Sports Extra: Snyder Wins Title, Retires, Returns

Head coach Bill Snyder helped guide Ell Roberson and the 2003 Wildcats to the Big 12 title.

Sept. 7, 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 Pinkle (151) among active Division I coaches. Only Paterno (46 years) and Snyder (20 years) have never been a head coach at another school.

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


By Mark Janssen

Under Bill Snyder, Kansas State found a chapter in his offensive playbook to have every possible type of quarterback win games – Chad May, to Brian Kavanagh, to Michael Bishop and Ell Roberson, to Jonathan Beasley.

And, he found a way to victory with a coaching staff that was in constant motion as Snyder’s personal coaching tree branched out to where no fewer than six members of his staff ended up as head coaches: Bob Stoops (Oklahoma), Mark Mangino (Kansas), Phil Bennett (SMU), Dana Dimel (Wyoming and Houston), Jim Leavitt (South Florida) and Del Miller (Missouri State).

As close friend Jim Colbert defined Snyder, “He’s Kansas State’s Knute Rockne, for sure.”

Wins From 101-150 (2001-2011)
On players of today knowing the details of K-State’s “Futility U” past, coach Bill Snyder says, “I’m not sure how important it is for these players to know all the details, but what is important is for them to know the general story of what it took to reach the success that we enjoyed in the late-1990s and into the 2000s.”

Part of that success included becoming one of two teams in college football history to win at least 11 games six times over a seven-year period from 1997-2003.

K-State limped through the first half of the 2003 season losing games to Marshall, Texas and Oklahoma State for a 4-3 record on Oct. 11.

The Wildcats, however, would then go on a seven-game win streak including a 38-9 win at Nebraska, the first win on Nebraska soil since 1968, and a shocking 35-7 blasting of Oklahoma’s No. 1 ranked “Dream Team” for the Big 12 Championship on Dec. 6, 2003, at Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium.

It was win No. 127, and the grandest of all, for Snyder, and the history of the school.

“Kansas State just came out and out-played us and out-coached us,” said Stoops.

Only moments after the 11th win of the 14-game season, in typical Snyder fashion, he said while still on the stadium turf, “Why did we have to have those three losses?”

K-State won just four games in 2004 and just five in 2005. It was on Nov. 12, 2005, that K-State lost to Nebraska, 27-25. The next day he stunned Kansas State officials by saying he would retire at the end of the season.

The next day after practice, Snyder ushered his team and staff into the locker room to announce: “After Saturday’s game (Missouri), I’m going to retire.”

Snyder would admit, “That (Nebraska) game may have pushed me over the hump to retirement.”

Later Snyder said, “Did a light bulb go off signaling it was time to retire? No. It was an accumulation of things, but not one particular thing. Was it a year or two earlier than I thought it would be? Maybe, but I believed it was what was best for the program.”    

It was in 1993 that Snyder said, “If I have a regret, it would be that I have five wonderful children and they’ve all been neglected by me.”

In his retirement, he spent time with those kids, plus gave reference to them with the renaming of KSU Stadium to Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

In the 17 seasons under Snyder, K-State won 136 games; in the 17 seasons prior to Snyder, K-State had lost 139 games.

Snyder spent three years – 2006-2008 – in retirement before returning to the sidelines in 2009, in his words, “… to smooth the waters” of the K-State fan base.

His coaching style didn’t change a bit as Snyder turned 70, and then 71, during the last two years. The long hours continued, as did the attention to detail.

“There are things to do every day that do not get done. I've never had a day in my life where I went to bed thinking I got everything accomplished,” said Snyder. “There are just so many things to do. The list grows faster than I can chip away at it. There's not a day that goes by where you don't find something that is not in place that should be in place.”

Top 10 All-Time Snyder Wins    
1. K-State 35, Oklahoma 7, Dec. 6. 2003
You remember the game. Kansas State stunned the No. 1-ranked Oklahoma Sooners for the Big 12 Championship in Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium. After the Sooners scored first, K-State tallied the next 35 points with Darren Sproles rushing for 235 yards and Ell Roberson passing for 227. It was K-State’s first conference title since Lynn “Pappy” Waldorf’s group won the Big 6 in 1934.

2. K-State 20, North Texas 17, Sept. 30, 1989
The dreadful streak had to end someday, and this was the day on the last play of the game when Carl Straw passed to Frank Hernandez for the game-winner. The contest came four games into the Bill Snyder Era and ended streaks of futility – 16 losses in a row and 30 consecutive non-winning Saturdays (0-29-1).

3. K-State 40, Nebraska 30, Nov. 14, 1998
The Wildcat win snapped a 29-game losing streak to Nebraska, but it wasn’t an upset. K-State entered the game ranked No. 2 in the AP Poll and No. 1 in the USA Today listing and it was the 18th straight win for the purple and white. The game against the No. 11 Huskers was viewed by a then-stadium record 44,298 fans at KSU Stadium. Michael Bishop passed for 306 yards and rushed for another 140 accounting for three touchdowns.

4. K-State 35, Syracuse 18, Dec. 31, 1997
It was Michael Bishop’s finest hour passing for 317 yards and four touchdowns, plus rushing for 77 yards and another score in the Fiesta Bowl. Darnell McDonald had seven catches for 206 yards and three scores. It marked K-State’s first 11-victory season in school history.

5. K-State 35, Tennessee 21, Jan. 1, 2001
Jonathan Beasley’s biggest win as a K-State QB came in the Cotton Bowl. Beasley, who is the only Wildcat quarterback to start in two postseason bowl wins, accounted for 308 yards and three TDs.

6. K-State 38, Nebraska 9, Nov. 15, 2003
The victory was K-State’s first on Nebraska soil since 1968, plus it clinched a share of the Big 12 North title that the Wildcats eventually won. It also gave the Wildcats consecutive wins over the Cornhuskers for the first time since 1958-59. K-State rolled up 561 yards in the victory.

7. K-State 52, Wyoming 17, Dec. 29, 1993
In the grand scheme of things today, it’s just a bowl win. But at the time it was K-State’s first postseason victory and was cheered by an estimated 22,000, who made the trip to Tucson, Ariz., for the Copper Bowl.

8. K-State 41, Kansas 7, Oct. 28, 1995
It was the early stages of Snyder’s mastery over the Kansas Jayhawks, who entered the game ranked No. 6 in the nation. The Wildcats had never defeated a team ranked higher in the polls. Eric Hickson and Mike Lawrence each went over 100 yards and K-State’s “D” held KU to 155 yards of total offense.

9. K-State 38, Texas 7, Sept. 19, 1998
Ricky Williams, meet the Wildcats. The eventual Heisman Trophy winner was held to just 43 yards rushing on 25 carries as K-State linebacker Jeff Kelly was his worst nightmare with 11 tackles, plus an interception. The ‘Horns were skunked until the final quarter.

10. K-State 49, Baylor 8, Nov. 7, 1998
Why this one? Well, with the win Kansas State moved to No. 2 in the Associated Press poll and No. 1 in the USA Today Coaches Poll.

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