K-State's head coach Bill Snyder speaks to the media during a press conference at the JW Marriott Camelback Inn in Scottsdale, Arizona on December 27, 2013. (Scott D. Weaver/K-State Athletics)
December 31, 2013
By Mark Janssen
Jim Colbert is a story teller, for sure, and this is one of his favorites from 20 years ago.
As he tells it, "We were at the Copper Bowl and I had just played golf at Tuscan National and gone back to the hotel around 4 in the afternoon. As I'm going down the hallway to my room, here comes the K-State football team.
"I had my PGA Tour bag with my name on it... without that I don't think coach (Bill Snyder) would have recognized me. He doesn't look at me, and he never missed a step when he went by, but he said, 'You said it couldn't be done.' He didn't know me that well at the time, but that was his way to take a shot at me."
While Snyder denies he said such a thing, when it came to putting a title on his book, he chose, "Bill Snyder: They Said It Couldn't Be Done," which makes one think that there might be some truth to it.
MEETING SNYDER: While Colbert represented Kansas State University with a second-place finish at the 1964 NCAA Golf Championships, once he left the Manhattan campus he seldom came back to his alma mater.
Three years into Snyder's stay, the Wildcats had won one, five and seven games.
"It was after that third year that they still weren't very good, but at least they looked like a football team," said Colbert. "They could at least line up and were trying to do things right. I still didn't know if the guy could coach, but I liked the looks of his team."
It was at this time that fund raiser Ernie Barrett and Snyder traveled to Las Vegas to visit with Colbert and Ron Fogler, who had established a golf course design company.
It was at that introductory session with Snyder that Colbert said, "Coach, you're doing an amazing job. I didn't think anyone could win seven games at K-State. Coach, you're going to get some coaching offers and you probably need to take one of them. You can't keep winning seven games here. It's an impossible job.
"Snyder didn't say 'boo,' " Colbert recalled. "He never argued. He didn't say a word. (Laughing) But he heard it and remembered it."
To Snyder's ears it was a "he said it couldn't be done" challenge.
As they say, the rest is history.
Snyder continued to win. Colbert took more interest in his alma mater. And today, there's a Colbert Hills Golf Course at Kansas State University.
OPPOSITES ATTRACK: If Bill Snyder has a best friend, Jim Colbert would be at, or at least near, the top of the list.
That's Colbert, a touch flashy. That's Snyder, the definition of calmness and humbleness.
"People don't know Bill," laughed Colbert. "He's quick to laugh and has a very good sense of humor.
"My relationship with him started on the telephone. I'd be on the west coast and call him at 12 or 1 in the morning," said Colbert. "We'd talk about anything but football. I just wanted to get him off-center.
"I was into 'Vision Dynamics' which had to do with concentration and he was interested in using that concentration through visualization in football," said Colbert.
Colbert gained Snyder's trust like few others as he would be allowed to attend the Wildcat practices and be dinner partners.
Laughing, "We'd be somewhere and he would be in his coat and tie and I'd come in shorts. We'd go for a chicken dinner at Ramblers and he'd be there in a suit.
"We didn't talk football and we didn't talk golf. We talked about how the world was, and what was wrong with some of the younger generations," Colbert said.
But again, seldom was the talk about football.
"He's the coach," said Colbert. "He's an amazing coach. He gives attention to every detail. He has that knack of looking at what somebody could be in his system. He has that knack of developing a trust within the program. He has that knack of getting each player to do what they are supposed to do, and if they do, the play will be successful."
Colbert added, "Bill has the ability to punch emotional buttons. He doesn't get emotional or lose his head, but he keeps that focus to bring it all together and push the right button at the right time."
SNYDER THE GOLFER: Quickly, Colbert says, "Snyder's not a golfer. Oh, he can chip and has a little touch around the green, but... (Pause) if I get him out there again, I'm going to make him play left-handed. He is left handed, but he has always played golf right-handed. (Grinning) His swing would have to be better."