the school pays its former coach will be determined in the court room. It's an unseemly place for this scenario to play out.

KSU can afford to pay the settlement. While the Wildcats' athletic department doesn't have the deep pockets of Big 12 rivals like Texas or Oklahoma or even Kansas, it can still scrape the money together to pay the terms of the contract to Prince.

It will make the rebuilding job of Bill Snyder that much harder as he tries to return the Wildcats to the high national standing where the program was back in 2003. Then, it was at the apex of so-called "Miracle in Manhattan" that culminated with the Wildcats' 2003 Big 12 championship.

But since that triumph, the Wildcats have made only one bowl appearance and haven't come close to sniffing a Big 12 football championship.

It also makes it that much tougher for new KSU athletic director John Currie, who will be charged with raising funds with public knowledge prevalent that the school apparently has squandered millions in a secret deal with an old coach.

The biggest loser in this mess appears to be Wefald, who had cultivated an extensive list of accomplishments during his 22-year tenure at the school.

KSU saw enrollment increase, private-giving swell to nearly $100 million and the school became a first-rate institute that ranked first nationally in the number of Rhodes, Marshall, Truman, Goldwater and Udall scholarship winners who were attracted when Wefald was its president.

As Wefald said Wednesday, he accepts all of the blame for the contract extension for Prince. It came from hiring Krause, a personal friend of Wefald who had no previous athletic administration experience before he was hired.

Today, Krause is blamed for signing off on a contract extension without informing Wefald.

It was an announcement that could end up costing the school millions of dollars and leaves it with a rather prominent stigma that will remain one of Wefald's legacies as he leaves his job.

Snyder charged by another KSU renewal project

April, 30, 2009
4/30/09
10:10
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

MANHATTAN, Kan. -- The game-clad figure in purple and white jumps out from the billboards along the Kansas prairie, standing apart from the notices for truck stops, ice cream parlors and outlet malls.

The image of Kansas State coach Bill Snyder can be found at several locations along Interstate 70, pointing across expanses of the Sunflower State as he seemingly implores motorists to get out of their cars to hurry into game action.

 
  John Rieger/US Presswire
  Bill Snyder knows he has his work cut out for him at Kansas State.

While Snyder says he's uncomfortable with becoming such a front-and-center symbol of the school's intended resurgence, it's understandable why he has become spotlighted so much since his return.

"I'm not a big fan of that," Snyder said. "This is about a program and not Bill Snyder. But maybe I'm in a position where I can help smooth the waters. I'd like to think I could do it without my face being all over billboards. It's not appropriate, because it's never been about Bill Snyder. I'm just a part of it."

On the school's Web site, Snyder's return has been given a prominent constant presence. An advertisement for season tickets harkens that "the Hall of Fame can wait" and "the tradition continues" with Snyder's return to bring the Wildcat program back from its recent doldrums.

As fans and players exit Interstate 70 and head to Manhattan, they turn onto the Bill Snyder Highway. And when they arrive in Manhattan the focal point of the campus is where the Wildcats play their games -- the Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

But even with that exalted status after his legendary career, Snyder was restless during retirement. Those concerns led him to return to coaching after a three-year sabbatical, eager to resume coaching with another challenging rebuilding job facing him.

It won't be easy. When asked about where the Wildcat program is and where he wants it to eventually be, Snyder has a succinct answer.

"I can't see there from here." Snyder said. "It's a long ways from where I would like it to be."

(Read full post)

Big 12 lunch links: Forty Nebraska walk-ons begin work

January, 30, 2009
1/30/09
1:16
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here are some links to send you hurtling into the Super Weekend -- just like the Nebraska walk-on candidates are doing.

  • About 40 Nebraska students showed up before daybreak on Thursday to chase their dreams as walk-on players for the Cornhuskers, Lincoln Journal Star reporter Brian Christopherson writes.
  • Is coffee only for the closers? If so, Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford might deserve exalted status not just for his play on the field but also for his ability to recruit standout wide receivers, Tulsa World columnist Dave Sittler writes.
  • Former Texas players Rashad Bobino, Henry Melton and Chris Ogbonnaya are still smarting from their BCS title game snub, the El Paso Times' Bret Bloomquist writes. All are in El Paso this week for Saturday's Texas vs. the Nation All-Star Game.
  • The Tulsa World's Guerin Emig wonders where's the angst among Oklahoma fans after the Sooners' BCS title game loss to Florida?
  • Georgia-Oklahoma State and Oklahoma-Miami make John Walters' list of 2009's five most intriguing nonconference games.
  • Topeka Capital-Journal beat writer Austin Meek suggests a thorough examination of Kansas State president Jon Wefald's tenure. While some of his recent athletic decisions have been blasted, Meek still remembers Wefald's passion as a guest lecturer in his freshman history class.

