Mostly, we suspect, the words that came out of Bill Snyder’s mouth will fly under the radar and not make much of a stir, even if they did come one day before college football voted to give autonomy to its five major “power” conferences.
While they are words as important as any spoken on the subject of college football’s place in the America society, they were uttered by the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time to have any real effect.
See, Bill Snyder is 74 years old speaking in a society where words of “wisdom” now come disguised as part of a rap song, a society where youth is worshipped and age barely respected any longer. He is viewed for the most part as old-fashioned, as a curmudgeon who plays old-fashioned football in an era of high-speed, giddy-up and go football.
That he still wins few mention because they are too busy counting up the points scored by Baylor or the money made by LeBron.
Snyder coaches in America’s breadbasket, so to speak, as far away from every media center as you can get. He is nowhere near New York, Boston, Miami, Atlanta, Los Angeles … even Chicago.
That he chose to coach in Manhattan would seem to mean something, but, alas, it is not the Manhattan in New York but the one in Kansas, where Topeka and Wichita are big cities.
So what button was it that Snyder pushed on what was supposed to be a season preview for the media?
Snyder tore into the culture of college football, charging it has “sold out,” arguing that television has taken over control and that education has become a secondary concern.
“It’s changed. I mean, college athletics, football in particular, has changed dramatically over the years,” the Associated Press reported the Kansas State coach said. “I think we’ve sold out. We’re all about dollars and cents. The concept of college football no longer has any bearing on the quality of the person, the quality of students. Universities are selling themselves out.”
The words are strong, yet you suspect the briefcases and bow ties in college president’s offices across the land will pay no mind to it at all, for their salaries have risen along with their coaches and athletic directors, their egos stroked by winning football or basketball programs that draw far more public attention than any Nobel Peace Prize or Pulitzer won by a faculty member could attain.
This is something that has been lost in the recent revolution within the games, the realigning of conferences based on nothing but revenue and television exposure, stealing away our treasured rivalries and making millionaires of assistant coaches while players are asked to celebrate being allowed to eat meals and snacks throughout the day.
Education? The opportunity is there at the university, but most of the successful athletes in the major sports are there looking more for a TD than a Ph.D.
“It’s no longer about education,” Snyder said. “We’ve sold out to the cameras over there, and TV has made its way, and I don’t fault TV. I don’t fault whoever broadcasts games. They have to make a living and that’s what they do, but athletics — that’s it. It’s sold out.”
You have to understood what Snyder has come from to understand the roots of his beliefs.
He was born at the start of World War II, grew up in an age when you had not a television but a radio in your living room. He played defensive back not at some power conference college, but instead at tiny William Jewell in Liberty, Missouri.
When he began coaching the game was more Woody Hayes than Urban Meyer, and when he took over at Kansas State in 1989 it was still a game played on the field, coaches going after players more than facilities.
“Everybody is building Taj Mahals,” Snyder said, “and I think it sends the message — and young people today I think are more susceptible to the downside of that message, and that it’s not about education. We’re saying it is, but it’s really about the glitz and the glitter, and I think sometimes values get distorted that way. I hate to think a young guy would make a decision about where he’s going to get an education based on what a building looks like.”
“Our professors — I have an office I could swim in. They’re in a cubbyhole somewhere,” Snyder said, “yet they go out and teach and promote education every day, and I value that.”
Some would say he clings to old-fashioned values.
I would say he clings to proven values.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.