NFF College Football Hall of Fame Class of 2015: Bill Snyder
ASN will profile all 17 new members in advance of the Dec. 8 NFF awards dinner in New York City.
Following the 1988 season, other coaches and administrators told Bill Snyder that Manhattan, Kan., was a coaching death trap. All he had to do was look at the hapless record the Kansas State Wildcats had accumulated over the years with only two winning seasons since 1954.
He took the job anyway. And, after the Wildcats stumbled to a 1-10 season during his first year in 1989, he was getting even more advice from coaching friends. When he arrived at Kansas State, there were only 47 players on scholarship, 48 below the 95-limit -- the lowest number a major-college football team in the country had on scholarship at that time.
“There wasn’t a player in our program that had ever participated in a (college) game they had won,” Snyder said of his rookie season as a head coach. “So that was their first victory. At the end of the season, a 1-10 football team, every friend that I had, as few as they might be, contacted me and said: ‘To leave as quickly as you possibly can. Something bad is going to happen, if you don’t.’”
Something told Snyder to stay. By his third season, the Wildcats had a winning record and by his fifth season, they were in the first of 11 straight bowls. They finally won a Big 12 title in 2003, in their third league title game.
His impact in Manhattan: In his 23 seasons (before the start of 2015), Snyder has piled up 187 victories. The Wildcats didn’t have that many victories from 1924 through 1989, the year Snyder arrived in Manhattan. A year later, he believed a turnaround could occur.
“I had never been more convinced that Kansas State University could be a successful program based on the fact we had made gradual improvement.” Snyder said. “I said before the season (his second, to the players), I am not going to make any judgments based on the scoreboard. We are going to make judgments on how well we improve.”
Snyder built the program and facilities brick by brick. He scoured the junior colleges and transfer lists for players, beefed up the walk-on program, and lightened the non-conference schedule to the point that the Wildcats could gain some confidence winning games before entering conference play.
“You just think of all the people who have invested so much--my family and my wife,” Snyder said after being elected to the Hall of Fame. “This isn’t an individual honor. As a coach you have to reflect on the wonderful coaches you have had with you and the wonderful players, tremendous administration we have had and the wonderful fan base at Kansas State University.”
The 76-year-old Snyder liked coaching so much, after a three-year hiatus from 2006-2008, he cut short retirement, returning for a second stint at Kansas State. He has since led the Wildcats to another league title in 2012. The football stadium is named after him, and there is a statue of his likeness outside.
Above: Head coach Bill Snyder built up a Kansas State program from practically nothing. (Courtesy Scott Weaver/K-State Athletics)