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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Snyder seeks return to K-State glory

Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder meets the press in this 2009 file photo.

Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder meets the press in this 2009 file photo.

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— The meeting was held in the old Big Eight Room on the Kansas State University campus, a fairly primitive enclave with a concrete floor and a number of folding chairs that — on this day — were filled with 22 departing senior football players.

It was 1989, and Bill Snyder, the new head football coach of the laughingstock Wildcats, had asked the players to meet with him for a kind of exit interview. He wanted to know what their experiences had been under the old regime. What it was like for them to suffer through two straight winless season. What they felt could be done to turn the tide of a program that had managed one winning season in the previous 18 years.

And for the next hour or so, that’s exactly what he got.

One by one, the players spoke their minds. They talked about the humiliation that came with constant losing. How they were too embarrassed to go to Aggieville, the town’s bar district, following games. Or wear their letterman’s jackets on campus. Or go to classes the week after an especially lopsided loss.

“(The losing) had really impacted them in so many ways,” Snyder said. “And that was unfortunate.”

So Snyder set out to make sure none of his players ever felt like that again.

‘Things have changed’

Twenty years later, the state of affairs in Manhattan is a far cry from what it was two decades ago — and, thanks to Snyder’s initial turnaround efforts, most likely never will regress that far again.

But after a string of subpar seasons, a three-year experiment with a coach who never quite won over a passionate fan base hungry for a return to the glory days and a recent and public scandal that involved secret payments within the athletic department, things aren’t exactly rosy, either.

“Certainly, things have changed dramatically (since ’89),” Snyder said Wednesday, during Big 12 Media Days outside Dallas. “But there’s a lot of similarities, I think, as well.”

To start with, it wasn’t boredom that brought Snyder back. He wants you to know that. Shortly after he announced his retirement, he got a call from Penn State’s Joe Paterno. Paterno, who very well could go down as the sport’s winningest coach, pointed out the number of Little League games Snyder now would be expected to attend. He then explained how those games would last seven innings apiece and how the final scores, at that age, would be in the neighborhood of 35-33.

“How many of those are you going to be able to handle?” Paterno asked.

Snyder chuckled, but in the end, he never did get tired of the family stuff.

No, what brought him back was something else altogether. A sense of duty, perhaps, to help salvage the program he and his staff had built through pain and sweat and 17-hour work days. The desire to come to the aid of a town that had embraced him so thoroughly.

“Primarily,” Snyder said, “it had to do with the people of Kansas State, the tremendous support people that we have, K-State Nation, so to speak.

“Our football family.”

A new Snyder?

So he’s back now, in a conference that has undergone some significant changes since he last stalked its sidelines, and already there are signs of change, of a more tightly run ship.

Multiple players, including talkative receiver/returner Deon Murphy, have moved on since the coach’s return.

While meeting with members of the media this week, players wore suits — a contrast to the more casual polo shirts sported by other teams.

Even the dialogue seems different — no comments like the ones issued before last year’s Kansas game, in which players openly questioned the Jayhawks’ heart and Murphy famously stated that KU coach Mark Mangino would wish he’d recruited all of Kansas State’s players following the conclusion of their upcoming game (which Kansas went on to win, 52-21).

At the same time, there are indications that this is a kinder, gentler Bill Snyder.

After informing players recently that they wouldn’t be allowed to wear earrings in the team’s football complex, for instance, he added that he, too, would abide by the rule if he ever decided to pursue a piercing.

“But (he said) he doesn’t wear them because he can’t find a pair that he liked,” tight end Jeron Mastrud said.

“He's a lot sharper than you think,” added Mastrud. “People want to say he's old — yeah, he's older, but an old coach can still coach.”

An old coach can also keep up in a digital world, apparently.

Though he still considers himself a “hard-copy kind of guy” — a title that surely served him well following a recent incident in the football offices, in which a KSU server crash resulted in staff members losing the contact information for various recruits — he has picked up a BlackBerry and become adept enough with it to read through the 250 e-mails or so he receives each day.

“I get up every morning early in the morning, and you get this BlackBerry thing out, and it’s got all the recruiting services (on it), and they each have a long story on every youngster that is above the age of 4 in the nation,” Snyder said. “Tells you what he had for breakfast and what position he plays and who’s recruiting him and so on.”

Still, he says, the quickening pace of the game — and in this case, pace refers to the immediate nature of the recruiting process — makes him a bit uneasy.

