December 19, 2013
By Mark Janssen
This writing is a bit of a follow up from Tuesday's look-back to how Kansas State football was before Bill Snyder.
The attempt was in no way to bring up dirty laundry, so to speak, but instead to again marvel at how far Bill Snyder has taken the Wildcat program... twice.
There is no better example of a rags-to-riches story than Kansas State football.
No one could anticipate such a turn-around, which includes the ever-optimistic former K-State President Jon Wefald, who made the hire in the days following the 1988 season. To be honest, Wefald's hire only came after his first, second and third choices, if not more, said, "No thanks."
"Miraculous; remarkable," Wefald recently said of Snyder's accomplishments. "The man is that stubborn. He never gives up. He's a workaholic.
"Honestly," Wefald continued, "we were looking to win three to five games a year, and every five years maybe seven wins. Given our history, we thought that was realistic and something our fans would be happy with."
Snyder's 'Cats won one game the first year ... then five ... then then.
Two years later it was nine victories and a national ranking... and nine again... then 10... then nine more in 1996 with an invitation to the prestigious Cotton Bowl.
The "Purple Express" was rolling now as 11 more wins followed in 1997 as a top-10 team, followed by an undefeated regular season with 11 more wins and a brief No. 1 national ranking in 1998.
Yes, in Wefald's words, "Miraculous; remarkable."
The 1999 season saw 11 more wins, and a similar count in 2000 as K-State posted a four-year record of 44-7.
he 2002 season brought 11 wins, and 11 more in 2003 when the Wildcats stunned No. 1 Oklahoma for the Big 12 title.
Yes, "Miraculous; remarkable."
While "They Said It Couldn't Be Done," Snyder did it... and did it again. And now, is doing it yet again with 27 wins over the last three seasons.
Among those suggesting that never... ever, ever, ever, ever... could Kansas State be a program envied by scores of college franchises around the country were the former Wildcat coaches who gave it their best shot 40 to 50 years prior to Snyder's arrival.
The question put to the coaches in 1985 was this: Can K-State ever have a consistent plus-.500 team?
Bus Mertes - 1955-59: "It'd be tough. If you win, you're going to be accused of cheating. If you lose, you're going to get fired. Take your choice."
Vince Gibson - 1967-74: "No, you're not going to consistently win in football against Big Eight competition."
Ellis Rainsberger - 1975-77: "It would be very hard to be a consistent winner at Kansas State if the President continues to give the athletic board the challenge of keeping football where it belongs."
Jim Dickey - 1978-85: "I would be very impressed with someone who could do it. It would be very, very, very tough to do every year."
Even the ever the optimist Vince "Purple Pride" Gibson would say as to whether K-State belonged in the Big Eight Conference, "I don't know. In football, maybe not. But there are more sports at Kansas State than football. You can still have a good Big Eight program without football."
In many cases, K-State was a proving ground for these coaches. An assistant coach at Missouri, Doug Weaver was hired in 1960 when he was 29 years of age. Bus Mertes was 34 and received a salary of $10,500 in 1955 when promoted from assistant coach to the head man.
Gibson was a defensive assistant at Tennessee, Rainsberger an offensive coordinator at Wisconsin, Dickey a defensive coordinator at North Carolina, and Parrish a head coach at I-AA Marshall.
All had the ego to believe they could do what no Wildcat coach before them had ever done... but couldn't.
And for the most part, none believed that a coach could/would ever accomplish success at Kansas State University.
Again, the words were spoken in 1985 when asked what type of coach was needed at K-State:
Mertes: "A man of great personality and perseverance."
Gibson: "He has to be the type who can work with the great, super people of Kansas State."
Rainsberger: "A man who can coordinate a total plan of Kansas State people working together."
Dickey: "Someone who is a good organizer, good recruiter... and a little lucky."
Bill Snyder has proven to be all of those in his 22 seasons as head coach of the Kansas State Wildcats.
We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact Kelly McHugh, Mark Janssen or K-State Assistant AD for Communications Kenny Lannou.