SBJ/March 21-27, 2011/Forty Under 40

Forty Under 40

Currie

Currie
SCOTT WEAVER / KANSAS STATE ATHLETICS
As a student of history and politics at Wake Forest, John Currie hardly had athletic administration on his radar. That is, until he met Ron Wellman, the Demon Deacons’ athletic director. Wellman invited Currie, then a senior student in 1993, to stop by his office and before he knew it, Currie was an intern in the Deacon Club.

“I really thought that I wanted to be involved in athletics, but I thought it would be as a history teacher coaching high school soccer,” said Currie, a former soccer player.

Currie, now 39, is one of the nation’s youngest ADs at a school in the big six conferences. In his second year at Kansas State, he is about to tackle his largest facility project by building a $20 million basketball practice building for the men’s and women’s teams. And he’s doing it with private funds that the school has raised.

“It represents a big step forward because most of the money raised came from donors outside of Kansas,” said Currie, who added that half of K-State’s alums live outside of the state. “We’ve worked hard going coast to coast to reconnect with our constituents.”

Another hallmark of Currie’s nearly two years at the school has been his emphasis on transparency and accountability. In his pocket, Currie carries small laminated business cards that have the department’s core values on one side and the athletic budget on the other. It’s important for Currie to let K-State’s supporters know how their money is being spent.

As an AD who came into an athletic department facing a $2 million deficit, he knew the budget had to be cleaned up. Now it’s grown from $44 million to $47 million in fiscal 2011 and is operating at a $5 million surplus, he said.

“We decided that we had to be forthright and open up everything,” said Currie, who writes open letters and answers questions from Wildcats fans on the school’s website. “As we go along, we’re also seeing that it makes good business sense because our supporters see that the dollars they’ve invested are being used the way they want them used. Then they’re willing to invest more.”

Age: 39
Title: Director of intercollegiate athletics
SCHOOL: Kansas State University
Education: B.A., history, Wake Forest University, 1993; M.S., sports administration, University of Tennessee, 2003
Family: Wife, Mary; son, Jack (10); daughters, Virginia (8) and Mary-Dell (2)
Career: Wake Forest University, 1993-97; University of Tennessee, 1997-98; Wake Forest, 1998-2000, the last position as assistant AD for development; Tennessee, 2000-09, the last position as executive associate athletic director; named AD at Kansas State in May 2009
Last vacation: North Carolina mountains, summer 2010
What's on your iPod: The same 1,124 songs since I lost my hard drive in 2006
Guilty pleasure: Late-night ice cream
Best stress release: Exercise or playing with the kids
Pet peeve: Lack of urgency
Greatest disappointment: None big enough to matter
Fantasy job: Ski-lift attendant, Snowbird or Alta
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