A Look Back - Coach Snyder

Although the loss of a true coaching legend may have some people feeling like mourning, it's important to take this time to admire the truly remarkable accomplishments Snyder made in his 17 years at the helm.

It was only fitting that the weather on the morning of Bill Snyder's retirement announcement was snowy and freezing - the type of day that would make people feel like staying in bed. After all, the news of Snyder's sudden resignation probably made many Wildcat faithful feel the same way.

Much like the weather on the morning of Snyder's retirement press conference, the outlook of the K-State football program was bleak in 1988. The Wildcats had won just six games in the five seasons before Snyder arrived. Let me reiterate that point - by combining the records of the five seasons leading up to Snyder's hiring the Wildcats win total is just barely high enough to be bowl-eligible for a single season. Sports Illustrated even referred to the program as the worst in NCAA history.

Snyder became the 32nd head football coach for the Wildcats on Nov. 30, 1988, and spoke of the opportunity to turn the Wildcats around. Few in Manhattan could have imagined how quickly their fortunes would turn. In 1989, Snyder's Wildcats ended a 30-game winless streak with a last-second victory over North Texas State. The Wildcats won five games in 1990, and were seemingly robbed of a bowl appearance in 1991. K-State won seven games in 1991, had a winning record in the Big 8, and all four of their losses came to ranked opponents. The success of the Wildcats earned Snyder his first National Coach of the Year award, courtesy ESPN.

Snyder and the Wildcats moved on and made it to a bowl game in 1993, K-State's first since 1982. The 9-2-1 record was good for the second-best in school history, and the 52-17 win over Wyoming in the Copper Bowl was the first bowl victory in school history.

Snyder added another National Coach of the Year award in 1994, as the Wildcats earned a trip to Hawaii to play in the Aloha Bowl. The Cats climbed up to No. 11 in the AP poll that season, the highest they had ever been.

1995 saw the Wildcats ranked in the top 25 in all but the first week of the season, and K-State made its first New Year's Day bowl appearance. The Cats rung in the New Year in fashion piling up 54 points on No. 25 Colorado State, despite losing starting quarterback Matt Miller to injury.

The Wildcats attended the Cotton Bowl in 1996, and earned their first ever 11-win season in 1997. K-State finished 11-1, defeating Donovan McNabb and the Syracuse Orangemen in the Fiesta Bowl. Their lone loss came to the Nebraska Cornhuskers, the 29th consecutive time the Wildcats had fallen to the Black-shirts up north.

That streak would fall on Nov. 14, 1998. The Wildcats handed the Huskers a 40-30 loss and prime seats to watch the Wagner Field goalposts come down. Everything else that occurred that season was pretty irrelevant to K-State football. in the same sense that the invention of the wheel was irrelevant to transportation. The Wildcats earned their first ever No. 1 ranking and made it to their first ever Big 12 Championship game. Had it not been for an unfortunate overtime period, the Wildcats may have earned a spot in the record books as a national champion. The remarkable season earned a remarkable coach four separate National Coach of the Year awards.

A Holiday Bowl victory in 1999 helped the Wildcats clinch their highest-ever end-of-season national ranking, putting the Cats at No. 6. In 2000, K-State won 11 games for the fourth straight season.

A 6-6 season in 2001 tested the resolve of Snyder and the Wildcats, and they recovered in considerable fashion. Another 11-win season and No. 6 ranking were impressive, but the true fortitude of the 2002 Wildcats was best exhibited in the final five weeks of the season. Facing Big 12 foes Baylor, Kansas, Iowa State, Nebraska and Missouri the Wildcats won by a combined score of 255-30.

At the mid-point of 2003, the Wildcats were at crossroads. Standing at 4-3 and having lost three straight, a few more losses would have the Wildcats scrambling for bowl contention; a strong finish could put the Wildcats back in championship contention. The Wildcats chose the latter, winning the rest of their games, including a 38-9 victory over the No. 18 Cornhuskers in Lincoln.

K-State entered the Big 12 Championship facing the Oklahoma Sooners, coached by Snyder's former assistant Bob Stoops, and being touted as possibly the best college football team ever. What occurred that December eve will stick with K-State fans for the rest of their lives, and added another achievement to an already astounding coaching career for Snyder. Initially the game looked like it could be a blowout in Oklahoma's favor, with the Sooners earning a 7-0 lead relatively quickly. They would not score again. Noteworthy game-plans on both sides of the ball, along with inspired play by the Wildcats led to a 35-7 stomping of the seemingly invincible Sooners.

Since that game, the Wildcats have gone 8-14. Sure, the record is down from the previous seasons, but nearly anything short of dominance would be. Talk that the "sky is falling" is simply absurd, when truly examining things. Any fan with a sense of history should know the program is leaps and bounds ahead of where it could be. If not for Snyder, who knows if the university would still have a football team.

Throughout the years, Snyder has been trusted to make the decision that is best for the K-State football team. With his success, few have questioned him. Snyder made one of the biggest decisions in the history of the football program on Tuesday, and while it may have left some fans feeling as cold as the Manhattan wind, it's only fair to trust him in making the correct decision again. He said this move is what is best for the program, something he's devoted the last 17 years of his life working towards.

A man that dedicated that much of his life to the betterment of K-State football, his players, and the community deserves to go out on his own terms.

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