Looking for Answers

For the second season in a row, and just one and two years removed from a Big 12 Conference championship season in 2003, Kansas State University will finish last in the league's sub-par North Division this fall. That was assured here Saturday with a 27-25 loss to the University of Nebraska.

The loss ended a three-year victory string over the Big Red; the loss gave K-State five "L's" in a row for the first time since Bill Snyder's initial year in Wildcatland in 1989.

Stunned, for sure, that K-State is just 3-12 in its last 15 league games, but the faith in Snyder, as KSU's coach, still stands strong.

"I've had no letters, no calls and one e-mail," said KSU President Jon Wefald in reference to distressed fans about Wildcat football/Snyder. "That's the ironic part. We didn't do very well last year, and this year we're struggling, but I think it proves that our people still think Bill is a proven heckuva coach.

"I think it says that every program has its ups and downs, and that programs do go into slumps," Wefald said. "But our people feel that Bill will find a way to turn this around."

Athletics director Tim Weiser said that he's received "a dozen, or so" letters/e-mails from peeved Purple fans, but none are concerning the head coach.

"People are disappointed, but hopeful we will bounce back next year, and they believe Bill will get them to do that," Weiser said. "So, despite the existence of a 'firebillsnyder.com' website, I assure you, the feedback I'm getting doesn't even approach that mentality."

Still, there is frustration.

A program that won 9, 10 or 11 games in 10 of 11 years between 1993 and 2003, a program that went to bowl games in 10 consecutive years, has now gone 4-7 in 2004 and will do no better than 5-6 in 2005.

Games are being lost that have been winnable.

In 2004, games were lost by 12, 3, 10, 10, 7 and 14 points; in 2005, games have been lost by 2, 3 and 2 points. But alarming is the fact that games have also been lost by 22 to Oklahoma, by 39 to Texas Tech, and by 28 to Iowa State.

"I hate to lose, you know that," Wefald said. "I put my heart and soul into this program, so it is heart-breaking to see this happening. But I think this is a young team and there is reason for hope that Bill can turn this around."

What's needed, from a President's view, is relatively simple.

"We have good players, but we don't have those three or four stars that will be of NFL level," Wefald said. "If you look at that all-star team that was in The Mercury last week, we need more of those diamonds in the rough."

Of the complaints Weiser said he has received, some blame the soft non-conference schedule, and others indicate that a staff-shuffle is needed.

The fact is, in Snyder's first 16 years, assistants have come and gone, but Snyder has never fired a coach.


Might this be the year? Maybe, just for the sake of change.

But remember this.

One of the areas credited for Nebraska's long-time success was the stability of the coaching staff.

And, the present K-State coaching staff, except for Bret Bielema, is the exact staff that won the Big 12 title and embarrassed Oklahoma, 35-7, just two years ago. Except for one coach, it's the exact same staff that motivated the Wildcats to that win; it's the same staff that Xed and Oed the Wildcats to that win.

If there is an area of concern with the staff, it's in recruiting.

If one takes the last five recruiting years, only one freshman recruit has been recognized as a first- or second-team all-Big 12 player. Only one freshman recruit. Only Darren Sproles.

If there's a problem today, it's in, by Big 12 standards, mediocre players. And yes, in part, that's what coaching is all about.

When not ultra-talented, each penalty ... and the Wildcats have had scads of those, each turnover ... and bunches of those, too, is magnified multiple times.

"There's a variety of things," Weiser admitted in the area of complaints he's received. "But I continue to believe that the person best suited to fix the problem is coach Snyder."

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