When it comes to Bill Snyder and Kansas State, an old, bad joke — and we’re paraphrasing the bad — springs immediately to mind:
Q: What do you give a 900-pound gorilla for breakfast?
A: Whatever it wants.
Not funny, mind you. But apropos.
In Manhattan, Snyder, Kansas State’s esteemed football coach, is the gorilla. Or rather, the brain behind the beast.
The tail wags the dog in The Little Apple, because without the tail, Kansas State football is hosting Youngstown State for Homecoming 2013 instead of West Virginia. Without Snyder, Wildcat football fans could well be making the same brag today that they do at Wichita State: Unbeaten on the football field since 1986!
Wichita State dropped football in 1986.
K-State announced Thursday announced that Snyder had signed a five-year, $14.75-million contract extension through the 2017 season; it’s a deal that’ll keep the coach in purple windbreakers until he’s 78, if that’s what keeps him happy. What you can’t give the gorilla in extra bananas, you make up for with years.
Under Snyder, the Wildcats have produced seven different 11-win seasons since 1992, including this past fall’s 11-2 monster. Before Snyder, they’d posted exactly — well, exactly none.
From 1989-2005 and from 2009-12, Snyder has won 170 games in Manhattan. The previous 14 coaches, dating back to 1935, won 137 games combined.
His name is on the road that connects the sleepy Flint Hills campus to I-70. His name is on the stadium. One heartbeat, one juggernaut, the perfect union of a coach and a community. For athletic director John Currie, even if Thursday’s news was largely a symbolic gesture, it’s still the right gesture to make.
“This is really recognition of his leadership,” Currie told the Associated Press. “And it also sends a signal: How long he’s going to coach, whenever he’s going to retire, all that stuff, however long it is we’re happy to have him here.”
Snyder’s deal puts him in the middle of the Big 12 pack, salary-wise, which is sort of comical, given how he routinely coaches circles around Texas’ Mack Brown while making half of Brown’s annual take (a reported $5.2-million in 2012). And yet, the really interesting part of the announcement wasn’t the cash. It was the length.
In addition to making Currie look prudent, it also puts off the potentially awkward conversation/questions regarding Snyder’s successor. K-State tried to kick its Bill Snyder Habit once before, turning the reins over to Ron Prince between 2006-08. That experiment went so well that Snyder felt compelled to un-retire and grab the wheel of the ship again before it took any more icebergs to the bow.
Snyder has also dropped hints, subtle and not-so-subtle, that he’d like his son, Sean, currently the Wildcats’ special teams coordinator, to follow in his footsteps. Which is all well and good, except for the fact that we don’t know for certain what the long game is for Currie, at least from a continuity standpoint. We know this: A $75-million stadium renovation project means Currie wants the K-State football program to continue to be a major player (and revenue stream) for decades to come. That might entail fishing for a major name as Snyder’s replacement, if and when that day comes.
But if that day is never — after a 21-5 record over the past two seasons, Snyder certainly hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down — that works, too. The five-year number on the contract is a recruiting buffer, primarily, a ceremonial cushion designed to tuck wary high-schoolers (and their parents) in bed at night with the notion that a coach will be around for the remainder of their eligibility.
That’s the theory, at least. The practice is, as we know, another ballgame entirely.
But Snyder is 73, a man who’s slayed more dragons than Saint George. The wandering and wondering window has long since passed. The man’s devotion to control and details makes the NFL a terrible fit; having built a penthouse of his own, there’s no point in grabbing the keys to somebody else’s castle.
Besides, the grass along Kimball Avenue is plenty green as it is. Snyder should know. He’s the one who planted it.