Color The Big 12 Purple


Give credit to the Kansas State administration, salute its athletes, praise its coaches.

Together, they have given refreshing proof that money alone doesn't win championships.

People do.

The reality of that came Saturday afternoon when the volleyball Wildcats of Suzie Fritz won a share of the Big 12 volleyball championship, and that evening when Bill Snyder's troops claimed the outright football title in the Big 12 North Division.

One day, two events, two Big 12 titles for the Purple and White.

"People get tired of hearing about our people, but this isn't rocket science," said Wildcat athletics director Tim Weiser. "When you surround yourself with good people, even if you don't have the resources of other schools, it can happen."

And happen it did Saturday with the Wildcats claiming a pair of golden ... well, in the case of the Big 12 Conference, a pair of crystal trophies symbolic of supremacy in arguably the toughest league in the land.

For volleyball, it marked the first title in the history of the sport at K-State, which dates back to 1974.

"It's not easy to win championships," said Fritz. "It's very difficult in this conference, which is second only to the Pac-10. That makes something like this even more meaningful."

The paths to the Big 12's crystal trophies was unique, for sure.

The volleyballers lost their third match of the Big 12 season to fall to 2-1, but have since gone 15-0.

"Experience and senior leadership," said Fritz when quizzed about the top strengths of the team, which has finished in the top three in the Big 12 in each of the last three years. "They know how to win. They've been in these situations and have played very, very composed."

Not to one-up the spikers, but the footballers started Big 12 play 0-2, with losses at Texas and Oklahoma State. Since, however, the Wildcats posted six straight wins, which included an 11th straight win over the Missouri Tigers on Saturday.

"A great way to measure coaches is how they finish seasons," Weiser said. "Coach Snyder had this team rise up from the ashes and is playing its best football at the end of the season. That's the mark of a championship coach."

For sure, coaches Fritz and Snyder are not tops in the Big 12 in salary, and the same is true for their overall program budget.

But they are programs, along with men's and women's basketball, that are Kansas State's featured sports, and the Weiser administration does do everything it financially can to give these four teams the opportunity to be No. 1 in the league.

Today, through the efforts of Fritz and her gals, and Snyder and his guys, are just that: No. 1 in the Big 12.

The volleyball crown is only the fourth overall title for the school since the start of the Big 12 in 1996. The others belong to the women's track program — twice in cross country and once in outdoor track and field.

On Dec. 6, in Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium, Snyder's Wildcats have the opportunity to win the first overall football championship since Lynn "Pappy" Waldorf's gang did it in the Big 6 Conference in 1934.

While the 64-year-old Snyder has won 125 games with K-State in 15 years, the 31-year-old Fritz has won 67 matches in three seasons.

Like Snyder, Fritz says that the team titles earned today, in part, are for those Wildcats — coaches and players — who came before them.

"The groundwork for this started several years ago," Fritz said. "I hope those players who had the talent, but maybe not the game experience, are as proud of this as we are."

What adds refreshment to the titles, is the program philosophy that each holds.

As boring as it sounds, Snyder and Fritz communicate on a daily basis the importance of getting better each game/match at a time, each day at a time.

And, both are teachers and leaders of young men/women first, with being coaches of victories holding secondary importance.

Fritz gained part of her philosophy from her father, Larry Wiemers, who is the former Clay Center High School coach, and now linebacker coach for Emporia State, where his oldest son, David, is the head coach, and youngest son, Jon, the offensive line coach.

"I always thought my dad not only had a good perspective on coaching, but a really unique perspective on life," said Fritz. "He knew we weren't saving anybody's life by coaching, but that we did have an impact and influence on young people's lives.

"We're here to teach," Fritz said. "Like my dad, I've taken pride in teaching and watching young people improve."

Bill Snyder couldn't have said it any better.

So today, K-State can wave its football and volleyball championship banners with great pride ... Purple Pride.

Wave them for being No. 1, but also in honor of having teachers, who just happen to coach, like Bill Snyder and Suzie Fritz.

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