Sports Extra: 'Diminutive IQ' Brings Snyder to K-State

Head coach Bill Snyder is one of 6 active coaches to own 150 career wins.

Sept. 5, 2011

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Editor’s Note: With K-State’s season-opening 10-7 victory over Eastern Kentucky this past Saturday, Bill Snyder notched his 150th career coaching win one game into his 20th season as coach of the Wildcats. Those 150 wins rank only behind Joe Paterno (402), Frank Beamer (241), Mack Brown (214), Steve Spurrier (187) and Gary Pinkel (151) among active Division I coaches. Only Paterno (46 years) and Snyder (20 years) have never been a head coach at another school.

During the next three days, “Sports Extra’s” Mark Janssen, who authored Snyder’s book “They Said It Couldn’t Be Done,” will take us on a mini-journey through those 150 all-time wins. We hope that established K-State fans enjoy the memories, and for the newcomers to Wildcat football, we hope that you enjoy the history lesson.

By Mark Janssen

Bill Snyder was officially announced as the 32nd coach of the Kansas State University football team on Nov. 30, 1988.

Snyder would later quip that it took a “diminutive IQ” to take a coaching position with the losingest program in all of college football. But he also said on the day that he was hired:  “Kansas State is probably the doormat of college football, but at the same time there’s an excitement. There is the opportunity here for the greatest turnaround in college football.”

Hmmm … so that is where the phrase initially started.

Wins from 1 – 50 (1989 - 1996)
It was also on that hiring day that athletics director Steve Miller said of this first-time head coach that was making the move from the University of Iowa: “We have hired the best architect in America.”

They were words of hope at the time, but also exactly what K-State needed at the time.

Kansas State had lost 13 consecutive games and had a 0-26-1 record in its previous 27 games prior to the Snyder hire. Before this Iowa offensive coordinator and K-State said their “I dos,” Miller said he interviewed “at least” 17 individuals for the job.

“They all said no,” Miller said. “Some didn’t even say ‘No thank you’.”

Before winning games, Snyder’s first mission was to avoid losing games.

At the time, the 48-year-old coach who had just signed a contract for $90,000, said, "Most of what we're dealing with is attitude. We're attempting to teach the kids that they can expect more of themselves, and have a higher expectation level. We're trying to teach them how to avoid losing.

“We're trying to show them that they can work as hard, and play as hard as anyone, anywhere. We're stressing that their success, or failure, will be predicated on never giving up,” said Snyder. “We're giving them a scheme of things that will make them more aggressive, tougher and more disciplined both on and off the field. We want them to be able to make a conscious effort to improve every single day as an athlete, a student and a person. If we do that, we know the other things will fall into place at some point in time."

In his first four games, Snyder’s Wildcats lost to Arizona State, Northern Iowa and Northern Illinois, plus trailed North Texas State with the scoreboard clock racing toward 0:00. But on the last play of that game on Sept. 30, 1989, Carl Straw and Frank Hernandez worked their pass-and-catch magic and the streaks that had now grown to 16 losses in a row and 30 games in a row without a win, ended.

The victory would be Snyder’s first, and would be K-State’s 300th in its history … a history that also included an astounding 510 losses, the most in NCAA history.

While that would be the lone win in a 1-10 1989 season, K-State won five times in 1990, seven in 1991, and five in 1992. The 7-4 1991 season was KSU’s first seven-game winner since 1954 and only the fifth year on the plus side of .500 since 1936.

Think about that, only five plus-.500 seasons since 1936!

Of the progress, Snyder said, “It boiled down to people who had a similar vision as mine.”

That vision came in full focus beginning in 1993 when K-State won nine games in a single season for the first time since 1910 (10-1 under coach Mike Ahearn) and attended only the second postseason game in school history with that being the Copper Bowl.

Nine more wins came in 1994, plus the Aloha Bowl; 10 more W’s in 1995, including the Holiday Bowl; and four games into the 1996 season when K-State defeated Rice, 34-7, for Snyder’s 50th victory just 84 games into his seven-plus year coaching career.

K-State’s previous 50 wins prior to Snyder’s arrival took 199 games, and parts of 19 seasons to record.

In the midst of these “foundation” years, Colorado coach Bill McCartney said of Snyder, “I firmly believe that the key to Kansas State continuing to improve, and continuing to have good fortune, is the constancy of purpose of Bill Snyder.”

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 either Mark Janssen or Kansas State Director of Athletics Communications/SID Kenny Lannou. For those who would like to share Sports Extra with a friend or family member, or change your current email address, click here.