The future of Kansas State is now.

Arguments are welcome, but athletics director Tim Weiser, President Jon Wefald ... and, yes, coach Bill Snyder are facing a crossroads hire in naming the next Wildcat football coach.

This next appointment will figure significantly in the future of every single sport Kansas State offers — Suzie Fritz's volleyball program, Brad Hill's baseball team, the golf squads of Kristi Knight and Tim Norris ... and all the others, as well.

Here's why.

When Mr. Snyder was hired in November of 1988, K-State had a budget in the $5 to 7 million range. At that time, the total football budget was under $2 million, or the same amount that top coaches make today as a salary package.

Sports were funded minimally. Outside of football and basketball, sports didn't have full scholarship allotments, recruiting for Olympic-type sports was limited to a regional basis, and coaches drove team vans to events.

Heck, it was about that time that a football coach was borrowing reams of paper from an elementary school where one of the wives of the coach taught, and baseballs were charged to a local outlet to finish the season.

The reason for living on a shoestring was simple.

KSU Stadium crowds of 17,000 to 21,000 per home game when season tickets didn't cost much more than a single Kansas State-Kansas game does today.

Today.

Today ... when season tickets cost in the $300 range, not counting the variety of donation levels needed to secure a half-way decent KSU Stadium seat.

Today ... when each and every Wildcat sport has a full allotment of scholarships, travel is coast-to-coast even for lower tier sports, and there's no distance too far to take a recruiting junket.

When Mr. Snyder was hired, in all honesty, it was with little hope. Apathy was the rule ... and for good reason after seasons of 0, 0, 2, 1, 3 and 3 wins in the six years prior to his arrival, and decades of "Ls" more than "Ws" before that.

There was no reason to believe that this assistant coach from Iowa would make a difference. Heck, even on hiring day there was not a hint of a self-boast, a mention of a solution for Futility U.

Nope, just the gray intrinsic stuff, but the bits and pieces of substance that resulted in 135 wins 17 years later.

That worked once ... in the Big 8.

But even Snyder has wondered if his achievements could have happened had he arrived in 1996 ... in the Big 12.

Snyder's honeymoon period wasn't even a factor. It didn't exist because, honestly, expectations were more of a hope than belief.

Today, that's no longer true.

Mr. Snyder has proven that championship success can be a reality at Kansas State University. And because of Snyder's heroics, it's made it possible for the Wildcat track team to win a couple Big 12 titles, and volleyball to win one, and women's basketball another.

Without hesitation, every one of those coaches know their championship could not have happened without the monies that went to those individual budgets generated by 45,000 to 50,000 fans making a half-dozen visits to KSU Stadium each fall.

It wouldn't happened without some extra television exposures, and some never before enjoyed bowl revenues.

It wouldn't have happened without facility upgrades in the mid-1990s that put K-State in the upper-division of the Big 12. But in the last five to seven years, other schools have zoomed past the Wildcats in stadium/office/locker room improvements. The school is now back to being one of the lower three to five schools in the league when it comes to to-the-eye amenities.

Snyder was right when he said the bar of expectation had been slightly lowered with consecutive sub-.500 season. But that level is still a ka-zillion times higher than it was on Nov. 30, 1988, when Snyder became a Wildcat.

For coach Venables, or coach Long, or coach Leavitt, or coach X, there will be no more than a two- to three-year honeymoon. K-Staters now know that the Wildcats can win, and win over an extended period of time.

The next coach will face the responsibility of helping to fund what is now a $30-plus million budget used to fund the roll call of sports that have a budget that allows each of them to compete for Big 12 titles, or certainly upper-division finishes.

Every K-State coach has a right to be tossing and turning at night wondering what if the next coach wins four, three ... or even five games, and the KSU Stadium crowds dip to even 30,000 fans? To 26,000 fans? And with fewer fans, it's no mystery what will happen to financial gifts to the university.

How will K-State maintain a $30 million budget? How will each of these coaches react to a mid-year 10 to 15 percent budget slice, which is exactly what happened in the 1980s?

Hiring coaches/administrators is no easy task.

Remember Milt Richards? Jersey Jermier?

It's a bit like recruiting student-athletes, except Weiser will be dangling a contract package with seven numbers and a couple commas on it for the next football coach.

And there's first-hand proof that doubling the salary of a coach doesn't mean a school gets a coach who is twice as good as the one before him.

It's certain that Weiser, Wefald ... and Snyder will do exhaustive research of America's top candidates. But it's also certain that a dose of luck will also be needed to find another ... coach Snyder.


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