No. 11 Kansas State vs. Iowa State - AP Photo Gallery
Precise. Intense. Tireless. Accomplished. Dedicated. Caring. Hall of Famer. Kansas State head football coach Bill Snyder is all of these and much more.
To understand the full picture of Snyder, it is necessary to acknowledge his values, sincerity and warmth, along with the concern he shows for the people around him -- all qualities that solidify his reputation as an innovator and mentor in college athletics.
The architect of the "greatest turnaround in college football history" returned to the sidelines in 2009 with hopes of revitalizing a program that he once built, piece by piece, into a national force. And, after six seasons back in charge, he has done just that -- and then some.
Over the past six years under Snyder, K-State has totaled 51 victories -- an average of 8.5 wins per year -- advanced to five-straight bowl games, won a conference championship in 2012 and finished third or better in the ultra-competitive Big 12 Conference in three of the last four seasons. Additionally, the Wildcats have more Big 12 wins since 2011 -- 27 -- than any other team in the conference.
However, the recent success should come as no surprise as Snyder took over a program in 1989 that was in the midst of a 27-game winless streak and turned it into a national contender that advanced to 11-straight bowl games and tallied six 11-win seasons over a seven-year stretch.
Turning around a program not only once, but twice, is one of the biggest reasons why Snyder became just the fourth person all-time to be elected to the College Football Hall of Fame as an active coach. The man who said, `No,' to those who said it couldn't be done in Manhattan, Kansas, will be enshrined in the hall in December 2015.
The latest chapter in the career of the legendary coach was in 2014, Snyder's 23rd year at the helm of the program, which saw the Wildcats collect their 13th season with nine or more wins and top-20 finish in the Associated Press poll. The Cats reached the top 10 during the season with a 7-1 start as K-State's lone early-season loss come at the hands of No. 5 Auburn. Led by Consensus All-American wide receiver Tyler Lockett, who became the school's first four-time All-American and school record holder for career catches, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, the Cats played for a Big 12 Championship in the final weekend of the regular season.
A total of 14 players earned All-Big 12 honors in 2014 while Lockett was named Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year for the second straight season and four-year starter B.J. Finney was Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year. Finney joined Lockett by earning All-America honors at center, while redshirt freshman place kicker Matthew McCrane was an honorable mention All-American.
Act Two of the renowned career started in 2009 when the Wildcats went 6-6 prior to a 7-5 campaign in 2010 and a berth in the inaugural Pinstripe Bowl.
K-State's climb back into the nation picture continued in 2011 as the Wildcats went 10-3, finished No. 8 in the final BCS standings and earned their first Cotton Bowl invitation since 2001.
The bar was raised again in 2012 as Snyder led the Cats to their third conference championship in school history and first since 2003. Kansas State, which won its first 10 games of the season and finished the regular season at 11-1 with an 8-1 mark in Big 12 play, tied the school record for overall wins and conference victories while also ascending to No. 1 in the BCS rankings following its 10-0 start. Snyder went on to win the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award as well as top Big 12 coach honors for the second straight season following the Cats' memorable 2012 season that culminated with a berth in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
Quarterback Collin Klein became just the second player in school history to be named a Heisman Trophy finalist, while a school-record 20 Wildcats earned 2012 All-Big 12 honors including Klein (Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year), Arthur Brown (Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year) and Meshak Williams (Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year).
In 2013, K-State opened the year 2-4 with all four defeats being by 10 points or less. But Snyder's charges continued to improve each week and went on to become just the fourth team in Big 12 history to bounce back from the slow start to become bowl-eligible. And, with a victory over Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, the 2013 Wildcats became just the eighth FBS team in the BCS era to earn eight wins after starting a season 2-4 or worse.
In 2011, Snyder's Wildcats jumped out to a 7-0 start -- the best in 12 years -- which included big wins at Miami, against 15th-ranked Baylor and at Texas Tech. Following a two-game skid to a pair of nationally-ranked teams, the Wildcats got back into the win column with a thrilling four-overtime victory over Texas A&M -- the longest conference game in Big 12 history -- before ending the year with wins at Texas and against Iowa State.
For his efforts in 2011, Snyder was named the Woody Hayes National Coach of the Year, as well as picking up national coaching honors from Sporting News, Rivals.com and CBSSports.com, and the Big 12 Coach of the Year by the AP and league's coaches. He also tutored 11 players to All-Big 12 honors, including the Defensive Newcomer of the Year in Brown and the Offensive Freshman of the Year in Lockett, who, along with Nigel Malone, was named a Walter Camp All-American.