Big 12 links: New KSU president can help find athletic director

January, 28, 2009
1/28/09
1:32
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Some interesting topics popped up across the conference this morning. Feel free to digest them with your lunches this afternoon.

  • Austin Meek and Kevin Haskin of the Topeka Capital Journal report that outgoing Kansas State president Jon Wefald said he would be willing to provide the university's next president a head start at picking the school's new athletic director.
  • Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops told the Tulsa World's Dave Sittler he "likes the quarterbacks we have," in regards to reports linking the Sooners with former Miami quarterback Robert Marve.
  • The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel proposes giving players a chance to return to school after they are selected in the NFL draft if they don't sign with an agent or a pro franchise.
  • Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports on the tumultuous year of Kansas State athletic director Bob Krause, who was re-assigned Tuesday to a new role at the school's Olathe campus.
  • Lincoln Journal-Star columnist Steve Sipple reports that six former Nebraska players -- Matt Slauson, Nate Swift, Lydon Murtha, Marlon Lucky, Zach Potter and Cody Glenn -- have received invitations to the NFL Scouting Combine next month in Indianapolis.
  • Boulder Camera beat writer Kyle Ringo remembers the playing career of former Colorado quarterback Bernard Jackson, who was sentenced to more than five years in prison last week along with former teammate Lionel Harris last week.

Krause's departure leaves new KSU president filling his job

January, 27, 2009
1/27/09
4:48
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

I always got the feeling that Bob Krause never was really comfortable serving as Kansas State's athletic director.

His performance during the news conference after Ron Prince's firing led me to believe he wished he could have chosen any kind of educational work rather than athletic administration at that time.

Krause will apparently get his wish, returning to a position as the director of development for the school's campus in Olathe -- a Kansas City suburb.  

His announcement of his transition into a new role for the school leaves a vacancy that will dovetail with the retirement of KSU president Jon Wefald, who will be leaving his position at the end of the school year.

Krause's tenure will be marked by two huge decisions that could end up costing the school some hefty dollars. The first came with the extension of Prince's contract last summer. And the other one came with the firing of Prince with three games left in the season last year.

When coupled with the whopping buyout on former athletic director Tim Weiser's contract, it means that Kansas State is on the hook for more than $3 million, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal. Even with the large distribution of Big 12 funds, it will still be difficult for one of the conference's traditionally financially-strapped schools to come up with that money from strictly athletic department revenue sources.  

Wefald's tenure has been marked by the celebrated "Miracle in Manhattan," when Bill Snyder arrived in 1989 to turn around the school's struggling football program into a consistent Big Eight, Big 12 and national power. Wefald receives credit for that hire.

But he will also leave his tenure with the albatross of Kansas State's current financial mess in the athletic department as one of his legacies, too.

Snyder will return to coaching football this season, hoping to return magic to his old school.

For Kansas State, a turnaround can't come soon enough.

KSU facing costly settlements after Wefald-Weiser rift

January, 22, 2009
1/22/09
8:14
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Kansas State has always faced unique challenges in trying to remain relevant with the rest of the Big 12.

It turns out one of the biggest might have been found in the administrative offices of the school.

Austin Meek of the Topeka Capital-Journal has a fascinating story of how school president Jon Wefald's insistence to be involved in personnel matters eventually led to the departure of former athletic director Tim Weiser.

Meek reports that Wefald's insistence in overruling Weiser in regards to a contract extension and larger buyout for former Kansas State football coach Ron Prince eventually was the breaking point in Weiser's relationship with the school. It led Weiser to eventually take a job with the Big 12 as deputy commissioner, but not before he was able to negotiate a $1.9 million buyout as he left.

Less than six months later, Prince received a contract extension before the start of the 2008 season. The Wildcats struggled with a 5-7 record that led to his dismissal with three games left in the regular season. It prompted a $1.3 million settlement with the athletic department.

For those of you counting at home, that's $3.2 million that the school is on the hook for to pay off the two settlements.