Currently, the Wildcats have offered approximately 130 recruits scholarships and have between 15 and 17 commitments. Which means that young guys — young guys that haven’t even begun their senior year of high school, haven’t really proven themselves for an extended period of time — are already a part of the Kansas State program.

“It’s a little frightening in that respect,” he admits.

His disciples, however, many of whom now lead Big 12 teams, have had little trouble adjusting to the new way of doing things, and this week, as they gathered in Irving, they had little concern that having Snyder in their conference would make their lives a bit more difficult this season.

Said Mangino of his team’s Nov. 7 game with the Wildcats in Manhattan, “It’ll be the first time I’ll ever coach a game where the highway leading into town is named after the opposing coach and the stadium you’re playing in is named after the opposing coach.”

To be perfectly honest, Snyder doesn’t know how the story will end, so to speak, any more than he did 20 years ago, sitting with 22 departing seniors before building a dynasty where no one thought a dynasty could be built.

Maybe things will work out. Maybe he’ll buck the trend of coaches who have come back to coaching after retirement, only to fail to match their previous success.

Then again, maybe he won’t.

In the end, that’s not necessarily the point.

“You know, what the outcome will be, I have absolutely no idea,” he said. “But, you know, if we can — and I’ve said this so many times — if we can settle the waters, it will have been worth the effort.”

Comments

Eurekahwk 10 years, 6 months ago

K-State Football, a dynasty? Surely, you jest. They are as much a dynasty as we are. They have that one title game they stole from an assuming OU squad who was already looking towards the national title game. But they haven't even beaten a top ten team in a bowl game.

rockchalkAZ 10 years, 6 months ago

i hate k-state. just like many KU supporters. but there's no bashing bill snyder and the things he's done. he's a class act and a great coach

William James 10 years, 6 months ago

I think KSU Nation was completely in the tank for Ron Prince, especially after 2 big wins over Texas. That's why it hurt them so bad in 07 when we beat them in their house. Ron Prince was young, fresh, supposedly intelligent, charismatic, a great speaker, and KSU fell for all of that. The only problem was, he had never proven himself. All flash, no substance. Not to get into politics too much, but it can't help but to remind me of someone else. KSU made a huge mistake hiring Prince, but they certainly made the right call going back to Snyder. He ain't the youngest coach in the country, he might not have a lot of flash, but he has been in the trenches and knows exactly what it takes to get it done. He has not only changed the culture of KSU, but the state of Kansas. As a child, I was lectured that KU and KSU have and would always be bad at football. Then Bill Snyder came to Kansas and threw that theory right out the window. It's funny, as much as I hated watching KSU take such complete control of the series, it gave me hope that if KSU can do this, we certainly can one day.

Ray March 10 years, 6 months ago

why is this prune-faced "never was" on OUR web site!!!!????

ultimate FAIL!

Dirk Medema 10 years, 6 months ago

Prince's record was the same as Snyder's when he left. The kitty-cats ar delusional to think that they are destine for the minor blip of success they had in the middle of Snyder's time on the farm. I think they are headed for more of the same mediocrity - just ahead of ISU.

It is also interesting to read that the kitties "have between 15 and 17 commitments". ESPN, Rivals & Scout all have them with 4 or 5 commitments. Where'd you get your info Dugan?

Dirk Medema 10 years, 6 months ago

Update - Rivals has them with 8 connittments.

Displayhawk 10 years, 6 months ago

Can't deny what the man did! Turning KSU around the way he did was one of the greatest coaching jobs of all time! BUT .......Now he is going to have to do it again without coaches like Bob Stoops and Mark Mangino! I have always said that Coach MM was the main reason for the resurgence of KSU and then OU football!

Dyrk Dugan 10 years, 6 months ago

i too found it odd that the story contained "15 to 17 commitments." the story in the KC Star this morning, under Blair Kerkhoff's byline, actually has that as a Bill Snyder quote. so it's like he said it on the interview stand.

So does he not know? or, does he know something that Rivals doesn't? if that's the case, then who is in the fold that we don't know about? Joe Randle perhaps?

it's just very strange to hear a coach, or see numbers of recruits, be so specific before signing day. and this is WAY before signing day. And especially with Snyder, who is perceived to be so precise and organized.

(BTW, Tre Walker from ONorth, has given KSU a soft verbal per Rivals...so he is still in play. maybe the quote should be 14 to 16....tee he.)

