Archive for Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Debbie K and the NCAA

Krivjansky once worked at national offices in Kansas City

March 30, 2005

Don't ask Debbie Krivjansky to fill out an NCAA Tournament bracket.

She's loves watching the tournament, but she never gets involved in predicting winners or putting a few bucks into an office pool.

That's just habit for Krivjansky. For many years, her office was the NCAA -- the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the nonprofit organization that governs major college athletics.

"We couldn't even fill one out," Krivjansky said. "We couldn't even give the perception."

Krivjansky, who worked in legislative services at the NCAA headquarters when it was based in Kansas City, now works at First State Bank and Trust in Tonganoxie.

But Krivjansky still doesn't feel right participating in a pool.

"Chris Donnelly harasses me every year to get in on a pot," Krivjansky said with a laugh.

Krivjansky admits she put a few dollars into a pool a few years ago, but she hasn't done it since.

"I put in $3 a long time ago but I felt so guilty it about killed me," she said. "I fill them out but I don't get into the money."

Krivjansky started with the NCAA in Kansas City as a secretary in December 1985. When she started with the well-known organization, its headquarters were at 63rd and Nall in Mission. Previously, offices were located in downtown Kansas City. In the early 1990s, the NCAA moved to Overland Park, near College Boulevard and Lamar.

While with the organization, Krivjansky was promoted four times within legislative services. Her department was responsible for interpreting all of the NCAA's rules.

That department averaged 300 to 400 calls per day from various universities.

"AD's, presidents, they all called in," Krivjansky said. "It was just crazy."

Tough decision

In December 1998, 12 1/2 years to the date since Krivjansky started with the NCAA, she quit her position. The organization announced that its headquarters were moving to Indianapolis and Krivjansky had to decide whether she and her family would be moving to Indiana with the NCAA.

"Everybody had the option to go," Krivjansky said. "There were several times our girls told my parents that we were going."

But the Krivjanskys never packed up for Indianapolis.

Instead, the 1983 Tonganoxie High graduate and her family stayed in her hometown.

"My supervisors wanted me to go," Krivjansky said. "It was very tempting.

"We just had to figure out what was important -- priorities and families."

Debbie's parents live in the area, as do her husband's parents.

Debbie said their daughters also have known five great-grandparents.

"A lot of kids don't know their grandparents and my kids knew their great-grandparents, so that was cool," Krivjansky said.

When Krivjansky first started with the NCAA, she also worked part-time for First State Bank and Trust in Tonganoxie.

That's where she's been full-time since 1998.

"We made the right decision and I enjoy being at the bank, so it was the right move," Krivjansky said.

The call

In May 1997, Krivjansky was required to call into the main offices from home on a conference call. Executive director Cedric Dempsey, whom Krivjansky also worked with, got on the line and said, "Good afternoon."

Krivjansky knew at that moment that the headquarters no longer would be in nearby Overland Park.

"I knew when he said that, because his voice was shaking, that we were moving," Krivjansky said.

The NCAA now makes its home in downtown Indianapolis. Canseco Fieldhouse, home of the NBA's Indiana Pacers, and the RCA Dome, home to the NFL's Indianapolis Colts, aren't far away. The state capitol also is just a few blocks away.

"Indianapolis put together a fabulous package is what they did," Krivjansky said.

As did Kansas City's Overland Park location, the Indianapolis site has a visitors center. In Indianapolis, as it was Overland Park, it's known as the Hall of Champions.

Krivjansky has heard that the visitors center in Indianapolis is an amazing exhibit. She hasn't traveled to the new location yet.

"I want to go but I'm always afraid I'll want to stay," Krivjansky said.

That was a feeling she had early on, but things have changed since then. For one, many of the people she worked with in Overland Park aren't at the Indianapolis office.

"I think I'm passed that," she said. "I'm totally bank loyal now."

Debbie K, meet Coach K

During her tenure with the NCAA, Krivjansky met several athletics directors and presidents. She also met some players and coaches, including Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski and former Miami quarterbacks Steve Walsh and Gino Toretta. Krivjansky met players and coaches at the NCAA's annual convention.

On another occasion she spoke with former Georgetown coach John Thompson.

Right before the Final Four one year, she spoke New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner four times in one day.

Steinbrenner hung up on Krivjansky during three of those calls.

Steinbrenner's seats were 10 rows up from the court for the Final Four, but those were too far away for the Yankees' owner.

Luckily, Steinbrenner stayed on the phone long enough the fourth time Krivjansky called. Dempsey, the NCAA's executive director, had Krivjansky switch some of his tickets -- which were four rows up -- with Steinbrenner so the head Yankee wouldn't have to sit so far from the floor.

Madness of March

The NCAA headquarters was tuned into college basketball every March. It was hard to find anyone in the building who wasn't keeping an eye on the tournament.

"It was surround sound because everybody had a radio or a TV on," Krivjansky recalled.

NCAA headquarters is home to Selection Sunday, the daylong meeting in which organizers decide who will be in the men's and women's tournament fields.

In Krivjansky's earlier days with the NCAA, the Internet wasn't available, nor were the amount of cable sports channels carrying games. It was more difficult keeping track of who still was playing in conference tournaments.

Staff members took turns checking scores on radios. The office also would field calls from pay phones at the tournaments with score updates.

Krivjansky attended NCAA Regionals when they were held in Kansas City, Mo., at Kemper Arena. She also saw her share of Big Eight tournaments, which also were held at Kemper Arena.

Although she didn't attend any men's Final Fours, Krivjansky's husband, Joe, did. He attended the 1994 Final Four at the Meadowlands in New Jersey.

Krivjansky did catch a women's Final Four one year when Tennessee won the title.

"I love Pat Summitt," Krivjansky said, referring to Tennessee's coach.

Summitt recently surpassed former North Carolina men's coach Dean Smith as the all-time win leader in NCAA basketball history.

Krivjansky also attended a College World Series in Omaha, Neb., and was involved in youth softball clinics in the Kansas City area with NCAA Division II coaches. The clinics coincided with the Division II tournaments that were held in the metro.

About the NCAA

Whenever an administrative position opened at the NCAA, the organization received interest from across the nation. Krivjansky remembered applications ranging in the 400s. That led to plenty of diversity in the NCAA.

Krivjansky said eight different religions were represented at the headquarters.

"That was the fun part was getting to learn about all those different cultures," Krivjansky said.

Krivjansky had several meetings that dealt with cultures around the world.

In Japan, for instance, Krivjansky said it is disrespectful to write on someone's business card.

Although Krivjansky no longer works for the NCAA, she stays current with what's going on in the world of college athletics.

Regarding the NCAA Tournament, some critics say organizers set up brackets in hopes of some made-for-TV matchups. This year, for instance, North Carolina and Kansas were assigned to the same regional. North Carolina coach Roy Williams could have faced his former team, but the match-up never came to fruition.

Krivjansky said she doesn't buy into that ulterior motive theory.

"I don't think they do," Krivjansky said. "Whatever you do, it's going to be criticized.

"With all they've got to look at, I don't think that's their concern."

As for basketball players leaving college early to play in the NBA, Krivjansky said that decision should come with a price.

"I think they should be required to pay back that scholarship money," she said. "That's funds for a student who may be excelling in chemistry or arts who needs that money."

Krivjansky still keeps in touch with former colleagues at the NCAA. In fact, former employees met in Kansas City last summer for a five-year reunion since the NCAA offices moved to Indiana.

During her time at the NCAA, Krivjansky met several people and traveled extensively.

And, of course, it dealt with athletics.

"It was just fun," Krivjansky said. "If you like sports, and I love sports, it was just fun."

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