When Bill Snyder came to K-State, university President Jon Wefald charged him with turning around one of the most losing programs in NCAA history. The Wildcats had won more than four games just once in 18 years, and had only played in one bowl game.
At Kansas, a program that was nearly as destitute, the Jayhawks had two winning seasons in the previous nine years. Glen Mason's 10-win season in 1995 was followed by a 4-7 season in 1996.
But it would be blasphemous to say the K-State-KU rivalry was something the Wildcats used to judge the progress of Snyder's program those first few years.
"We're were just trying to get through today," Snyder said, recalling the early years. "We didn't set our sights on anybody. We weren't in a postion to set our sights on anybody. Everyone was significant. We didn't slight anybody because, obviously, you couldn't do that. I was not in a position to feel as though we had to hang our hat on something."
K-State improved from 1-10 in Snyder's first year to 5-6 in 1990. That drastic improvement almost mirrors that of KU coach Mark Mangino, who is off to a 5-2 start after going 2-10 last season. Part of that success is because Mangino had a large part in the Wildcats' rebuilding as an associate head coach in the mid 1990s.
"There was a plan in place from the day Bill Snyder arrived," Mangino said. "They let Coach Snyder take care of being on the field and got his advice on infrastructure and facilities. Every year their program has taken some kind of step. The just kept building and building until they built a top-10 program."
"I think that is where we differ," Mangino continued. "I arrived her and the only plan or vision for football is what I have set forth. It is the only plan we have. The plan at K-State, for the new head coach coming in, and the one here was vastly different."
And Saturday, a program that underwent those growing pains — and one still experiencing them — will meet on a field 100-yards long, where both head coaches made a name for themselves.
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