Jim Sanders 10 years, 6 months ago

The problem with Synder is that he is going to have to do this all over again but the landscape around him has drastically changed this time. When KSU had success, Missouri was pathetic as was KU. Baylor was bad, Colorado was falling, OU was struggling and even KU beat them then. Tech was not a power, etc. Today, there are very good teams in the B12 and every Saturday, you better bring your game or go home a loser. I predict Snyder goes home a loser more often then not.

kansas25 10 years, 6 months ago

You really can't deny how good of a coach Bill Snyder was and is. You can't. And, if it weren't for him, Mark Mangino wouldn't be doing wonders here at KU right now. Now, the Jayhawks will indeed get the better of KSU this year, but I think it'll be nice to actually have 2 good teams within the next few years play an actual rivalry game.

Jeff Hargate 10 years, 6 months ago

I agree with Jimhawks. With 9 or 10 Big 12 teams in play for a bowl game this year it will be hard for Snyder to see any gains this year. If KSU gets back to consistant bowl games it could be after Snyder retires again, but he will deserve much credit. It will be interesting to see their Tim Tebow-type offense without a Tim Tebow this year.

truefan 10 years, 6 months ago

I don't think anyone, except maybe K-State fans, are expecting big gains from Snyder this year. He has the left-over recruits from Ron Prince who was quite possibly the worste coach ever and the best thing to happen to KU since Mangino. The problem I see is that K-State started their slide while Snyder was still at the helm, how does he expect to resurge a program when it wasn't even surging in his last to or three years coaching? I think he will land a few recruits who will remember the glory days of K-State and will be excited that he has returned, but when that excitement shows minimal gains in the next couple of years, he will again be the head of only a mediocre program. It's not that bringing back K-State can't be done, I just think his relationship with players was already declining and he is not the coach to bring them back...again. It may happen, but I wouldn't bet on it. They need new blood leading their program...just one with more sense than Ron Prince.

bangaranggerg 10 years, 6 months ago

Snyder arguably only reached his first winning season because Samson walked on to his NFL (Nazirite Football League) team.

Have you checked Coach Snyder's Twitter? He's got a bunch of followers which is impressive considering all he ever tweets is "I think the nurse is stealing from me."

Nowadays when Snyder sinks his teeth into a defense they stay there.

Don't worry he won't even read this article, that is unless it' s on the obits page.

Christopher Hauser 10 years, 6 months ago

The problem with Kansas State is not Bill Snyder or the athletes. The problem is the KSU fan base and their refusal to remember that they were one of the worst programs in college football history just because they had ten years of success. Kansas State had an 11 game win streak against KU and if you were to ask most KSU fans during this period (93-03) they would have said that the all time record is KSU 11, KU 0. The all time record between KU and KSU is 65-36-5 or 64-37-5 (disputed) in KU's favor. KSU's all time record is 452–598–41. By the way KU's all time record is 563-543-58 a winning record, how about that. So before the last two years KU was .500 and is now 20 games above .500, never noticed that.

"before building a dynasty where no one thought a dynasty could be built." I do not think that KU has a football dynasty with a winning record, BCS bowl victory. So how in the hell is one going to call KSU's 11 years of winning a dynasty with no BCS victories and 1 Big Twelve Championship? Bill Snyder is a great coach that the whole state of Kansas should be proud of and he recruits mostly great well rounded players. But never a dynasty or decade of domination has KSU had(except for a decade against KU, by the way KU has beaten KSU 10 times in a row starting in 63 I believe). I am sure that not all KSU fans think the way that I have described but they have been few and far between in my experience. Maybe my comments make no sense and I am the only one who has experienced this from KSU fans. Am I the only one?

justanotherfan 10 years, 6 months ago

Bill Snyder was/is overrated in my opinion. And it's extremely doubtful that he will acheive the type of success people think upon his return.

Jimhawks and jeffthejayhawk are right. Snyder's successful turnaround had as much to do with the climate of college football then as it had to do with his attention to detail, etc.

He turned KSU from the worst program in the nation to decent, but really, if you are in a major conference and you can't at least be decent, you're an embarassment.

Look at Snyder's record his last 3 years.11-4, 4-7, 5-6. Ron Prince, in his 3 years went 7-6, 5-7, 5-7. Snyder was 22-17, but declining pretty steadily (2-6 in conference his last two years). The real undoing of Prince was the fact that he was 0-6 against KU and MU.