In 2010, Snyder's Wildcats jumped out to a 5-1 start, which included big wins over UCLA, Conference USA Champion UCF and Iowa State, behind All-Big 12 running back Daniel Thomas, who became the fastest Wildcat in school history (in terms of games) to rush for 1,000 yards.
In his first season back as the head man of the Wildcat program, Snyder led the Wildcats to a 6-6 record in 2009 and a second-place finish in the Big 12 North. In fact, K-State was just one win away from advancing to the Big 12 Championship game as the Wildcats played at Nebraska in the regular-season finale with a championship game berth on the line.
K-State claimed more First Team All-Big 12 selections on offense than any other school with four. Thomas, the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, led the league in rushing, while Nick Stringer, Jeron Mastrud and Brandon Banks also garnered First Team All-Big 12 accolades.
Named the 32nd head football coach at K-State on Nov. 30, 1988, and again as the 34th on Nov. 24, 2008, Snyder has amassed a 187-94-1 (.665) record during his tenure with the Wildcats, including a 109-71-1 (.605) mark in Big 8/12 games. His 187 victories are more than four times the man in second place on K-State's all-time coaching victories list and rank 32nd in FBS history. But to fully understand the turnaround ushered in by Snyder at Kansas State one must only consider that the Wildcats had not won a game in the two previous seasons prior to his arrival. It also took K-State 51 seasons (1938-1988) to total just 130 wins, while the 12 head coaches prior to Snyder's arrival in Manhattan combined to win just 116 games from 1945-1988.
Snyder led Kansas State to 11-straight bowl berths between the 1993 and 2003 seasons, making K-State one of only seven programs in the nation to appear in the postseason every year during that stretch. During that span, Snyder's Wildcats won nearly 80 percent of their games, chalking up 109 victories -- a staggering average of nearly 10 wins per season -- and making Kansas State the nation's second-winningest program over that period.
And Snyder continued to break new ground with the Wildcats. Kansas State's 35-7 victory over top-ranked Oklahoma in the 2003 Big 12 Championship game lifted K-State to its first conference championship since Pappy Waldorf's 1934 squad and secured the school's first BCS bowl berth in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
With an 11-4 record in 2003, K-State was the only team in the country to win 11 games in six of the previous seven years and just the second program in the history of college football to win 11 games six times in a seven-year stretch.
Snyder's unprecedented success in 23 years at Kansas State has not gone unnoticed. He has been named the National Coach of the Year on five occasions (1991, 1994, 1998, 2011 and 2012). He has been a finalist for the prestigious Bear Bryant/FWAA National Coach of the Year Award in 1993, 1995, 2011 and 2012, while winning the award in 1998; a finalist for the Football News National Coach of the Year Award in 1995 and 1998; and a finalist for the AFCA National Coach of the Year Award in 1993 and 1998.
In 1993, he joined legendary Nebraska head coach Bob Devaney as the only head coaches in Big Eight history to be named Associated Press Big Eight Coach of the Year three times in a four-year period (1990, 1991 and 1993).
Since the inception of the Big 12 Conference, Snyder's Wildcats truly have been a dominant force in the league, ranking in the top three in overall Big 12 wins. Kansas State also won more Big 12 road games than any team in the league during Snyder's first tenure and advanced to the championship game three times.
Those facts alone demonstrate the continuing evolution of a power in the Big 12 and with it the recognition that Snyder is truly one of the finest coaches ever in college football.
The list of accomplishments Snyder has amassed in his 23 years is as endless as the time most people thought it would take for the Wildcats to be a consistent threat in the Big Eight, and now, Big 12 Conference.
Like so many in recent history, the 2003 campaign was a dramatically successful one for K-State, which ended the regular season with seven straight wins, a fourth Big 12 North title, its first Big 12 Championship and another top-20 finish.
But the 2003 season was not without its bumps in the road as the Wildcats overcame their share of adversity to produce perhaps the greatest season in school history. Ranked as high as No. 6 nationally in the early going, a key injury to quarterback Ell Roberson precipitated a three-game slide that threatened to wipe out a promising season.
The three losses all but erased K-State from the national consciousness, as the Wildcats slipped out of the both polls for the first time since the second game of the 2002 season. But Snyder was not about to allow the year to spiral out of control. He constantly reminded his players that they still controlled their own destiny, and if they could just go 1-0 each week, the season would take care of itself and the team would ultimately achieve its goals.
