Kevin's interview with WKU Athletic Director Todd Stewart
WKU’s athletic director is predicting there will be changes coming to the organization that governs collegiate athletics. But Todd Stewart doesn’t think the country’s most powerful conferences will break away from the NCAA and form their own organization, as some have suggested.
Stewart will attend a summit in January called by NCAA President Mark Emmert in response to pressure by big-revenue generating schools who want more say in how the NCAA is run. Some large schools want to increase compensation for collegiate athletes beyond what is currently allowed—something opposed by many smaller schools who say they couldn’t afford it.
Stewart came to the WKU Public Radio studio Wednesday to discuss the upcoming NCAA football summit, the future of college football, and his approach to putting together future WKU football schedules.
WKU Public Radio: WKU has been invited along with all the other Division I football schools to attend a Jan. 16-17 summit in San Diego that coincides with the NCAA’s annual convention. From what you understand so far, what’s going to be discussed?
Todd Stewart: A lot of things are being discussed right now, and I think what President Emmert wanted to do was get everybody in the room and hopefully come out with some form of solidarity. Because you have what people refer to as the “power five” conferences—the SEC, ACC, the Big 10, the PAC 12, and the Big 12—and there are some reforms they would really want to see.
WKU is preparing for the possibility that state funding for higher education could someday be based--in part--on retention rates. WKU Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management Brian Meredith says it's an idea being tried in other parts of the nation.
"States across the country are doing that now, looking at funding models that are taking into account graduation rates, success rates, completion rates, and those sorts of things. We're not quite there yet in Kentucky, but that could be a possibility down the road, so we're trying to get ahead of the game."
Meredith says WKU has increased the academic requirements necessary to gain admission to the school, with the incoming freshman class possessing the highest ACT scores and grade point averages of any first-year class at WKU in ten years.
Meredith says it should be easier to retain and graduate students who come to WKU prepared to take on higher education coursework.
The WKU Board of Regents has approved a $37 million bond issue to fund a new international center and Honors College building, as well as the next phase of the ongoing renovation of the Downing University Center.
While the motion passed, three regents voted against the proposal.
Faculty Regent Patty Minter joined Student Regent Keyana Boka and Staff Regent James Kennedy in dissent. Dr. Minter says while she fully supports the WKU Honors College and the school's efforts to grow its international student population, she questions the need to issue bonds and build a brand new facility.
“There were a lot of better ideas that were not explored," said the WKU History Professor. "For example, having a floor in the replacement building for the Gordon Ford College of Business—what a great place that would be. And it would also integrate that group and the international student services into the entire student population, as opposed to segregating them out.”
The WKU men’s basketball team opens its upcoming season on the road in Wichita.
The 2013-14 Hilltopper schedule was released Friday, and WKU begins its quest for a third straight NCAA tournament appearance November 11 at Wichita State.
Other highlights include a December 14 road game against the defending national champion Louisville Cardinals. That’s followed by home games against Southern Mississippi, Murray State, and Ole Miss.
WKU opens Sun Belt Conference play at South Alabama on January 2.
The Hilltoppers won the Sun Belt Conference tournament last season, winning four games in four days. In their NCAA tournament opening round game against #1 seed Kansas, WKU led at the half before losing by seven points.
You can find a link to the entire WKU men’s basketball schedule here.
The WKU women’s basketball team has a trip to Puerto Rico, and contests against Louisville and Vanderbilt to look forward to this upcoming season.
The 2013-14 Lady Hilltoppers’ non-conference schedule was released Monday. Following two exhibition games, the regular season starts November 9 at home against Austin Peay. Other highlights include playing at Vanderbilt and home against Murray State in mid-November.
WKU hosts the Louisville Cardinals November 27, and the team travels to San Juan, Puerto Rico the week before Christmas to play in the 2013 Puerto Rico Classic.
The Lady Hilltoppers are coming off a 22-11 season in Michelle Clark-Heard’s first year as head coach of the program. Last year’s record represents the largest single-season win improvement in Sun Belt Conference history.
