By Mark Janssen
MANHATTAN, Kan. - On Dec. 11, 1982, Kansas State made an appearance in the Independence Bowl.
To schools like Oklahoma, Nebraska and Notre Dame, they surely wondered why there were so many bowl games, and, who would ever want to go to Shreveport, La.?
The answer was 'K-State' was thrilled to have the opportunity. It was the first postseason opportunity for the Wildcats in the history of the school, plus, it gave all in purple and white reason to hope for more bowl attractions in the future.
That future would not come again until Dec. 29, 1993, when K-State attended the Copper Bowl. Again, it was a lower-tier bowl game and there was conversation of too many bowl games from those programs that made annual appearances in the top-20.
This time hope for more postseason appearances would come the next year in Hawaii, and after that in San Diego, and then in K-State's first-ever New Year's Day bowl game in the Cotton Bowl the following year.
"If you're one of the teams consistently among the elite schools in the nation, you can't appreciate what a bowl opportunity can mean to a program," said K-State coach Bill Snyder. "In a program like ours, then and now, a bowl game can help stair-step you, and it can be a tremendous value to your program."
On Dec. 30 at 2:30 p.m. (CT), Kansas State will play Syracuse in the inaugural New Era Pinstripe Bowl in New York City's Yankee Stadium.
It's a game where senior center Wade Weibert says, "This game means everything to us. As seniors, we take pride in it perhaps being part of a foundation that will lead to many bowl games to come at K-State."
Senior defensive end Antonio Felder added, "It's a final chance to prove what this program is all about. We've made it into postseason after not going for several years, and now we want to go out and be able to walk off the field as a winner one more time."
K-State attended bowl games for 11 consecutive years under Snyder, but has been to just one postseason contest - the 2006 Texas Bowl - in the last six seasons.
While the first-year Pinstripe Bowl is seventh out of eight that the Big 12 has contracts with, Snyder appreciates its value to the Big 12, and this year, to K-State.
"I don't see why people say 35 bowl games is too many," said the Wildcat coach. "It's an opportunity to reward teams, coaches and players for a job well done."
While speaking out for a playoff system following the 1998 season when an undefeated K-State team played for a Big 12 championship, but lost in double-overtime to Texas A&M, today Snyder says those words were more out of anger.
He was peeved that the bowl system allowed his K-State team to drop from No. 1 in the nation in the USA Today Poll, to below the Cotton Bowl and Holiday Bowl before the Wildcats secured a spot in the Alamo Bowl.
"Things tumbled down hill pretty fast," said Snyder. "There was a rule in place where you couldn't negotiate with teams for bowl games until after the season was over. It didn't take long to realize that rule meant nothing."
In his book, They Said It Couldn't Be Done, Snyder said, "I used to believe that everything was good about the bowls. Growing up, January 1 was my favorite day, watching those four games back-to-back-to-back-to-back. I thought the bowl system was loyal to the world, and I remained loyal to the bowls until 1998.
"All of a sudden that bowl system I had counted on was not being loyal to us," Snyder said. "I just said, 'Hey, I no long have the same stance.' Was I naïve to all that takes place in the bowl business? Apparently, yes. I learned quickly that this is a business and loyalty took a back seat to that. They have to make money."
Today Snyder admits, "I was angry at the time. I do admire the bowl system a great deal. If there are two prominent things that have made an impact on our program, first, it's the bowl system, and second, it's playing in a two-division conference."
Fourteen times K-State has advanced into postseason play and four times it has won, or shared, a Big 12 North title.
While under the present system there can be just one national champion, that hasn't always been the case with Snyder saying to that, "What's wrong with co-champions? Why not have another 500,000 people happy about what their school accomplished?"
Besides, he says, "If it's a four-team playoff, there's going to be a fifth team that's not happy with the system. If it's an eight-team playoff, then there will be a ninth team that feels slighted. Even in basketball where they take 6,000 teams, there's that 6,001st team saying, 'How could you possibly leave us out?'"