When Bill Snyder arrived at Kansas State in 1989, the program was as bad as any football program ever has been. It’s worth repeating. It’s always worth repeating.
The Wildcats had 47 scholarship players, in the days when the limit was 95. Three wins total in the previous four seasons. K-State regents were discussing de-emphasizing football to a lower classification. Or dropping it all together, “which was so detrimental to the university,” Snyder said.
Some of those same feelings arose a week ago, when it appeared the Big 12 would break up, leaving Kansas State without a decent option for a conference home.
I chatted with Snyder on Saturday night. He’s an old favorite of mine. I think he’s the greatest coach in the history of college football, and I haven’t been afraid to say so. Snyder has appreciated it and always has been willing to talk with me about the state of college football.
We talked about a lot of things, and I ended up writing a column about his desire to retain divisions and the Big 12 championship game. You can read it at: http://newsok.com/kansas-states-bill-snyder-prefers-five-team-divisions-big-12-title-game/article/3469989?custom_click=lead_story_title
But Snyder had a lot of other interesting things to say, and I thought I would share them with you.
“I’m pleased with the outcome consider what the options would have been,” Snyder said of the soon-to-be 10-team Big 12. “I hate to lose Nebraska. I hate to lose Colorado. By the same token, being able to retain the 10 schools was a very positive thing.
“I’m proud of our conference leadership. It was a difficult time. They took a lot of beatings, but in the end, they made a lot of things happen.”
The situation was dire at K-State, which could have been headed to the Mountain West Conference unless it was drafted into some other league with Kansas. The Mountain West is a fine, competitive league, but its television revenues are nowhere near what the Big 12 earns. Budgets would have been slashed at K-State.
Snyder said the 2010 Big 12 crisis was a similar feeling to the despondent feeling around Manhattan in 1989, that it “had the potential to have the same impact on people who don’t get noticed. Administrators throughout the university structure. Staff members. Faculty. Students, coaches, all their staffs. A lot of people would have been impacted.
“To me, there wasn’t enough understanding of that. We fail to make people’s lives as important.
“For me, I feel badly that it became so very apparent, it’s about the money. It’s about the TV sets. Very little was said about the student-athlete and the impact it has on them. Means absolutely nothing.”
Snyder is the dean of Big 12 coaches, so long as you didn’t make him start over for retiring for three years, 2006-08. Snyder returned last season and coached the Wildcats to a 6-6 record. From 1997-2003, KSU won 11 games six times in seven years.
Snyder is the only man around who coached in the Big Eight, the Big 12 and, assuming he’s here next year, the Big 12/10. He’s got historical perspective.
“We all make mistakes,” Snyder said. “We’ve made some mistakes as a conference. We can certainly work on and repair and make a stronger conference because of it.
“This wasn’t just something that rose up out of the sand. It’s something that’s been at work for quite some time. Become more urgent recently.”
What mistakes did the Big 12 make?
“I don’t know,” Snyder said. “Obviously, we had some issues or it wouldn’t have come to some schools bolting or leaving. I think we could become a closer-knit conference, personnel-wise.”
In the Big Eight and early-Big 12 days, Snyder said, conference meetings consisted of presidents, faculty representatives, athletic directors, football coaches and basketball coaches. “Everybody was there,” Snyder said. “We had serious dialogue, serious meetings. But we had time to socialize. People got to know each other. I made some very, very dear friends, whether they be from Oklahoma or Oklahoma State or Nebraska. That was an awful positive thing about our conference. We kind of got away from that. I think it would be great to be able to interact again.”
Snyder is steadfast in his hope that the Big 12 can retain divisions, and if you don’t think five-team divisions would work, he believes expansion is possible. The television numbers would have to work, Snyder said, but “I’m not sold that this upheaval in the college environment is totally settled right now. We feel secure and sound in the Big 12 Conference, but looking across the country, I don’t think it’s settled.
“Things look very positive for Kansas State. All the (Big 12) schools have made public, verbal commitments. I trust each and every one of them. I feel we’re on good footing. Things certainly can change, but I’m not uncomfortable with the position we’re in in the Big 12 Conference right now.”
Snyder’s thoughts on some other subjects:
Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds: “One of the founding fathers of the Big 12 Conference. It really did mean a lot to him. I knew it pained him when it looked like it would fall apart.”
On the advantages of a conference title game: “We were damaged by it on one occasion (1998). But by and large, it was a real positive for Kansas State to have a championship game. I would like the Big 12 to be a two-division conference, whether that’s 12 teams or 10. Whether or not we’d have enough votes, I don’t know.”