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Bill Snyder: Coach of the Century

Kansas State coach Bill Snyder has resuscitated the moribund program not once, but twice, and contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t involve black magic.


In November of 1988, Kansas State hired Iowa Offensive Coordinator Bill Snyder as its new head coach. The Wildcats were sitting at 299 all-time wins. They had been searching for that elusive 300th win since beating Kansas 29-12 on October 18th, 1986. When Snyder took over, Kansas State was 0-26-1 since that last victory.

The program was in such a mess that in its 1989 pre-season edition, Sport illustrated suggested that Kansas State should just turn in their playbooks and concentrate on being a basketball school.

Twenty two plus seasons later Snyder is on the ballot for the College Football Hall of Fame. From 1989-2005 Snyder engineered the greatest turnaround of a program in college football history, retired, and then came back in 2009 to prove it wasn't a fluke.

Kansas State has been playing football for 119 seasons. Going into Saturday's game against Texas, Snyder is 183-91-1. In the seasons without Bill Snyder as their coach, Kansas State is 315-531-40 for a putrid .377 winning percentage.

Here are some other numbers.

* KSU has had 36 winning season in 119 years, Bill Snyder produced 16 of them. There have been ten seasons with 10 or more wins, Snyder has nine of them - the only other 10-win season for KSU was in 1910.

* Kansas State has played in only 17 bowl games in its history - Bill Snyder has coached them in 15 of them.

* Kansas State has finished ranked in the top 20 twelve times - all under Snyder.

* Against interstate rival Kansas, KSU is 41-65-5. Bill Snyder is 18-4 against the Jayhawks.

* KSU is 18-74-4 against OU. Snyder has 8 of the 18 wins (8-12).  OU is the only Big 12 program with a winning record over Snyder.

All of this prompted former OU Coach Barry Switzer to call Snyder the Coach of the Century.

"He did the best coaching job that has been done in the century the first time," former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer said. "People ask why he came back. He wanted to prove it wasn't luck. And he's doing it."

Discipline & Attention to Detail

Snyder won just once his first year at KSU, but he retired after the 2005 season with a 136-68-1 record, including 11 straight bowl seasons from 1993-2003. He built the program literally from the bottom up, tapping into a rich Junior College territory from Kansas to Texas, blending in transfers from other programs along with high school talent that was scrupulously scouted to fit his system.

Snyder liked the physical maturity of JC players, many of whom understood they were getting second chances at playing at the D-1 level and were willing to buy into the discipline and persistence that Snyder demanded of everyone.

Snyder spent hours building relationships with junior college coaches, and went after players from successful programs such as Hutchinson Community College in Kansas and Blinn JC in Texas. Michael Bishop had quarterbacked Blinn to back-to-back national championships before transferring to Kansas State, where he finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1998.

Snyder's teams are known for avoiding self-destruction. They don't turn the ball over and they don't commit many penalties. He likes JC players and transfers because they tend to not make the mistakes younger players make in crunch time.

The lack of mistakes comes from a culture of discipline that is built into the program from the top down. Snyder has every practice timed to the minute - and he expects his assistants to have every meeting with their players be the same.

There are standing rules: no caps, no earrings in the football complex. If your meeting is at 10:30, be in your seat by 10:25.  Snyder moves from group to group during practice. He carries a recorder with him and makes verbal notes that players know will be brought up later in meetings.

His attention to detail is legendary. When Kansas State was flying to Tokyo for a game, Snyder arranged for his team to sit on the side of the plane away from the sun. He has the same pre-game meal every time - chicken & spaghetti with two pats of butter.

He demands that travel from the hotel to the stadium be scheduled down to the minute. Rules for his staff include collared shirts and dress shoes to be worn at work, and everyone must be clean shaven. If they have been at the complex overnight, he has a supply of razor blades on hand for their use.

16 Goals for Success

When Bill Snyder stepped away from his post after the 2005 season, those close to him report that he did exactly what he said he would do. He spent more time with his family and grandchildren. He read voraciously. He dove into charity work.  And he missed football.

The Ron Prince Era lasted exactly three years at Kansas State when Snyder was brought back. The core tenets remained the same for Snyder, bring in a blend of JC and high school players, instill discipline, demand hard work, and trust the results will follow.

This time Snyder had formalized his blueprint with a "16 Goals for Success," and he envisioned these goals being useful on and off the field.

The goals are expressed in such ideas as: Commitment, Unity, Self-Discipline, Consistency and Responsibility.

Snyder went about rebuilding the talent base the best way he knew how. Recruiting to Manhattan, Kansas is no picnic, but Snyder's demand for attention to detail pays off when you watch tape after tape of recruits and can evaluate players not high on the Rivals list who fit your system.

His 2014 class consisted of 18 high school players and 9 junior-college transfers. Rivals ranked the class 47th in the country, which was a helluva lot higher that the other classes he had signed since coming back. Those recruiting classes were ranked #85, #61, #99 and #112.

Since 2011 KSU is 34-11.

Take a look at the blend of this 2014 team. The roster includes players from 18 different states. There are 10 players who entered Kansas State as a walk-on who have started at least one game. Three of the team captains - OL B.J. Finney, DE Ryan Mueller and LB Jonathan Truman are original walk-ons with a combined total of 83 starts for the Wildcats.

Become proficient in the fundamentals. Don't make foolish mistakes. Protect the football. Punish the opponent at the point of attack.  Basic aspects of the game that drive the Kansas State program.

Bill Snyder turned 75 earlier this month.  His contract runs through the 2017 season, and he has given every indication he intends to honor that pact.

Kansas State has produced a series of short videos on Snyder's "16 Goals for Success."

You might want to watch them and then tune in Saturday Morning at 11:00 AM to see them put into action on the football field.