Matt Hayes of The Sporting News in his weekly column about college football explained why he thinks Kansas State's Bill Snyder deserves to be considered the greatest coach of his time.
You'd like to think he's different this
time around, that a few years away from the sport that fueled his insufferable
and obsessive personality would allow him to relax and appreciate the beauty of
Yeah, well, that's not how you resurrect the worst program in the history of college football. Twice.
That's not how Bill Snyder has become the greatest coach of his time.
"He's a perfectionist," Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein said this summer. "When did that become such a bad thing?"
Barry Switzer once said Bill Snyder accomplished "the coaching job of the century" in transforming perpetual loser K-State into a Big 12 powerhouse. You don't get that title by walking into Alabama or Oklahoma or Texas and steering what is already a living, breathing machine.
You get it by starting at the rarely noticed depths of the sport, where the job is so bad you wonder why they're still fielding a team. K-State was in the middle of a 0-26-1 run when Snyder was first hired in 1989, and the program was - without debate - the worst in college football.
The 15 coaches prior to his arrival in Manhattan won 161 games in 56 years. Two weeks ago in a game against North Texas that less than no one noticed, Snyder won his 162nd game at K-State - in his now 20th season (and second tenure) at the school.
He didn't make a fuss then, and didn't last weekend when the Wildcats rolled into Norman, Okla., as double-digit underdogs and he won No. 163. It was K-State's first victory over the Sooners since 2003, when the Miracle in Manhattan finally was complete: a 35-7 victory in the Big 12 championship game gave the Wildcats their first conference title since 1934.
And now, nine years later, they're going after another Big 12 title - three years removed from a downturn under former coach Ron Prince, who replaced a retiring Snyder in 2006.
Snyder walked into the meeting room three years ago when he returned to the program he built, and told those who had gotten used to losing to embrace his 16 goals and winning would soon follow.
Commitment. Unselfishness. Unity. Improvement. Self-discipline. Great effort. Enthusiasm. Elimination of mistakes. Never giving up. Don't accept losing. No self-limitations. Expect to win. Consistency. Leadership. Responsibility.
How could they argue with that? It was only the foundation of the greatest coaching job ever, from the greatest coach of his time.
Bruce Feldman wrote about Snyder in two different postings on CBSSports.com. First, this:
Most underrated coach in college football history? My vote goes to Bill Snyder. What he has now done at Kansas State - twice - is remarkable. Saturday night, his team went into Norman, where Oklahoma was 14-0 against ranked opponents under Bob Stoops and left with a 24-19 victory.
The Wildcats are almost always taken for granted. They won an insanely high percentage of close games in 2011 and this fall, they've got to be taken seriously again.
They are a very curious team led by their bona-fide Heisman candidate Collin Klein. The Cats are a pair of cowboy boots in a basketball-shoe league. K-State ranks No. 102 in the nation in passing offense. With the exception of woeful Kansas (No. 99), no other Big 12 school is below No. 47. Obviously, it doesn't matter if you have Collin Klein and Bill Snyder and a stout defense though.
And then this, writing about the 10 biggest surprises of the season thus far:
Simply put, Bill Snyder is one of the greatest college coaches in the game's history. Still, last year his team won an incredible amount of close games. It's so hard to come off that and have similar success. His program also lost most of its O-line and three of its top four tacklers from 2011. So K-State had to take a little step back from last year's 10 wins, right? Guess not. The Cats are 4-0. They destroyed Miami two weeks ago, and last Saturday became the first ranked team to beat OU in Norman in 15 tries.
And Stewart Mandel of SI.com answered a question about Snyder in his weekly Mailbag feature.
To appreciate just how incredible Snyder's career has been, consider this: Snyder's winning percentage in 21 seasons at Kansas State is .659. The program's winning percentage in its other 92 seasons of football is .357. Even with its modern success, K-State's all-time winning percentage (.439) is lower than all but three BCS programs (Northwestern, Indiana and Wake Forest).
Try to imagine current Indiana coach Kevin Wilson, who went 1-11 in his first season (much like Snyder went 1-10 in his debut campaign), eventually leading the Hoosiers to six 11-win seasons in seven years (as Snyder did from 1997-2003). That's how improbable Snyder's run would have seemed in 1989.
There are a number of reasons Snyder flies under the radar. For one thing, he's nondescript. When you think of the most celebrated coaches both past (Bear Bryant, Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler) and present (Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, Chip Kelly), the majority of them have distinct personalities. They give memorable quotes. Even after 20-plus years on the sidelines, Snyder is mostly anonymous outside of Kansas (though we know he loves Pinocchio). Good luck getting him to say much more than "we've got to keep rowing the boat."
Snyder also isn't considered the guru or pioneer of a certain type of offense or defense. Few realize he was one of the first to employ his quarterback as a shotgun zone-read runner back in the late '90s, directly influencing future spread-option coaches like Meyer.
And then there's the one glaring omission from his résumé: a national title. I would contend that winning 10-plus games a year at Kansas State is more remarkable than winning a national title at an established powerhouse, but the general public wants trophies.
Bobby Bowden turned Florida State from an also-ran into a preeminent program, but he wasn't truly lauded until winning his first title after 18 years at the school. Nebraska's Tom Osborne "couldn't win the big one" right up until he won three in a four-year span just before retiring. It's a lofty standard, especially given the subjective nature of college football's national championship, but it's reality.
Few expect this year's K-State team to contend for the top prize. But it could very well win the Big 12, which would be quite a feat given the context. Remember, the Wildcats had started to slip in the two years before Snyder retired in 2005 (going 4-7 and 5-6, respectively). Like many, I was skeptical of K-State's decision to bring him back in 2009 at age 69. Obviously I was wrong. Snyder's methods are timeless. Hopefully one day they'll be appropriately appreciated.