Q&A with Kansas State president Kirk Schulz
Kansas State president Kirk Schulz took office in 2009. He was one of the presidents invited to the NCAA presidential retreat in 2011.
SI: With everything you have to worry about running a large university, how often do you get a chance to think about athletics?
Schulz: I think about athletics a little bit every day, and I probably talk to our athletics director three to five times a week. John has done a great job, and a lot of issues are just making sure he and I are on the same page on things. We'll talk about if there's an issue with a student-athlete or something that comes up with a coach or something that he's hearing out there about conference matters. It's not necessarily an hour a day. I don't want to over-exaggerate. But we touch base regularly. The other part of that is, frankly, as a president at a BCS-level athletics program, you'd better stay on top of it. Because if you don't, it can come back and bite you in the rear end really fast.
SI: Where do you stand on the college football postseason?
Schulz: I have a couple of thoughts. Some of these will be the same presidential rhetoric that you always hear. I do get concerned about the length of the season. I don't think that should be a reason not to have a playoff or not to have a plus-one, but I do think you're almost watching football into mid-January. The NCAA basketball tournament is a great example. As soon as the bracket comes out, what's the No. 1 team everyone talks about?
SI: Who got left out...
Schulz: Who didn't make it and how they got ripped off and how everybody didn't understand them. One of the issues that people sometimes put out for the playoff is that it will satisfy everybody. My comment on that always is, if we have an eight-team playoff, the ninth-place team goes, "I got screwed." There's always going to be some sense in college football of somebody not quite getting a fair deal. I like the bowl system. I'm not sure it's as broken as everybody likes to think it is. Personally, I'm happy to have us tweak it a little bit. I just think we've got to keep that calendar. I'd like to see us go back to that mid-December to Jan. 1 timeframe for most of our postseason bowl games or playoff or plus-one format. If you would have asked me at the beginning of the season, if two teams play in the regular season, do they meet again in the national championship? I would have said that I don't think there was any way possible for that to happen. The fact that they did meet back up again probably made a lot of us think, "Well, maybe we've got to do something so we don't have this repeat of a regular-season game in the national championship game." I don't think most of the country -- with the exception, of course, of the Alabama and LSU fans, really wanted to see that happen. Just looking at it this year, if you'd done one additional game where you waited until the end of the bowl season, you'd have probably played Alabama versus probably Oklahoma State in that next game. If I'm at Oklahoma State, I think that's a great idea. If I'm at Alabama, I'm not sure how great that seems to be. I'd like to use the existing system for a couple more years and see how it continues to work. I think it's worked fairly well.
SI: What do you think will happen?
Schulz: I think there will be some modification to it. That's not president-speak where I know what's going to happen and I don't want to say anything. Enough people went, "We don't want to see the Alabama-LSU thing" and "There's always a controversy" and "Why wasn't Oklahoma State in the game" and those kind of things. There's going to be some desire to add at least one more game to the season in some fashion that would represent a national championship game with the best program standing at the end.
SI: When you say "plus-one," are you referring to a four-team playoff or an actual plus-one system?
Schulz: When we talk about a plus-one, I think everybody thinks that means something different. The concept that had been floated a little bit would be to keep all the bowls except that BCS championship game, then take your best two teams and play one additional game and call that your national championship. I could live with that. With the four-team playoff, I worry about the team that's No. 5 getting upset, which would always happen, or if it somehow becomes three SEC teams or three Big 12 teams. Then all of a sudden, everybody goes, "Wait. This isn't what we wanted."
SI: How did you feel about multiyear scholarship rule?
Schulz: We were not in favor of that. There are multiple reasons for that. The conference as a whole wasn't supportive of the multiyear scholarships. If I take the most outstanding academic student in the state of Kansas and I award them a four-year, renewable scholarship, it is contingent on renewal each year based on some sort of performance or academic standing or something like that. We don't just say, "You know what? You show up and you stick around for eight semesters and you get the whole amount of money." The thing that bothers me about those is that it's going to put a lot of our programs in a tough spot. When do you tell a young person who is not fitting into your program, that's not putting in the effort that's required, that's not making the grade point average. I believe in the freedom and flexibility to tell that young person they need to go pursue something else. I just don't think it's good policy. It will constitute a recruiting edge for a few schools for a few years. Then, when everybody does it, I'm not sure it really helps the athlete much in the end.
As a follow-up, a lot of us in our schools work very, very hard to make sure those student-athletes have an opportunity to have some level of support to finish their degree program. I really question how many of the BCS major schools boot a kid out and they drop out of school when they were in good standing. The argument that was made was that it would require everybody to do it. The general intent from the outside is that this is for the student-athlete's benefit. If there's a coaching change, that the student-athlete doesn't get screwed by the university. We don't do that for academic scholarship holders. I don't believe we should do that for student-athletes.
SI: What about the cost-of-attendance stipend?
Schulz: I was in favor of us providing the full cost-of-attendance. I realize the richer schools with the bigger athletic budgets, frankly we can do full-cost-of-attendance and it doesn't affect generally a thing that we're going to do in our athletic program. We have the financial resources to do it. If I go back to that student scholar I'm recruiting, we give them full cost of attendance for the institution. We recognize that we might want them to do a research project or something else besides getting a part-time job for spending money. I'm very strongly in favor of us providing the cost-of-attendance with the proviso that it must be done for all the student-athletes. I've seen on the message boards people saying we should only do it for football and men's basketball. Well, we can't go back and say that if you play in a non-revenue sport or an Olympic sport that you're a second-class citizen behind football and men's basketball. We can't go back in that direction.
SI: Do you worry the cost-of-attendance stipend debate will create a schism in Division I?
Schulz: We've allowed Division I to become too large. We've brought in a lot of schools to Division I that probably simply don't have the financial backing to successfully compete. But since it's a pure democracy -- one school, one vote -- we've got a ton of schools that are kind of barely hanging on financially, and they say, "I can barely pay the bills now; doing this means I'm really in deeper financial trouble." This is going to drive a bit of a wedge between your BCS-level programs and the others. If I've got a $12 million athletic budget and $10 million is subsidized by the university, then that's going to be a tough deal. People will look at the NCAA Tournament and think how great it would be to play in that. Some schools do a great job and have a terrific athletic program and decide, "Hey I want to be there, and I'm just going to kind of sell my soul to the devil to get there." That's really hurt.
SI: Is there something that can be done? More divisions?
Schulz: I don't know if we need more divisions or if we just need to tighten up what it means to be a Division I school. I would probably be more in favor of doing that than I would adding another division. I worry in the long term, if you're not careful, you're going to get a split where you have the wealthier Division I programs on their own. We almost have that, frankly. We do have it in football. The BCS leagues really in many, many ways represent that group of large-budget programs.