MORGANTOWN — o o o o o o
Raised by his mother, Snyder attended tiny William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo., Missouri, and obtained a master’s degree from Eastern New Mexico University in 1965. He went west, working as a graduate assistant at Southern Cal, then became a high school coach in California, meeting up with Hayden Fry at North Texas State in the mid-1970s and accompanying him to Iowa, where he was offensive coordinator until Kansas State hired him after the 1988 season.
There are those who might not necessarily consider that a promotion.
Kansas State was the worst team in college football.
Before his first year at K-State, Sports Illustrated did an article on the school entitled “Futility U” and called it “America’s most hapless team.”
Why not? Kansas State had lost 26 of the previous 27 games it had played when Snyder was hired.
The other game? A tie.
From 1938 to 1988, when he was hired, the Wildcats had just 130 wins in 51 seasons. It had not won a conference title since 1934 and had been to one bowl game in its history, the 1982 Independence Bowl.
Snyder walking into a graveyard of coaches, but he would not accept it. He had known winning under Fry, had his own ideas and was not only a motivator of young men but imaginative in his approach to offensive football.
The turnaround was difficult. There was only one win the first season, that over North Texas State on a TD pass on the final play of the game.
Snyder won five games his second year and then, in 1991, went 7-4, just the second winning season for Kansas State since 1970.
In 1993, the Wildcats played in a bowl game and scored their first bowl victory to make themselves Copper Bowl champions. At K-State you’d have thought they won the Rose Bowl.
Soon going a bowl became a habit, playing in 11 in a row.
More important than that, winning became a habit, and in 1998 Kansas State went 11-0 and had a No. 1 ranking, a decade after it had been dubbed “Futility U.”
In 2003, it won the Big 12 title, beating No. 1 Oklahoma, a team many “experts” were calling the best team the Sooners ever had, 35-7, in the championship game.
Barry Switzer, Oklahoma’s Hall of Fame coach, was so impressed with the way Snyder built the Wildcats into national contenders, he was moved to say:
“He’s not the coach of the year; he’s not the coach of the decade; he’s the coach of the century.”
When two down seasons followed, Snyder decided he would retire, Ron Prince being named to replace him.