And like everything Snyder seems to touch, this strategy too worked, as the Wildcats rode their 1-0 mantra week after week all the way to a berth in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
Along the way, five different Wildcats were lauded for their efforts with All-America honors, including K-State's first Associated Press first team All-American running back, Darren Sproles, who finished fifth in voting for the Heisman Trophy, was the Doak Walker Award runner-up and finished third on the AP's Player of the Year ballot.
But Sproles was the lone player with star power that returned for 2004. And though the little tank produced yet another record-breaking season capped by his third straight All-Big 12 selection, the lack of experience was one reason K-State struggled through a 4-7 rebuilding campaign.
The 2002 season was one of the best in Kansas State history, witnessed by the Wildcats' five-victory turnaround from the previous year's 6-6 team to a win in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl and an 11-2 overall record.
In addition, the 2002 Wildcats set or tied 45 school records, including tying the mark for wins in a season.
Snyder's Wildcats finished the season with six consecutive victories, including the biggest wins in the history of the series in each of a three-week span against Kansas, Iowa State and Nebraska.
The Wildcats' dominant play down the stretch of the 2002 season earned Snyder the recognition of his peers as the Big 12 Conference Coach of the Year.
In 2001, Snyder directed one of the best in-season turnarounds in school history. Despite losing four straight in the middle of the year and facing the fourth-toughest schedule in the nation, the Wildcats recovered to win four of their last five games to end the regular season with a 6-5 record and a berth in the Insight.com Bowl.
Despite the record, the quality of players produced by the Snyder-led coaching staff continued to attract national attention from those who best know the game.
Six K-State players were selected in the 2002 NFL Draft, the most of any team in the Big 12 Conference, with only six schools in the country having more players picked in the draft. Thanks to that draft, and many others before and after it, the Wildcats currently lead the Big 12 Conference by having a player selected in the NFL Draft each of the last 21 seasons.
The Wildcats started the 2000 season ranked in the top 10 for just the second time in school history and made a four-week run into the top five that saw K-State climb as high as No. 2. K-State won the Big 12 North Division for the second time in three years and earned at least a share of the title for the third consecutive season. K-State had six players named First Team All-Big 12 by the coaches, and Jamie Rheem, Mario Fatafehi and Quincy Morgan were All-Americans.
The 1999 season saw the Wildcats climb from No. 20 in the preseason poll to finish at No. 6 after starting the season with nine straight victories, and win 11 games for the third straight year. K-State tied Nebraska for the Wildcats' second consecutive Big 12 North Division Championship. All this came in what many thought would be a rebuilding season. K-State led the conference in first-team picks with seven.
In 1998, Snyder led K-State to its second straight 11-win season and a No. 4 ranking in the final polls. In November, K-State occupied a No. 1 ranking in a national poll for the first time in school history. The Wildcats won the Big 12 North and advanced to a bowl game for the sixth year in a row. K-State won its first 11 games of the season and ran its winning streak to a school-record 20 games before falling to Texas A&M in the Big 12 Championship game. Quarterback Michael Bishop became the first Wildcat to be a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, and a total of six players earned All-America honors.
Snyder earned National Coach of the Year honors from the Walter Camp Foundation, the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Foundation, the Associated Press, the Paul "Bear" Bryant Award and the Schutt Sports Group.
In 1997, Snyder led the Wildcats to their first 11-win season in school history, a No. 7 final ranking and the first 10-win regular season since 1910. It was just the third 10-win season in 102 years of K-State football. Kansas State won a school-record seven conference games, finishing second in the North to undefeated and eventual national champion Nebraska.
The Wildcats defeated South Division champion Texas A&M, 36-17. The season ended with a 35-18 win over Big East Conference champion Syracuse in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, with an estimated 50,000 K-State fans attending K-State's first-ever Alliance Bowl.
The 1996 season saw K-State finish with a 9-3 record, while more than 45,000 Wildcat fans painted Dallas purple for the Cotton Bowl, K-State's first-ever New Year's Day Bowl. Despite a 19-15 loss to No. 5 BYU, the support and respect for the K-State program grew to unprecedented heights.
In 1995, Snyder guided K-State to a 10-2 record, including a 5-2 Big Eight mark to tie for second behind national champion Nebraska. Following a 54-21 blitzing of WAC champion Colorado State in the Holiday Bowl, the Wildcats finished the season ranked sixth in the USA Today/CNN coaches' poll and seventh in the AP poll. Both rankings were the highest ever attained by a Kansas State football team to that point.