Wefald has always received credit for helping foster the atmosphere that enabled Bill Snyder's program to thrive, taking the Wildcats to an area in the national spotlight they had never been to before. Some have called it "The Manhattan Miracle."

But with that success, Wefald apparently decided to take more of an expanding role in Kansas State athletics different from most school presidents at most schools. By doing that, he usurped some of the traditional personnel responsibilities of an athletic director that Weiser was familiar with in other jobs before.

As Weiser left for the Big 12 offices in Dallas with the contract settlement, the cost grew.

Snyder is back coaching Kansas State football again, returning from a three-year sabbatical.

And it's fair to say that Wildcat Nation needs some football success from the veteran coach quickly. A prompt return to his previous level of contending for Big 12 championships would likely make most forget about the personnel meddling by Wefald that has proven so costly in the last several years to Kansas State.

KSU president not afraid of Snyder's age

November, 24, 2008
11/24/08
2:21
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Kansas State president Jon Wefald said Monday that he's doesn't think Bill Snyder's age will be a liability as he resumes his coaching career.

Snyder turned 69 on Oct. 7. He's returning after the announcement Monday that he will resume his coaching career after a three-year break.

"Some people might think he's not young enough to do it a second time around," Wefald said. "Joe Paterno has said he's in this for four more years. Ronald Reagan started his second term at the age of 72. The Republican nominee, John McCain, was 72. I would say that being the president of the United States is a pretty taxing job."

Wefald said that the Snyder is in good shape to perform his new job.

"Bill Snyder is young by comparison," Wefald said. "He's young of heart and young of spirit. The question will be does he have the fire in his belly to do this. Some who are 40 are more like they are 80. And others who are 80 are more like they are 40. Bill is in good physical shape and his mind is sharp as a tack. He's ready to roll and I can tell you he's excited to do this."

Snyder becomes the Big 12's oldest coach, but Texas coach Mack Brown is glad to see him back because of his coaching acumen and because of their mutual experiences.

"I'm getting to be the oldest in these [Big 12 coaches'] meetings," Brown said with a chuckle. "I'll have some to talk to now."  

Big 12 lunchtime links: Wild start to the week

November, 24, 2008
11/24/08
12:30
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

C'mon, admit it. You thought that all of the action was usually reserved for the playing field.

But welcome to the Big 12, where a lot of things happened since the games finished up Saturday night in Norman.

Here's a look at some of the more notable events from around the conference.

  • Jeffrey Martin of the Kansas City Star/Wichita Eagle provides the details of Bill Snyder coming out of retirement to direct the Kansas State program. The Topeka Capital-Journal's Tim Bisel writes about why the return of Snyder to coaching reminds him of the B-52's "Love Shack." And the Wichita Eagle's Bob Lutz writes that bringing Snyder out of retirement is a gamble that KSU president Jon Wefald is ready to take.
  • Here's an amazing story written by ESPN.com's Bruce Feldman about spending the last few hours before the Texas Tech-Oklahoma game with the Red Raiders. Maybe they should have known something was wrong. Their omelet station ordered at the team hotel before the game didn't materialize.
  • Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman writes about why Texas should have jumped Oklahoma in the human poll, why he boosts Colt McCoy ahead of the rest of the Heisman contenders and Bob Stoops' praiseworthy move of giving up his coach's vote after other balloters declined to acknowledge his team's victory over Missouri in last season's title game.
  • The Oklahoman's Jenni Carlson did a nice job on a feature about former Oklahoma State wide receiver Brent Parker. His dropped pass cost the Cowboys a 1988 victory over Oklahoma in the biggest "Bedlam" probably other than the upcoming one.
  • The Lincoln Journal-Star's Steve Sipple writes that Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson could be an intriguing possibility for a vacant head coaching position somewhere.
  • Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News writes that Oklahoma could be well positioned to sneak past Texas into the Big 12 Championship Game with a big victory over Oklahoma State on Saturday.

Afternoon links: Oklahoma's game just got a lot bigger

September, 26, 2008
9/26/08
6:35
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin:

I'm headed to Oklahoma City, writing this from the San Antonio Airport. I'm anxious to see how Oklahoma responds to its chance to claim the top spot nationally in the polls after USC's loss to Oregon State last night.

Until then, here are a few links to serve as an appetizer before tomorrow's games. Enjoy them.

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