With the firing of Ron Prince in 2006, Kansas State made an unexpected move. After a fallout with TCU head coach Gary Patterson, and minimal success trying to lure Brett Venables from Oklahoma, Kansas State brought back a familiar face, Bill Snyder.
There is no denying that what Bill Snyder did in his first tenure at Kansas State was anything short of a miracle. Kansas State was one of, if not the worst, football programs in the nation before Snyder.
The Wildcats had the worst record in Division 1A and had a 27-game losing streak going when coach Snyder took over. From 1989-2005, Snyder took Kansas State to 12 bowl games, 6 of which he won, four Big 12 North division titles, and one Big 12 championship. He won the Bear Bryant Award, the Walter Camp Coach of the Year Award, was a three-time Big 8 coach of the year and two-time Big 12 Coach of the Year. His record when he retired in 2005 was 136-68-1.
When Kansas State decided to bring him back, I was one of the doubters. While I was a huge Bill Snyder fan and grew up watching him coach, I didn't feel that this was a legitimate long-term solution to the head coaching position. I felt as if the program had been run so far into the ground by coach Prince, that Kansas State was reaching for anything familiar to get the football program, as well as the university back on it's feet.
I was upset that we didn't go for a new young coach like Brett Venables. I was upset that Gary Patterson didn't work out, I just thought that there had to have been someone else who could provide the spark KSU needed, and be a long-term solution as head coach.
I was wrong. Bill Snyder still has it, and if anything, he has been rejuvenated from his time off.
His first season in 2009 was mediocre at best, but you have to consider that the genius recruiting of 19 junior college recruits in Ron Prince's last year didn't leave coach Snyder with a lot to work with.
With Carson Coffman, Grant Gregory, and Daniel Thomas, Snyder coached the Wildcats to a 6-6 mark. However, since two of those games were to FCS opponents, The Wildcats were not bowl eligible.
His second season was an improvement, if not by a whole lot. On the back of Daniel Thomas, even with one of the worst defenses in the nation, the Wildcats scratched their way to a 7-5 regular season mark and were chosen to represent the Big 12 in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl against the Syracuse Orange. Although the Wildcats lost in heartbreaking fashion by a score of 36-34, I must say, I salute the Wildcat team for their effort in that game.
This is Bill Snyder's third season as head coach. In case you haven't been paying attention, the Wildcats are 5-0 and are ranked 17th in the Associated Press poll. While the record and the ranking is impressive, what is most impressive is how the Wildcats have done it this season.
In the pass-happy Big 12, where defenses are often over-looked, the Wildcats are doing the opposite of everyone else in the conference. Where the spread is the norm, the Wildcats are bringing a power running game. When a weak run-defense and strong secondary is common, the Wildcats are bringing a smash-mouth, hard-hitting defense.
The main reason that the Wildcats are having success this year is the fact that every player on that team has been bought in to Bill Snyder's style of play. They believe in what their coach tells them, and it shows on the field. It has been a long time since Wildcat fans have seen a team as hard-nosed and cohesive as they are seeing this year, and it is a welcome change for KSU fans.
Bringing back Bill Snyder was absolutely the right move, and at a young 72 years of age, Snyder could coach for 10-15 more years, God-willing. With a highway to Manhattan named after him, and the stadium the Wildcats play in bearing his name, it's obvious that Bill Snyder has marked his place in history at Kansas State.
Can he do it again? Who knows. But the team, fans, and students believe in Kansas State football again, and that's a heck of a start.