But look at how Snyder built his program. When he took over KSU, the powers in the old Big 8 were Colorado and Nebraska. Snyder's all time record against CU and NU - 10-23-1. And most of those wins were acquired later in his career (after 1998), as CU especially and NU began to decline as national powers. When KSU moved to the Big 12, the new added powers were A&M and Texas. Snyder's combined record against them - 4-7.

Meanwhile, the weaker schools when Snyder took over KSU were KU, MU and ISU. Combined record - 40-11. When Baylor joined the Big 12, Snyder went 4-0 against them.

So he was 14-30-1 against the perceived powers of his conference, but 44-11 against the weakest teams. KSU was never anything more than an average program under Snyder. They beat up on the weakest teams to pump up their record (note the 55-10 non conference record built on beating mostly second tier D-1 schools).

Snyder got more than half of his 136 wins against the weakest of the D-1 schools around.

But now, Snyder enters a very different world. Sure, he can still schedule 4 patsies in non-con, but KU and MU are legitimate threats now, not only in conference, but nationally. He can't bully BU and OSU. OU and Texas are national contenders. NU and CU are building back to national prominence. Who will Snyder beat up on in conference, where he plays two thirds of his games?

I just looked at their schedule, and I don't see them winning more than 5 or 6 games this year.

UMass (win), @Louisiana (win), @UCLA (tossup), Tennessee Tech (win), ISU in KC (win), @ Texas Tech (loss), A&M (win), CU (tossup), @OU (loss), KU (loss), MU (loss), @ NU (loss).

There's a pretty good chance that even if they start the season 5-0 they may lose 6 of their last 7. And if they trip up on the road against Lousiana or UCLA, or lose in KC to ISU, they may lose 8 or 9 games.

Bill Snyder isn't a savior. He's just a scheduling genius who capitalized on a weaker conference.

Fred Davis 10 years, 6 months ago

As Kansas25 pointed out, with no Bill Snyder, there's no Mark Mangino and chances are KU's still Big 12 cellar-dwelling... Bill Snyder made it possible for bad football teams to turn their program around and become elite. Think about that for a minute. This guy took the worst program in history and made it one of the winningest programs in the 90s. And Mangino took what he learned from Snyder and has patterned that success into this decade's Kansas Jayhawks. If there's one thing that we KU fans can thank Al Bohl for, it's Mark Mangino. Snyder created the blueprint for what KU fans are enjoying right now...

Christopher Hauser 10 years, 6 months ago

FreddyD-good post I agree with you. Just for giggles, do you think KSU would have been as good in the 90's if he didn't have the assistants that he had? Many say (KSU fans/players) that the reason most of his assistants left was because Snyder was too much of a control freak and would not let them do their jobs. When Snyders assistants began leaving less and less games were won (last 3 seasons). Snyder had a marionette hanging from his wall in his office, you know puppet with strings. From what I have heard (forner KSU players) is that this is how he treated his players and coaches. Interesting comments that I picked up around 2003, their Big 12 championship year.

Joe Baker 10 years, 6 months ago

Snyder is so yesterday! He's a great guy, but he seems out of it. Is it just me or does he look a little crazy eyed in this pic...Good Lord! K-State is in trouble if he coaches this way!!

Dyrk Dugan 10 years, 6 months ago

excellent analysis, justanotherfan.

it's just a different world now in big time college football for the kitties. KU and MU are good solid programs. you just can't count them as wins anymore like you use to for team Snyder.

what in the world will the kitty nation do, if they can't crack a bowl game for a couple of more years? what if they keep losing to lowly KU? oh the horror.......

Ray March 10 years, 6 months ago

why is this old turd STILL on OUR web site!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!??????????????????

come on!

Dillon Davis 10 years, 6 months ago

You CANNOT be considered a dynasty unless you win championships repeatedly. They only won one Big 12 title and went to i think it was 3 BCS bowl games. And they only won one of them. They never have and never will be a dynasty.

KUFan90 10 years, 6 months ago

Bangarangerg - are you here all week? Should we try the veal?

Snyder just flew in from Dallas and boy are his arms tired.

Don't quit your day job.

OPJayhawk 10 years, 6 months ago

WHY WHY WHY is this on a Kansas website? Absolutely disgusting. Take it somewhere else, or better yet, take yourself somewhere else. Maybe the Manhattan Mercury has an opening.

E4KUJHawks 10 years, 6 months ago

This is just slightly above (or maybe below, depending on relevance of rivalry) having some Bullshot about mizSEWERy on the homepage. C'mon KUsports.com...you can do better...

