Jeff Herr, a finalist in the 2011 Big Gig Contest on 610 Sports Radio, was born and raised in Kansas City. Following the Chiefs, Royals, and Jayhawks all his life has led him to blog about all three extensively at the-jeff-report.blogspot.com. He has also spent time covering the Royals for the blog site kingsofkauffman.com as well as serving for a period as the lead editor of throughthephog.com a blog covering the Kansas Jayhawks. When not writing about the local sports scene, he pays the bills by serving as an accountant.
Jeff Herr: Bill Snyder is the Greatest
by Jeff Herr,posted Oct 22 2012 3:35PM
This post could spend time talking about how the 2012 Kansas State Wildcats beat one of the lesser Oklahoma teams of recent years. We could talk about how the West Virginia team they just beat might have been the most overrated team in the country. On the flip side, we could also talk about how K-State has one of the most impressive resumes, through this point in the season, for any national title contenders. They have defeated three top 25 teams on the road and are winning one of the toughest conferences in all the country.
Then there’s Collin Klein. The man whom KSU fans have turned to calling “Optimus Klein” in a riff on the name of the leader of the autobots from the movie/game/cartoon/toy series Transformers (and for my money might be the best nickname in the country. So there’s that.). And we can’t forget about All-American candidate Arthur Brown, who anchored a defense that shut down one of the fastest moving offenses in all the country in West Virginia.
But any of these things would only be missing the point that we understand oh so well here, but the rest of the country is still catching up to. That would be that Bill Snyder has solidified himself, in my opinion and that of many others, as one of the greatest coaches of all time, if not the greatest.
Sure Nick Saban, Bear Bryant, Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler and the rest will all have their history and championships to lean back on, but none of them have done what Snyder has done. From that list his only contemporary, Saban, took the highest profile highest paid job at one of the most prestigious football schools in the country after failing in the NFL.
None of those people came to schools that hadn’t won a game in the previous two years. None of them turned around the worst program in college football history...twice! Snyder has won and built a legitimate program in one of the hardest places to win in the entire country. So, how has he done it (twice)? The answer isn’t exactly simple, but the short of it is by being a different coach than you would ever expect to encounter in any ranks of coaching.
I actually have a personal example that can illustrate part of what makes Snyder a unique and successful individual.
In college I was part of an organization that would have their ‘National Conclave’ at a different chapter each year and the executive council would attend. My senior year of college I was on executive council and the national conclave was in Manhattan, KS at the K-State chapter.
Now, typically these national get togethers were kind of pointless and not all that fun. I wasn’t exactly looking forward to spending my weekend driving, in the snow, from Kirksville, MO to Manhattan, KS in what was sure to be the least eventful road trip in the history of college road trips.
Upon arrival, it was slightly interesting to see how other chapters operated, but still nothing to get too excited about. That is, until I received the itinerary for the conference. On the second day, our keynote speaker during lunch was going to be none other than the incomparable, Bill Snyder.
These lunches seem to always be designed the same. Big round tables that seat roughly 10 people, with the podium at the front. We were informed that Coach Snyder would be here to speak, but probably wouldn’t be joining us for lunch. Keep in mind, this is in Bill Snyder’s first year of retirement.
There were nine of us from our chapter that went to this conclave and we all sat down at the same table. This left one empty chair. Realizing there was a chance of Coach Snyder to be at the lunch before he was scheduled to speak, we decided to reserve our remaining seat for him. We took a piece of paper, wrote “Reserved for Coach Snyder” on it, folded it over once, and placed it on the back of the chair.
One of the organizers of the event came up to us and asked if we were serious or if we were making fun of Coach Snyder. Merely the thought that we would be making fun of such a man was enough to get us riled up, but we calmly explained that no, we were not making fun of one of the greatest coaches in NCAA history.
Unbeknownst to us, the reason she was asking is because Coach Snyder had arrived. Not only that, she pointed out that we had “reserved” a seat for him. And he decided to come sit with us!
What followed is what forever made me revere Bill Snyder as not only a great coach, but a great man. He differentiated himself right from the start. Before sitting down he shook each one of our hands. He asked our names and if he didn’t hear it asked to repeat it and wanted to know each of our last names repeating each one before moving to the next introduction.
He then sat down with us for the next hour and talked. He told us how, when he first arrived at K-State, he did studies on how losing affected players. The seniors he had that year couldn’t remember what it was like to win and were embarrassed to walk around campus and go to classes. Their grades had plummeted from their freshman year.
He told us how he wanted to change all of that. Coach Snyder wanted his players to be proud to put on that football uniform every week and walk the campus. He knew this was the end of the football road for most of these players and they would have to go on to other things. He wanted them to be prepared to succeed in life beyond the football field, and wanted his program to foster that growth and ability amongst these young men.
Once the program reached a level of success he turned his attention towards the community. He worked with the owners of local establishments and his players to have K-State football be a positive impact in Manhattan, KS. When he retired from coaching he stuck around and worked with state senators and representatives and continues to have an impact in the community even after his time as football coach was up.
All of us at the table were local Kansas or Missouri residents and knew somebody that had played for Coach Snyder at one point in his tenure. We took turns asking about these players that we knew and Snyder didn’t hesitate to remember each one of them and shared a short story as well.
This was all evidence that Snyder cared. Lots of coaches say that care but many don’t have the ability to demonstrate it beyond simples wins and losses. For Coach Snyder, it’s about more than that your record. Football is secondary and that attitude could be a big reason for his success. Snyder talks the talk about developing young men and he walks the walk.
Quite simply, Snyder is one of the most genuine people aroun. He also happens to be incredibly good at his job. How does he make players like Michael Bishop, Jonathan Beasley, and Collin Klein into Heisman contenders? He trusts them. Other coaches might try to scheme around these players shortcomings, but Snyder doesn’t.
As a coach, he designs the offense to showcase the best skills of all his players, but has complete faith that they can do anything necessary. Klein is, by most accounts, a run-first quarterback. But this past weekend, against a West Virginia team who stacked eight or nine players in the box, Snyder had him air it out. Few people in the nation had confidence that Klein could lead a team to victory through the air. Snyder did. After slicing through the WVU defense through the air in the early going, they had to respect the pass. After that, K-State had their way. Klein ran and passed his way to seven total touchdowns and the front of the Heisman race.
And none of this seems possible without Snyder at the helm. Few coaches would have entrusted and entire offense to Klein and even fewer would have allowed him to air it out like he did early on against WVU. That’s what makes Snyder one of the greatest of all time. You might not think it’s possible, you might not think he’d do it, but he does and has made a career of proving the doubters wrong.
Five more teams stand in the way of Snyder and his first ever perfect season. If a team like Oregon goes undefeated along with Alabama or Florida, then he still may not get a chance to go for the National Title that is the only accolade to elude him in his illustrious career. But championship or no, what Snyder has done is nothing short of remarkable. There may be coaches with more rings and that might look better on paper, but none have done what he’s done.
The rest of the country may not ever fully appreciate, but we here know the truth. We know that Bill Snyder can never be replicated and for the last 23 years (with a small three year gap in there), we have seen one of the very greatest at the height of his powers.