Mark Snyder was Ohio 3-A All-State selection at Ironton High School and played quarterback and safety for a former Marshall star, Tigers coach Bob Lutz. Snyder helped lead Ironton to the state championship game in 1982. Snyder originally signed with I-AA Morehead State University in 1983 to play quarterback. He then transferred to I-A Oklahoma State University of the Big Eight Conference in 1984. After completing spring practice with the Cowboys in 1985, Snyder transferred to Northeast Oklahoma Junior College, where he quarterbacked the team to the Junior College National Championship game. Next was a brief enrollment at Mid-American Conference member Kent State before transferring to Marshall. He was ruled academically ineligible to play at Marshall just prior to the 1986 season under former head coach George Chaump.
In 1987, Snyder captured All-Southern Conference defensive back honors, as well as a honorable mention All-American nod, in his only season at Marshall. The Herd won a then-school record 10 games with only five losses. The highlights of that season included a last-second, upset win at I-A Louisville (coached by Howard Schnellenberger) and an upset win at Southern Conference champion Appalachian State in the I-AA semi-finals, which sent Marshall to Pocatello, Idaho for the I-AA Championship. Snyder also helped the Herd defense set a still-team record with seven interceptions in the Marshall-Weber State I-AA playoff game in Huntington in the quarterfinals (tied by the 1991 MU team in a game with Appalachian State). Snyder played for MU's secondary coach and defensive coordinator of 1987, Jon Tenuta, who has been the defensive coordinator at Georgia Tech the last three seasons.
The Thundering Herd finished as runners-up at the 1987 Division I-AA National Championship to Northeast Louisiana, 43-42, after knocking off James Madison, Weber State and Appy State. The team included Marshall Athletic Hall of Fame members in receiver Mike Barber; tight end Sean Doctor; cornerback Reggie Giles; running back Ron Darby; and quarterbacks Tony Petersen and John Gregory (who took a red-shirt for the '87 season). Snyder set a Marshall and Southern Conference record for interceptions in a season, collecting 10 over 15 games, and helped lead MU to a SC record 31 interceptions for the season (still a MU record as well). He had two "take-aways" in games against Virginia Military Institute (Oct. 24), Tennessee-Chattanooga (Oct. 31) and Appalachian State (Nov. 7). He was the SC Player of the Week for his game with UTC. Snyder finished second on the 1987 team in tackles for the Herd with 124 stops, 83 of those tackles were solo. He recorded 15 passes defended that year, forced and recovered a fumble as well. Snyder's one-year total of 10 interceptions in a season is tied for eighth in career interceptions at MU.
Snyder would graduate from Marshall in the fall of 1988 and he began his coaching career that fall as a student assistant at his alma mater, while also serving as the football laundry person in the evening to earn his fifth-year aid under former Director of Athletics at Marshall, Lee Moon. He and Tony Petersen, the SC Player of the Year at quarterback and relief pitcher for the Herd in 1987-88, spent morning as college students, afternoons as MU student assistant coaches and evening in the Fairfield Stadium laundry room of Marshall equipment manager Woody Woodrum.
He moved to Central Florida in 1990 and spent two years there, the first as a graduate assistant and the second as a part-time coach working with the linebackers. In 1991, Snyder returned to the Buckeye State to coach the outside linebackers on Jim Tressel's Youngstown State staff. In 1994, he was given the added responsibility of special teams coordinator and inside linebacker coach. Tressel promoted him to defensive coordinator and secondary coach in 1996.
After six successful years at Youngstown State, during which the Penguins won three Division I-AA national championships (1991, 1993, 1994, all at Marshall's Joan C. Edwards Stadium; playing the Herd in 1991-92-93 and Boise State in 1994), Snyder left Youngstown State for Minnesota in 1997. During Snyder's stay at Minnesota, the Gophers' defense twice set school records for single-season sacks and averaged 40.7 sacks during a three-year span. While at Minnesota, Snyder helped develop Lamanzer Williams, who led the nation in sacks in 1997 and Karon Riley, the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2000.
He spent four years as linebackers' coach at Ohio State and last season as the Buckeyes' defensive coordinator. Snyder assumed his new role in January of 2004, taking over for Mark Dantonio after the latter became head coach at the University of Cincinnati. Snyder turned down a chance to join Les Miles staff at LSU earlier this year."I (was) extremely humbled and honored to be the defensive coordinator," said Snyder. "I am grateful to Coach (Jim) Tressel for giving me this opportunity."
At the end of the 2003 and 2004 seasons, Snyder was recruited as an assistant coach by several other college football programs. But the decision to stay at Ohio State was an easy one for the Ironton, Ohio, native. "I am an Ohio guy and this is where I have always wanted to be," he said. "Besides, I am working for a terrific man, so I can't imagine a better situation." That was, until his "dream job" as head coach of his alma mater came open in March of 2005, following the surprising resignation of nine-year head coach Bob Pruett. In Snyder's four years with the Buckeyes, he helped develop a number of outstanding players, including All-American Matt Wilhelm (with the NFL's San Diego Chargers) and Cie Grant (New Orleans Saints), both of whom played significant roles in the Buckeyes 2002 National I-A Championship win over Miami, Florida, in the Fiesta Bowl. Both players were taken in the NFL draft. In 2003, senior Robert Reynolds (Tennessee Titans) and sophomore A.J. Hawk played the best football of their respective careers and in 2004, Hawk was a Walter Camp All-American selection.
The Buckeyes' defensive philosophy did not change under Snyder's guidance. "We will continue to be an attacking type of defense that runs to the ball and puts pressure on whatever type of offense we are playing," he says. "We will emphasize speed, sure tackling and playing with emotion."
NOTES: Snyder is the youngest head coach at Marshall since Stan Parrish was hired in 1983 at age 38. Marshall's youngest modern coach was Rick Tolley, who was only 29 when elevated to the head coach in 1969, following the departure of Perry Moss. Marshall's youngest-ever coach is believed to be the 23-year old Tom Dandelet, who took over the Marshall College program in the 1930s after graduating from Marshall.
Snyder becomes the first back-to back Marshall alum hired in 46 years, along with Bob Pruett (MU, 1964) since Charlie Snyder (Marshall '48) followed Herb Royer (Marshall '38) in 1959. He is the sixth Marshall grad to head up the Herd football program, including Boyd "Fox" Chambers, who was the head coach from 1909-1916 and Tom Dandelet (Marshall '29), who coached from 1931-34. Pruett and Snyder coached Marshall for nine seasons, trailing only MU legend Cam Henderson, who coached 12 seasons of Marshall football. Russell Meredith and Charles "Trusty" Tallman both attended Marshall Normal School, a two-year teachers program that was Marshall's mission for the state of West Virginia from 1867-1921, but then both received degrees from West Virginia University and coached at Marshall following graduations.
Snyder is only the third head coach hired since 1971 without head coaching experience at the collegiate or high school level. Frank Ellwood was an assistant at high school level, along with being an assistant at Ohio State, Air Force and Ohio University, and Jim Donnan had been a career assistant in six collegiate stops, including coming to MU after being offensive coordinator at Oklahoma. Pruett was a head coach at two Virginia high schools before becoming a college assistant and coordinator at Wake Forest, Mississippi, Tulane and Florida, while Parrish (Walbash College), Sonny Randle (East Carolina, UVA and Massanutten Military Academy) and Jack Lengyel (Wooster College) had been collegiate head coaches.