Sometimes it feels like Bill Snyder and Kansas State Football have always been together. I can’t imagine a Wildcat football team being led by anybody other than the soft-spoken man with white hair and a purple windbreaker (yes, I have completely blocked out the Ron Prince era from my mind).
But, there has been K-State football without Snyder, believe it or not. Before he was hired in 1988, you could have made the argument that Kansas State was the worst football program in the history Division 1-A. Also, they had only been to one bowl game (1982 Independence Bowl).
Success didn’t come quick for Snyder and his staff in Manhattan, as he only won one game in his first year (their first win in three seasons). But with a work ethic like none-other, and players that bought into the process, Bill transformed the program over the next decade.
In 1988 the Wildcats went 1-10 and finished in last place of the Big 8 Conference standings. 10 seasons later, in 1998, Snyder and his team went 11-2 while finishing in first place in the Big 12. After only appearing in the one bowl before his tenure, the Wildcats now had been to six since.
Snyder, who was born in St. Joseph, Missouri in 1939, (WW2 was at its peak and the first Batman comic came out) played football at Missouri for a year in 1958 before spending the next three years playing at William Jewel College in Liberty, Missouri.
After coaching high-school football in California for years, Snyder got his first FBS job as an assistant coach for North Texas in 1976. After two years in Denton, Texas, working for the “Mean Green”, Snyder landed a job at Iowa as an offensive coordinator, where he would stay put for nine years.
Finally, after the 1987 season, Bill ended up at Kansas State.
Personally, I would call it a god-send. There aren’t a lot of people who could take program as futile as the Wildcats were, and turn it into a legitimate D-1 football team. Bill Snyder is one of those people.
It is easy to overlook how lucky not only Kansas State is, but how lucky we are as fans to have such a genuine person as our coach. It seems like, as supporters, we have out-grown the appreciation for a dedicated staff and team. Apparently, determination and effort aren’t enough for some of us anymore.
Eight coaches under Snyder have moved on to be the head coach at a D-1 school, most notably, Bob Stoops and Mark Mangino. I can’t think of someone better to represent college athletics than “the man in the purple windbreaker”. He has given so much to the game, it seems like we all, as college football fans, owe him something.
Snyder, the oldest D-1 football coach in the nation at 74, cannot stay in Manhattan forever, but damn, I wish he could.
No, really, when I blew out the candles this year on my birthday cake, that’s what I wished for.
We all have dreams, right?