As for the article, the topic, Bucktooth Bill and all that....Eh, who really cares?! They are state...they don't matter 'round here.

Kman_blue 10 years, 6 months ago

Well in defense of having ANOTHER SCHOOL's FOOTBALL HEAD COACH ON THE COVER OF OUR G D SCHOOL'S LOCAL SPORTS PAGE!! The writer is a Mizzerian who lets his bias slip out on a regular basis.

chrishauser20, Back in 1966 when our recently departed ex-coach Jack Mitchell left, KU was 80 games above .500 (nearly 100 games above .500 back when J.V. Sikes left in 1953 and with an all-time winning percentage that put us in the top 20 of all of Div. 1 football) and when Mike Gottfiried left in 1985 we were still 51 games above .500. It wasn't until 2004 when we hit only 5 games above .500, It took 30 years to slowly slide 50 games from the number above .500 and then less than 20 years to lose nearly another 50. Shows just how horrid we were for much of the 1980's and 1990's and shows just how lucky Snyder was his first go around to get KU at near it's worst years ever. Now we're steadily building to being well above .500 where this program had been for most of its history. KU has never been below .500 in all of its football history, unlike KSU which has never been above .500 EVER. Virtually nobody realizes any of this and since most of it happened before their lifetimes they discount it, which is easy to do. I think it's about time KU fans demand a top 20 football team year in and year out, instead of settling for being good once in a while.

Oh, and WHY IN THE WORLD is the coach of one of our rivals on the front page of KUSPORTS.com?!?!?!

trader 10 years, 6 months ago

I thought I was on the Kansas University website. I guess not.

bangaranggerg 10 years, 6 months ago

KUFan90, I didn't really understand your post until I realized that you are the joke. Way to commit. Well done.

Christopher Hauser 10 years, 6 months ago

Kman_blue- good stuff, I agree that the 80's and 90's were abysmal for KU for the most part. I was alive for the 80's and 90's but not before that. I sat through the ABC aired Oklahoma at KU game with the Boz and remember that by the third quarter there were only a hand full of fans left in the stadium. I was able to get a lot of plastic KU cups that fans left behind. There were a lot of games like that. The best part of games then for me was riding the bus from the (old) American Legion with Dave Aikins and my father watching them get tanked on Schlitz beer and reminiscing about their playing days in the same stadium with an Orange Bowl bound 68-69 squad and then the debacle of a season that happened the next year. Occasionally their was peppermint schnapps when the mercury got below freezing. Hot chocolate for me of course. You are right fans do not only deserve but should demand a top twenty team every year. The University of Kansas is too great to have a sub par football team.

Andy Tweedy 10 years, 6 months ago

The 1990's were not as bad as many remember for KU football. The first half of the decade was pretty good. In fact, I think it is safe to blame lack of continuity for many of our problems. Glen Mason was building a pretty respectable program before his two-step with Georgia. Had Mason stayed, sparing us the Terry Allen years, KU might have kept improving. KSU suffered the same fate when Snyder left and Prince put them almost right back where they started. Snyder did wonders for KSU, but that was a different time with different rules, and he had little to challenge him to the east (KU and Misery). I'm not sure this will go as well, as I think was evidenced by the end of his first tenure, which was far from the "dynasty" mentioned in the article.

Christopher Hauser 10 years, 6 months ago

rockchalk1990- Mason could do it every other year, he was never consistant that was evident at Minnesota as well.

Kevin Long 10 years, 6 months ago

I respect Snyder a lot, but it's not for a KU website. I don't think he will be able to do anywhere near what he did in his early years. I think he just came back to stop the bleeding a little.

William James 10 years, 6 months ago

You guys, I want to know and hear about our opponents, especially when they have a coaching change. Especially, if it's our only in state competition.

Keith Conklin 10 years, 6 months ago

I thought this was KUSPORTS.COM?? Who gives a blank about some pussycat head coach. Ultimate Fail. And Fabio if you want to hear about your opponents go to their website or ESPN.com.

E4KUJHawks 10 years, 6 months ago

fabio...I don't disagree with ya about the "wanting to hear (or now) about our opponents," ... but they sure don't have to be the lead story with the big picture and all that. The main story of the day should be KU related, just my opinion though. Keep the opponents to the "Around the Big XII" section...if we still have that on here.

yates33333 10 years, 5 months ago

If you believe the crap about Bill Snyder and family I have a bridge in Brooklyn you might be interested in.

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