The Year of the Wildcat: A Kansas State Championship Season in Perspective


Dec 1, 2012; Manhattan, KS, USA; Kansas State Wildcats quarterback Collin Klein (7) holds up the Big 12 Championship trophy following a 42-24 win over the Texas Longhorns at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Year of the Wildcat.  3MAW.  Fun to say, aren’t they?  It’s hard to imagine a better year of sports for the Kansas State Wildcats.  Big XII football title?  Check.  Shared regular season Big XII basketball title.  (Be quiet KU fans)  Check.  Regular season baseball champs.  Check.  As we prepare for the weekend series against the Oregon State Beavers and a chance to head to the school’s first College World Series, I thought I would look into what has been “The Year of the Wildcat” and the wonderful ride it was.

Championships don’t make their way to Manhattan as frequent as they do on other campuses.  Because of that, I feel that Wildcat fans seem to have a more underdog approach to success.  The Wildcats have become a powerhouse since Bill Snyder came to campus.  We all know Coach Snyder has done everything but walked on water during his tenure at KSU.  He turned what was the laughing stock of college football (299-509-41 pre-Snyder) into one of the best programs in the country (post-Snyder 170-85-1 not counting the Ron Prince Era).  Even with all of Snyder’s success, league championships escaped him during a majority of his first tenure due to the dominance of Nebraska and Colorado during the 90’s and Oklahoma and Texas during the 00’s.  The football program had previously only won one Big 6/7/8/12 Championship in 1934.  Then one faithful evening, Daren Sproles and Ell Roberson ran all over Oklahoma and hoisted the Big 12 Championship in their arms.  Coach Snyder finally had a league title.  That year, big things were expected and injuries derailed some of their success.

This past season, expectations were not as high as some seasons in the Little Apple.  2011 was a magical season as well, but losses to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State bumped the Cats out of league supremacy.  Many pundits had picked the Wildcats towards the bottom of the league before the season had started.  However Coach Snyder and Collin Klein led a mistake free team to a surprising 10-3 record.  This brings me to this past year.  Many preseason polls and rankings had Kansas State in the Top 25, but not as a top five contender.  Well, November came around, Big XII Champs were a realization and I still can’t talk about the Baylor game.  Bill Snyder earned his second league championship and the start to the “Year of the Wildcat” had just begun.

As bad as Kansas State football was pre-Bill Snyder, Kansas State basketball may have been as bad since that same time period.  A school that once had a strong basketball tradition, rough times had hit the hardwood.  (Quick, how many Final Fours has K-State made?  Answer: 4, none since 1964).  The team failed to make the NCAA Tournament from 1996 to 2008.  Tough stretch of basketball in Manhattan.  Then, Bob Huggins came into town.  He made basketball relevant again and before bolting for his Alma Matter at West Virginia.  He left his top assistant Frank Martin in charge.  If Huggins made it relevant, Martin made it a must see.  The Octagon of Doom was born.  Players like Michael Beasley, Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente helped moved Kansas State up the ladder in Big XII basketball.  But still no league title.

Bruce Webber took over a basketball team filled with veterans after Martin left for South Carolina.  With the help of McGrudder (First Team All-Big 12) and Rodriquez (Second Team All-Big 12), and a few lucky breaks, (thanks Baylor, still mad at you for November), the Wildcats finished the season 14-4 in the regular season.  This was good enough to split the league’s regular season basketball title, the schools first since 1977.  The legend of the “Year of the Wildcat” continued to grow as we moved to baseball season.

Wildcat baseball has achieved some modest success since Brad Hill took the reins.  The team finished towards the bottom of the league his first few years.   But Hill saw improvement, making the NCAA tournament from 2009 to 2011 and finishing in the upper half of the league.  But last year a dip in success pushed the Cats back to 8th in conference.  Something about low expectations and these Wildcats will rise to the challenge.  The baseball team decided if the football and basketball teams could do it, why not them?

The 2013 version of the Cats blazed through the regular season, winning the league at 16-8.  The regular season baseball championship became the school’s first baseball championship since 1933.  Just over the weekend, the team won its pool play in Manhattan and advanced the Wildcats to their first ever Super Regional against Oregon State.  The winner moves on to Omaha and the College World Series.  Pretty exciting times being had in Manhattan.

So win or lose this weekend, embrace what has been a remarkable year for Kansas State.  Collin Klein being invited to New York to be part of the Heisman ceremony.  Fiesta Bowl birth.  The Wildcats upsetting the Florida Gators at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.  Bill Snyder, Bruce Webber and Brad Hill all winning Big XII Coaches of the Year awards.  Doing something only one school has done before in our league, sweeping the three titles.  (Darn you Texas!!!)  2012-13 was a remarkable year, something we fans should not take lightly.  Enjoy it, embrace it, and buy the t-shirts.  It’s been earned.  Oh and 3MAW!!!