The latest WKU men's basketball player will add some international flair to the roster.
Ben Lawson, a 6’11’’ forward, will have four years of eligibility at WKU beginning this fall. Lawson is a native of Hitchen, England and was a member of the England 18 and under national team.
Over 31 games for Oaklands College in Great Britain last season, Lawson averaged 15 points, 11 rebounds, and nearly five blocked shots a game. The big man can also shoot it from outside, hitting 40 percent of his three-point attempts last season at Oaklands.
Lawson is the fifth new addition to the WKU roster who will be eligible for the upcoming season.
Lawson joins Aaron Adeoye (6-7, forward, Marion, Ill.), Chris Harrison-Docks (6-0, guard, Okemos, Mich.), Payton Hulsey (6-5, guard, Memphis, Tenn.), Trency Jackson (6-2, guard, Jackson, Miss.) and Daouda Soumaoro (6-9, center, Mali) as newcomers to the Hilltopper roster in 2013-14.
The Kentucky Wildcats are making it clear they want pay-back for last year’s football loss to the WKU Hilltoppers. Several UK players talked about the season-opener for both teams at Wednesday’s Southeastern Conference Media Days event in Hoover, Alabama.
To hear several Kentucky Wildcat football players tell it, the WKU Hilltoppers were disrespectful following last season’s 32-31 overtime win at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington.
Wildcats running back Raymond Sanders said the team was looking forward to the season-opener for both schools. The Courier-Journal quoted Sanders as saying the Toppers “were pretty disrespectful on our field—and disrespectful with some tweets and Facebook and some stuff. After the game, jumping and stomping on the field. It’s our field. You gotta take pride in that.”
After last year’s win at Kentucky, then-WKU head coach Willie Taggart said WKU red was the “new blue” in Kentucky.
Ground will be broken Wednesday morning at the future site of the Hardin County Schools Early College and Career Center. The effort is a collaboration between the school system and WKU, and will allow high school students in the Hardin County system to take classes during the academic year that will transform into college credit from WKU, Elizabethtown Community and Technical College, or Sullivan University.
Hardin County Schools Superintendent Nannette Johnston says the Early College and Career Center is facing a strict construction deadline.
"I can sum it up in the one word: aggressive. Typically, we look at construction projects of this magnitude taking about 18 months. We want this project to be completed by August of 2014," Johnston told WKU Public Radio.
The Early College and Career Center will offer Hardin County students classes in fields such as engineering, manufacturing, automotive technology, media arts and communication, and culinary arts and hospitality services.
Efforts are underway to determine what can be done to salvage artwork damaged by the Thursday morning fire at Bowling Green's Downing Museum at the Baker Arboretum.
The museum houses numerous paintings by the late artist and Hart County native Joe Downing. WKU President Gary Ransdell says the Downing Museum art is now at different parts of the school's campus.
"All of the artwork has now been transported to the Kentucky Building, and is in storage and is protected," said Dr. Ransdell. "The art that has been damaged by smoke and water is over in the services supply building where the art restoration experts will look them over and determine what needs to be done immediately, and what needs to take place over time. Only a few pieces were damaged by the actual fire--I'm guessing maybe 30 or 40 pieces."
The fire started before 7 a.m. and was discovered by estate staff members. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Officials on the scene of the blaze this morning told WKU Public Radio the fire was likely started by an electrical malfunction or a lightning strike.
The WKU Board of Regents will vote on the school’s next budget at a meeting Friday afternoon. The nearly $394 million spending plan for 2013-14 is a 1.4 percent increase over last year’s budget.
If approved, 46 percent of the revenue used to run WKU would come from tuition and student fees. Only 18 percent of the proposed budget comes from state funding.
The budget vote comes after several tumultuous months on the WKU campus. In April, the Council on Postsecondary Education rejected President Gary Ransdell’s request for a 5 percent tuition increase, granting just a 3 percent hike. Ransdell told WKU faculty and staff that the decision meant the school was going to have to cut jobs.