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Kansas State's Snyder isn't the retiring type

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Jeff Martin

   
 
If you didn't know before, surely it's obvious by now, especially with Kansas State sitting atop the Big 12 North: Bill Snyder is smarter and better than the rest of us. Admit it, you thought it was a terrible idea when you heard that the then 69-year-old — he's now 70, by the way — was ending his retirement of three years to return to the program he transformed into a national entity. I, too, was skeptical. Being a beat writer covering the Wildcats at the time, when Snyder's name first surfaced last November as a possible replacement for Ron Prince, denial was the initial reaction. Of course, that was also the same reaction in 2005 when word first spread that Snyder was finished. In either case, it didn't make sense. But then again, it never had to make sense to anyone but Snyder. "I made a quick decision," he said last year of retiring. "... I didn't follow my protocol in doing that." The idea that the game had passed Snyder by literally made his son Sean, K-State's associate athletic director and associate head coach for football operations and development, laugh. "He's proven what he can do here," the son said on the day his father was re-introduced as the Wildcats coach. "I don't have any concerns at all." We should have known better. Instead, we fixated on those mediocre final — or what we thought were final — two seasons, when K-State was a combined 9-13, when Snyder looked as if the game had finally taken its toll. Another dumb move. Riding the sublime ability of Daniel Thomas, the Big 12's leading rusher, Snyder's stuck with a run-based offense in a time when the spread is supposed to be the quick fix and an equalizer for teams with inferior talent. Special teams will always be key in Manhattan, and the defense, led by a couple of experienced and respected coordinators in Chris Cosh and Vic Koenning, has actually provided resistance, a far cry from K-State's units under Prince. No longer are the complaints about Snyder's assistants heard, and if the legend is one thing above everything else — and yes, that includes being stubborn — he's loyal. He felt an obligation, as he described the turmoil surrounding the program following Prince's dismissal, to "calm the waters." Don't forget, his name is on the stadium. Literally, he is Kansas State football, and don't think for a minute he didn't know what he was walking right back into. You've heard the adage before. In coaching circles, when a job comes open after a legend retires, the conventional wisdom is, "Don't be the guy after the guy — be the guy after the guy after the guy." Look at Snyder — he was the original guy, the legend who stepped away in 2005, and then he became the guy after the guy, in this case Prince, who was fired a little more than a year ago. Still, despite being somewhat unconvinced, I found the logic compelling. Who better than Bill Snyder, the original architect of the Miracle in Manhattan, to do it again? Plus, given the uneven state of the division — the North's alleged top two coaches (and highest-paid) are Kansas' Mark Mangino, who served on Snyder's K-State staff from 1991-98, and Missouri's Gary Pinkel, who has never beaten Snyder in five head-to-head matchups — Snyder would at least possess a tactical edge against the competition.
And after looking at the schedule, in which the Wildcats faced the Jayhawks and the Tigers, this week's opponent, at home, seven wins seemed possible. At the moment, K-State is 6-4 overall and 4-2 in the Big 12 North, a win shy of bowl eligibility (the Wildcats have two wins against FCS foes) and Snyder is the front-runner for Coach of the Year honors — a virtual lock in the conference, a possibility nationally. "I really haven't gotten too excited about it," said Snyder about the season. "That doesn't mean that I don't appreciate the success that we have had recently. When we do well, I'm happy about it. I try to stay on an even keel. But I am very happy for our players and our fans." Not for himself, because really, this is sort of ordinary. It's hardly noteworthy because this is, after all, a man whose teams won 11 games six times in a seven-year span from 1997-2003. But those days, I've been informed, are long gone. Everyone in the North recruits much better, and every school mines the junior colleges now too, I was told. That success can't be duplicated they say. You know what? I know better now. I'm not listening any more. Bill Snyder has made me a believer. Jeffrey Martin is a frequent contributor to foxsports.com. He also writes for the Houston Chronicle. He can be reached at reyheath@gmail.com.
Tagged: Kansas State, Houston

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