Kansas State Coach Bill Snyder Still Kicking Ass at 73

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Kansas State Coach Bill Snyder Still Kicking Ass at 73
John Rieger-US PRESSWIRE

In 2011, the Kansas State Wildcats beat the Miami Hurricanes 28-24 on the road, yet failed to make the AP's Top 25 poll. The following week, the Wildcats beat No. 15 Baylor 36-35 and were finally rewarded with an initial ranking of No. 20 in the AP poll. 

The 7-0 Wildcats were ranked No. 8 in the BCS Standings but were only ranked No. 10 in the AP. Three one-loss teams, by the way, were ranked ahead of the Wildcats in the AP poll: Oregon, Arkansas and Michigan State.

Such is Kansas State football.

Disrespected? Probably not. Overlooked? Probably.  

The football Gods simply don't pay that much attention to football in certain regions of flyover country because college football in Kansas doesn't turn a lot of dials—nor heads. Basketball is a different story. 

But looking at the state of football in Kansas over the years, one coach has proved that he can and will win football. He never was—nor will he ever be— a fluke. And he still can kick your ass.

Bill Snyder. 

At 73 years old, Snyder is the oldest active coach in FBS football; he celebrated his 73rd birthday last Sunday. He's at the age where he should be sporting a gifted gold watch and reading 'Twas the Night before Christmas to his grandchildren as they sit on his knee sipping hot cocoa. 

Instead, Snyder is roaming the sidelines in Big 12 country searching for his first BCS Championship. 

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From 1989 to 2005, Snyder coached the Wildcats to a remarkable 136-68-1 record. The Wildcats had lost 27 straight games prior to when Snyder took over the program and were the first FBS program to lose 500 games. They were bad. 

But Snyder masterminded one of the greatest turnarounds in athletic history. Five years after he started, the Wildcats got their first taste of victory in the postseason: a Copper Bowl win.

Snyder's career includes Coach of the Year (AP, Walter Camp Football Foundation) in 1998 as well as numerous conference awards. But in 2005 Snyder retired, the Wildcats' stadium was renamed in his honor and Ron Price was named head coach at Kansas State.

After a disastrous three-year Prince era (17-20), Snyder came back in late 2008. No one thought he could rebuild again, but he's quietly doing just that.  

It's as though he's invisible. Or not that exciting. Maybe that's the reason why he doesn't make the late-night highlight reels like other coaches. No visor-throwing, no heated arguments with players, no rage. Snyder always has that same look on his face: one of deep thought and mild concern, but devoid of panic, anger or frustration. 

Kansas State University's Leadership Studies program used Snyder's approach in a case study of leadership. Robert J. Shoop and and Susan M. Scott wrote a book on that case study called Leadership Lessons from Bill Snyder. 

 

Three of the book's excerpts are very telling about Bill Snyder:

"For many people a goal is a specific, measurable, end product.  For Snyder, a goal is actually the adoption of a process. His goal is to make continuous improvement.”

 

Snyder's own words:

"There are no plays in football that work just exactly like we put them up on the board.  It just doesn’t happen that way…  We believe that the players on the field are in the best position, with the best vantage point to make critical decisions.  The ideal situation is to have your team so well prepared that each time the defense presents itself we will know exactly what we need to do.”

 "Yelling, screaming and swearing is not the answer. You can be very demanding without that.  Accepting mistakes and less than a player’s best performance is also not the answer.  He must know that you will not tolerate less than his best, yet he must know that you love him like your own. This is the true art of coaching.”

Snyder doesn't love his players when they win—he loves them no matter what they do. And looking at this grandfatherly man, who wouldn't want to make him happy? That probably explains why Snyder does more with less than most FBS coaches.

To say he does more with less isn't disrespectful; it's more of a reflection of his recruiting classes. Snyder's last four recruiting classes have never made Scout.com's top 50 class rankings. Since coming back for his second tenure at Kansas State, Snyder has never signed a Scout.com 4- or 5-star player. 

Class of 2012: Ranked No. 85, five 3-star players

Class of 2011: Ranked No. 61, 13 3-star players

Class of 2010: Ranked No. 99, five 3-star players

Class of 2009: Ranked No.112, one 3-star player

Quarterback Collin Klein, a 2-star Scout prospect ranked 106th among quarterbacks in the class of 2008, is now a legitimate Heisman contender. How did that happen?

Bill Snyder empowered Collin Klein to make the best decisions on the field by giving him knowledge, confidence and a manageable game plan which best utilizes his talents on the field. He also gave him a lot of love. 

Klein's workhorse-like performances aren't going to get him as much as exposure as lightning-in-a-bottle Geno Smith in the Heisman race because he's not the sexy quarterback that Smith is. In fact, the Kansas State Wildcats as a whole aren't sexy either.

But they do win with solid play on both sides of the line and display incredible discipline. The execution of their plays is beautiful to watch; the receivers make their assigned blocks, the fullback makes his assigned block. The parts all work together. 

So many coaches reel in incredible recruiting classes but it's not just the star rating that is important. Ask Bobby Bowden or Jimbo Fisher. Charlie Weis or Mark Richt. 

Recognizing talent is important but developing that talent is critical. A great quarterback in high school who has not been developed in college remains a high school quarterback trying to play against collegians. He's a boy playing against men. 

Snyder recognizes and develops that talent into good players and good citizens. The oldest coach in FBS football is still kicking asses. 

At 73 years old, Snyder coaches football in a stadium named after him—the Bill Snyder Family Stadium. It's appropriately named, and it must be thrilling for him to feel the love in Kansas.

If only he could get that same love back from the pollsters. 

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