Blair Kerkhoff

April 30, 2014

K-State President Kirk Schulz helped craft change coming to college sports

The new food rule, college athletes understand that. Three squares a day, up from two, and unlimited snacks will soon be served at their training tables. After that, the guess is that many college athletes don’t have a sense of what’s in store for them beginning as early as the next school year, reforms that Kansas State’s president, Kirk Schulz, had a hand in crafting.

The new food rule, college athletes get that. Three squares a day, up from two, and unlimited snacks will soon be served at a training table near you. No need for Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston to shoplift a bag of groceries that included crab legs, as we learned Wednesday.

After that, the guess that many college athletes don’t have a sense of what all is in store, beginning as early as the next school year, was confirmed by a couple of brief interviews after Kansas State’s spring football game on Saturday.

“I’ve heard a little about it, but not so much,” said offensive lineman Cody Whitehair.

Others said a team meeting will soon take place to review the reform that their president, Kirk Schulz, had a hand in crafting that go well beyond additional calories.

A new governance structure that will allow 65 schools in the five conferences funded by multibillion football television contracts to spend as they see fit, beyond the veto power of smaller budget Division I programs, is the basis for everything that’s about to happen.

On the table will be full cost of attendance, essentially a few hundred bucks a month more to cover student-athlete expenses beyond the scholarship, insurance policies to protect future earnings, travel allowance for families for bowl games or NCAA events, reduced time spent on sports and more.

Schulz is a member of the steering committee that crafted the 57-page plan that was endorsed by the Division I Board of Directors last week and he’s already dealing with concerns. Commissioners Jim Delany of the Big Ten and Mike Slive of the SEC have issues with some of the voting structures.

There will be other conflicts because even the schools that feed from the billion-dollar TV deals aren’t created equal. Texas’ athletic budget dwarfs that of Kansas State’s. Meals, cost of attendance and travel allowances will have some looking between the cushions for additional income.

Also on the table could be more wiggle room on transfer rules, and this one hits home to Schulz. Kansas State is involved in a highly publicized transfer request by women’s basketball freshman Leticia Romero. She wants to leave but at the moment doesn’t have K-State’s release, which would not allow Romero to get an athletic scholarship at a new school next year.

“If we look at more permissive legislation within the big five (conferences), I suspect coaching change would be a key part of it,” said Schulz, who wants athlete feedback on many issues, especially this one.

Schulz was a vice president at Mississippi State before arriving in Manhattan in 2009. His background is engineering, but he closely followed sports at his previous stops, recalling with a clear memory Frank Beamer’s early rough go when the two of them arrived at Virginia Tech around the same time in the 1980s.

As Mississippi State, Schulz, with the ambition of one day becoming a college president, made it a point to quiz athletic officials there about what they wanted to see in a campus leader.

When Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby asked Schulz to represent the conference in drafting the NCAA reform, Schulz gladly accepted.

The result was the plan that was endorsed by the Division I Board of Directors a week ago. A two-month feedback period is about to begin. Final approval is expected in August, with the idea of implementing changes immediately.

These are profound changes that in addition to the practical matter of providing more to those who generate income is a reaction to the notion that coaches and officials prosper from the sweat of athletes.

The coach with the multimillion contract and the athletic director who cashes a bonus check when an athlete from its school wins a national title damages the public perception of college sports. Class-action lawsuits against the NCAA and conferences, along with the Northwestern football player union vote are reactions to the imbalance.

The outcomes of the lawsuits and union push will indicate whether the reform is enough. For now, major-ollege sports stands on the threshold of great change, one that Schulz helped author.

“We’ve know there are a lot of changes that were needed in Division I athletics,” Schulz said. “But there’s a lot of good about it, too, and I want to see us keep the ball rolling.”

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