In 1993, Snyder guided K-State to its first bowl win in school history and, in 1994, the Wildcats cracked the top 10 for the first time in school history. In 1998, the K-State achieved a No. 1 national ranking in one of the major polls for the first time in the program's history.
Individually, Snyder has produced 54 different All-Americans during his 24 years as head coach, including eight consensus All-Americans: punter Sean Snyder (1992), free safety Jaime Mendez (1993), cornerback Chris Canty (1995 and 1996), place kicker Martin Gramatica (1997), punt returner David Allen (1998), linebacker Mark Simoneau (1999), cornerback Terence Newman (2002) and all-purpose player Tyler Lockett (2014).
Newman became the third Wildcat to win a national award when he was voted the 2002 Thorpe Award, given to the top collegiate defensive back. Gramatica was the 1997 Lou Groza Award winner, the first major award winner in Kansas State history. Bishop became the first K-State player to be named a finalist for the Heisman Trophy (finishing as runner-up) while winning the 1998 Davey O'Brien Award.
The foundation for K-State's turnaround was laid in 1989 during Snyder's first season in Manhattan. Although the season yielded just a 1-10 record, it became evident to everyone involved in the program that something special was happening. Most important, Snyder instilled a winning attitude and a healthy dose of self-respect and enthusiasm to a program that had been given up for dead.
In 1990, K-State was one of just four teams in the country to improve its record by four games with a 5-6 mark, including its first Big Eight Conference wins in four seasons with victories over Oklahoma State and Iowa State. Snyder again beat those two schools in 1991, while adding Kansas and Missouri to the list of his Big Eight victims to finish at 7-4 for K-State's first winning season since the Independence Bowl season of 1982. Heavy graduation losses on the offensive side of the ball resulted in a 5-6 mark in 1992, but the Cats were still able to hang their hats on their first perfect home season since 1934.
Of course, it should come as no surprise that Snyder would be this kind of architect for a building program. At Iowa, he played a key role in the renaissance of a Hawkeye program that went from 17 consecutive losing seasons to eight straight bowls. Snyder was the mind behind Iowa's potent offensive attack. The Hawkeye offense ranked first in passing efficiency and third in passing yardage nationally in Snyder's last five years of direction. In his final Iowa season, the Peach Bowl team led the Big Ten, and ranked seventh nationally, with 277 passing yards per game. Snyder also served as quarterback coach at Iowa and helped develop some of the best quarterbacks in NCAA history, including NFL players Chuck Long (second in Heisman voting), Mark Vlasic and Chuck Hartlieb, who wrapped up his career as the first Hawkeye to throw for 3,000 yards in back-to-back seasons.
Snyder began his full-time coaching career in 1964 as an assistant at Indio High School in California. In 1966 he served as a GA at USC under John McKay before becoming head coach at Indio High in 1967. He accepted the same position at Santa Ana Foothill High School in 1969, where he stayed until 1973.
In 1974, Snyder became the offensive coordinator and swimming coach at Austin College in Sherman, Texas. He joined the North Texas staff in 1976 and helped author an impressive turnaround with a three-year record of 26-7.
During his three-year hiatus, Snyder remained involved with the university and is currently a member of the Missouri and Kansas Halls of Fame, the K-State and Austin College Athletics Halls of Fame while also being inducted into the Holiday Bowl Hall of Fame. The long-time mentor also is the Chairman of the Kansas Mentors Council and the Kansas Leadership Council, a member of the Board of Directors for Kansas Leadership Center, the Board of Trustees for the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame, the KSU Leadership Studies Advancement Council, the Terry C. Johnson Cancer Research Center Advisory Council, the Manhattan Community Foundation Board of Trustees, the KSU Foundation Board of Trustees and is the Honorary Co-Chairman of the Kansas Masonic Partnership for Life.
Snyder was awarded the 2015 Excellence in Mentoring Award by MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership in recognition of his longstanding commitment to meeting the mentoring needs of young people in Kansas.
Snyder, 75, received his B.A. from William Jewell in 1963. He earned his M.A. from Eastern New Mexico in 1965. As a player, he was a three-year letterwinner as a defensive back at William Jewell. Snyder and his wife, Sharon, have two sons -- Sean and Ross -- and three daughters -- Shannon, Meredith and Whitney. They also have eight grandchildren -- Sydney, Katherine, Tate, Matthew, Alexis, Gavin, Kadin and Tylin -- and one great-grandson, D.J.