Kansas State athletic director Gene Taylor has been on the job less than a month, but he already has a good feel for what topics most interest Wildcat fans.
The question he has heard most while visiting cities across the Sunflower State with K-State’s annual Catbackers tour the past few weeks: How much longer will Bill Snyder continue coaching the football team?
Another popular question: Will basketball coach Bruce Weber receive a contract extension?
He doesn’t have firm answers at the moment, but planning for each scenario could result in his first major decision as the leader of K-State athletics.
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“I think it could boil down to what we decide to do with Bruce in terms of an extension or if Coach Snyder decides to retire any time sooner than I expect him to,” Taylor said Tuesday at a Wichita Catbacker event. “There are some other facility things we are fundraising for, but those may be the first ones.”
Contract talks with Weber could happen this summer, but they haven’t occurred yet. Nor has Weber asked for an extension, Taylor said.
Weber has two years remaining on a contract that will pay him $2.15 million next season. He has gone 100-68 in five years with the Wildcats, making the NCAA Tournament three times and sharing one Big 12 championship. They won 21 games last season, and an extension could help him in recruiting.
But he is unpopular with some fans. He was thought to be on the hot seat last season before closing with a string of victories that led to a No. 11 seed in the NCAA Tournament and a win over Wake Forest in a play-in game.
“I have enjoyed my time with Coach Weber,” Taylor said. “Everyone I talk to about him says he knows his basketball and is a great person. At some point we will sit down and talk about the future and where we want to go.”
On the facilities front, Taylor said his attention will first go to building a permanent stadium for the women’s soccer team and upgrading K-State’s baseball stadium.
Taylor will have to do more planning when it comes to Snyder.
The 77-year old coach recently completed treatment for throat cancer, but has shown few signs of slowing down. He coached the Wildcats throughout spring practices and has a veteran team returning that has the potential to build on last season’s 9-4 record.
Taylor says he expects Snyder to coach beyond this season and will be surprised if he doesn’t.
Still, he has to be ready for every scenario.
“I hope he is going to be here a long time,” Taylor said. “I certainly have enjoyed getting to know him. My goal is for him to be here as long as he wants. If that bridge comes, we will cross it.”
Who will be considered to replace Snyder when he retires?
That’s a fascinating question. Snyder has made his opinion known for years by publicly backing his son, K-State special teams coordinator Sean Snyder, for the job. But some fans seem to favor other candidates.
Taylor says Snyder has every right to share his opinion on the topic, and also understands why fans are so invested in it.
“The man built K-State football,” Taylor said. “There is going to be a lot of interest in who will one day replace him. Everybody has some thoughts on it. Some are more open to share their thoughts. Some aren’t. But I get why people care. The man has his statue outside the stadium.”
Taylor hopes to work with Snyder for several years, but plans to constantly keep an eye on potential replacements. He has been through a similar situation before. When Craig Bohl became a hot name on the coaching circuit at North Dakota State, where Taylor previously served as AD, Taylor prepared for his departure for several years before he left for Wyoming.
“It was the same kind of deal,” Taylor said. “You start thinking about, who am I going to hire? Who is going to be his replacement? I never made a list, but I watched coaches and there were people I kind of had an eye on. You want to be able to pull out that list in your mind.”
One thing Taylor will say about the future: he’s not a fan of naming someone head coach in waiting.
Hiring Snyder’s successor could go down as Taylor’s legacy at K-State. And he knows it. He’s preparing for the day it comes, but he hopes he gets several good years with Snyder first.
“When it happens, I will think about who the best options are for the job, whether it is Sean or whoever else,” Taylor said. “I will always have that in the back of my mind, but until Coach Snyder comes to me and says, ‘Gene, I am ready to hang it up,’ I’m not going to start walking through it.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett