It can be argued that no major college head coach has had the monumental impact on a university, and the campus community, more so than Kansas State’s Bill Snyder.
However, if an argument on the topic is what you seek, you won’t get it from me. Synder is a coaching legend in every sense of the word.
The list of guys that could go to Manhattan, KS and turn the Wildcats into a winner is short. So short in fact, that Snyder’s name is the only one on the list right now, and that list is carved in stone. He’s won more games there than all other Kansas State coaches combined. No other coach has even hit the 40-win mark.
On the field he has taken a downtrodden program from doormat to conference contender, not once, but twice. He took over the program in 1989 following a successful ten-year run as the offensive coordinator at Iowa. The program he took over had won an average of 3 games a year for the first 93 years of their existence. The program, which SI had tapped “America’s Most Hapless team”, was unquestionably one of the worst in the country, and had lost 26 of their last 27 games, and the lone outlier in that bunch wasn’t even a win, it went down as a tie.
From 1989-2005, Snyder led the team to 11 bowl games in his final 13 seasons and that included breaking the double-digit wins mark a total of six times. Following his initial retirement from coaching in 2005, the administration decided to rename the stadium “Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium” in honor of him.
After leaving the coaching profession completely for three seasons, in November of 2008, Snyder was re-introduced as the program’s head coach, taking over for Ron Prince who went 17-20 in three seasons. Since his comeback, Snyder has led the team to a bowl eligibility every season, including five straight bowl trips, with Cotton and Fiesta Bowl appearances in 2011 and 2012 included in that streak. After taking on a major rebuilding project, his record with the program during two stints stands at an impressive 190-98-1.
But let’s put his on the field accomplishments aside for a moment, because this a man whose character is second to none. Snyder still sends the occasional hand-written letter to players who beat him and his team as the clock runs out, and is the same man that helped turn the facilities in Manhattan from unexciting to jaw-dropping impressive. and also the man who quite literally saved the life of one of his assistant coaches.
Yet, here we are past the midway mark of the 2015 season, and the Wildcats are sitting at 3-4. They won their first three games (South Dakota, UTSA & Louisiana Tech in 3OT), but since the start of the Big 12 conference slate, the ‘Cats have dropped four in a row, including a miserable 55-0 defeat to Oklahoma.
Snyder’s remaining games are tonight vs. Baylor, then at Texas Tech, vs. Iowa State, at Kansas, and vs. West Virginia to end the season. While every one of those games are certainly winnable, it forces you to consider the fact that Kansas State may not be able to get enough wins to get bowl eligible, and that would be a first under The Purple Wizard since 2005. If they’re unable to win three or four of these games, recent decisions by Spurrier and Beamer begin to sneak into the mind.
Already this season, college football has lost two coaching legends in Steve Spurrier and Frank Beamer. If word came out that Snyder also wouldn’t return next season, the 2015 coaching carousel will always be remembered as the year the legends stepped down.
Will the 76 year old Snyder follow in Beamer and Spurrier’s footsteps and step down at some point during or after this season? It’s possible. But it’s also equally as likely that Snyder bucks conventional wisdom, as he has every off season for the past decade, to return in 2016. The past few years there has been smoke filling the air about his retirement, and yet (thankfully) come every fall, Snyder can still be seen pacing the sidelines on Saturday afternoons.
As the past few weeks have reminded us all, there aren’t too many “legends” remaining in the profession. Given that you never know when it might happen, we encourage everyone to watch coach Snyder’s Wildcats play tonight against Baylor. Don’t know how many more national TV opportunities might lie ahead.
Coaching Gods, if you’re listening, do us a solid and bring Bill Snyder back next season.