K-State’s Bill Snyder Respected By All
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — If, for some reason, you run into Bill Snyder of Kansas State this weekend as he brings his Kansas State football team into Morgantown for a 3:30 p.m. Saturday game against West Virginia, you can call him Coach.
Or Mr. Snyder.
Or even just plain Bill.
But don’t call him old!
True, he’s 78, but chances are he’s just taking a break from work if you run into him away from the football setting.
And, yes, coaching is work. It’s recruiting and game planning and film study and dealing with kids and their problems. It’s like being a teacher with a class of 120 every day. It’s long flights and the stress of winning and losing.
Then there’s fundraising, too.
Is that any way to treat a guy whose team plays in a stadium named after him?
Bill Snyder is a coaching legend.
He wins where no one else could have won. He turned Kansas State into a national power from the worst program in the land.
In 1989, when Snyder arrived in Manhattan, Kansas State was a prehistoric Kansas.
His first team went 1-10, which was improvement. The two previous teams had gone 0-11 and 0-10-1.
The Wildcats had gone six years since its last winning team, one that went 6-5.
K-State had one bowl game in its history.
Snyder rolled up his sleeves and went to work. Four years after that 1-10 debut he had himself a Top 20 team, and has now had 13 teams finish in the Top 20 and has appeared in 20 bowl games.
He’s gone bowling the last seven consecutive seasons.
Oh, along the way he beat cancer.
This is Snyder’s second career, really. After the 2005 season he decided to retire. He had just followed consecutive 11-win years with 4-7 and 5-6 seasons and thought it was time to turn the program over to someone else and let him enjoy his life.
But how can you enjoy it when the program you had built was crumbling around you, going 17-20 in three years?
He came back and within three years was winning 10 and 11 games a season once again.
All the while he was building his career, there was a kid up in Iowa watching him coach. He was a kid caught up in football, one destined to coach himself, the man who will be on the other sideline this Saturday.
Dana Holgorsen is his name.
“I’ve watched him coach growing up as a kid,” Holgorsen said at this year’s Big 12 Media Days. “I’ve talked about this in length. He’s one of my heroes and one of the guys that I’ve always looked up to, and as a small kid in Iowa I was watching him on the sidelines and followed his career at Kansas State.”
They are different as you can be in coaching philosophies, men from different eras brought up under different influences.
Holgorsen’s mentors moved the offensive game of football forward, racking up gaudy numbers … but while they could get behind any cornerback in the world they could not get ahead of Snyder, who relied on those old-fashioned basics and principles that are time-proven.
But neither Snyder nor Holgorsen see it as an old-fashioned kind of football against a new-fangled football team.
“I don’t see a whole lot of difference,” Holgorsen said at his Tuesday press conference. “Everyone wants to compare old school, new school brand of football … Kansas State and West Virginia, but there’s a lot of similarities that I see.
“I copy a lot of their stuff. The one drastic difference you are seeing is the quarterback run game vs. the passing game but their pass plays are clearly up to date. If you look at us two years ago, we were really similar. What we did offensively and what they do.
“I’d like to think we play with great effort, were coached up pretty good, we got some toughness to us and we have a lot of program pride around so there are a lot of non-coaching things that I tried to have here based on what he has done with program for decades.
“He is one of the most well respected guys in the history of our game and I’m excited about being able to compete with him again,” Holgorsen continued. “He’s always incredibly gracious before the game and incredibly complimentary after the game, doesn’t matter if he wins or loses. He’s always the same guy.”
And he writes letters. Not emails, letters. He writes them to opponents, to other coaches, to recruits.
“The letters are famous and nobody else in this profession does that,” Holgorsen said.
In 2014 WVU quarterback Clint Trickett received one such letter from Snyder after suffering a concussion in the game with Kansas State. It was hand written in blue marker across the note page and read:
“Sorry I didn’t get to see you after the game Clint. Wasn’t aware that you had received a concussion. I hope the symptoms are gone by now & that you will be back soon. Always appreciate you as a young man of great values as well as being an excellent quarterback. Pulling for you to finish off the season at your best. Warm Regards Coach Snyder.”
Trickett has kept the letter, brought it with him as he began his own coaching career, forever a fan.
The team Snyder brings into Morgantown is 2-1, might not be his best, but rest assured his age has nothing to do with it.
How long will he coach?
No one knows. Just this year he signed a new five-year contract
“He’s a Hall of Fame football coach and as resilient as resilient gets,” said Holgorsen, who is amazed at what Snyder has done. “It’s surprising he’s still doing it. I ain’t doing it when I’m 79. I will be lucky to be here when I’m 79. I admire him for everything he’s done, everything he’s accomplished, everything he’s brought to the sport of football, everything he’s brought to the coaching community.”
Mike Gundy of Oklahoma State isn’t surprised Snyder is still coaching.
“Am I surprised he’s coaching? No, I’m not,” he said in July. “I will be surprised when he’s not coaching.”
Snyder does it his way.
“I haven’t seen much difference in his approach,” Gundy said. “The every day operation or game day approach with his team is very similar to when it was when I competed against him as a player in 1989.”