MANHATTAN, Kan. — Besides learning how to block and tackle, Kansas State football players are getting helpful tips on which fork to use for salad and how to stretch a wardrobe dollar.
They're also getting help with public speaking and how to prepare for a job interview.
It may not make them better athletes, but Kansas State officials are confident their "Total Person" program will help students get along in the real world.
School officials also hope the program, though available to all students, will help bring success to a football program that is the losingest in major college history.
The Wildcats, 1-10 this season, are 295-470-40 for the past 51 years, and their winning percentage of .391 is lowest among major colleges.
"Look, our athletic program is not something we can wave banners about," said Steve Miller, a former cross country coach who is in charge of the program.
"But we feel that by doing these things, we're going to greatly enhance our athletic productivity. If a person has problems in one area, it generally carries over into other areas. So anything we can do to stave off those difficulties in other areas, we hope, will manifest itself in athletic excellence."
"Nobody's a loser forever," said Stan Parrish, the school's new head football coach. "Kansas State University has made a very serious commitment to becoming a winner."
Athletes already are getting some "Total Person" pointers although the program won't actually be in full swing until next September.
Miller started with sessions on drug and alcohol abuse and gambling, saying, "Those are two areas we felt needed to be fully explored."
Still to come are tips on etiquette, clothing and time management.
"We're going to teach them how to handle themselves at formal dinner parties, even what fork to use for salad," said Athletic Director Larry Travis. "We'll spend a lot of time teaching them about clothing, how to buy clothes, how to match up colors and styles, how to make do with less."
Students also will get help on preparing for job interviews and investment counseling.
The help will mainly come from the community: bank presidents for career-planning sessions and mental health workers to talk about stress.
"We're really just beginning to screen possible speakers. Some will be professors from right here on campus. We're hoping to bring in some professional athletes and former professional athletes, too. The main thing is to get somebody the kids will listen to, somebody who knows what he's talking about.
"It's vital for them to understand, for instance, that if they dress a particular way, they'll be accepted in certain groups and rejected in others. Unless we touch on as many of these as possible, with competent assistance, I think we're missing our basic goal--the total education of the student-athlete."
"Total Person" came to Kansas State via Travis, who headed a similar program at Georgia Tech.
In time, both Miller and Travis hope other athletic departments will copy the Kansas State "Total Person" approach.
"It's not necessarily our desire to be the first, but it is our desire to be good at what we're doing," Miller said.
As for academics, starting next season an assistant athletic director will be assigned to oversee the players' classroom performance and there will be one academic counselor for every eight players.
"We're making sure that academically we're going to stay on top of our athletes," said Travis, "but we're trying to give them more than just academics and athletics. We want them to be as well-rounded as any group of young men anywhere."