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Published March 8, 2010
When Kirby Hocutt arrived at Kansas State as a freshman football player in 1990, the Wildcats were one of the worst programs in the country. In fact, a 1989 Sports Illustrated story labeled K-State “Futility U.”
But one thing is certain about Hocutt, now the athletic director at the University of Miami: He’s never shrunk from a challenge.
As a member of new coach Bill Snyder’s first recruiting class, Hocutt helped restore credibility to the Wildcats’ hapless program.
“What I saw under Coach Snyder was that there are certain principles for success and you have to be unwavering in terms of following them,” Hocutt said. “He was committed to a plan and I saw his vision for the program. We did it with a lot of overachieving blue-collar athletes and it showed what could be done if you’re determined to outwork people. Anything worth having isn’t going to come easy.”
Hocutt took those lessons with him, learning at the feet of some of the giants in college administration. There was Chuck Neinas at the College Football Association and later Joe Castiglione at Oklahoma.
Then Hocutt got his own chance to run a program as athletic director at Ohio University, another program in the Mid-American Conference in need of a roll-your-sleeves-up approach. That led to his current position as AD at the “U.”
“The thing is that the mission stays the same,” said Hocutt, who also is an avid reader of John Wooden’s books. “The mission is education through intercollegiate athletics. That’s powerful. The thing that changes from school to school is the priority on athletics and the commitment.
“You cannot find a university where athletics plays a greater role than the University of Miami. At this level, if you’re going to participate, you play to win.”
For a young kid from Texas, who grew up living and breathing sports, a career in administration was the logical next step after his playing career ended at K-State. Coaching wasn’t for him, he thought, so administration opened another door.
“It’s always been a part of my life,” Hocutt said. “I can’t imagine being away from sports.”