As I sat in the stands Saturday at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, I was shaking. Literally. I was trembling from head to toe. Baylor had just missed a field goal that would have increased their lead to a seemingly insurmountable twelve points with not much time in the game. I felt the tide turn. I wasn't sure what it was. I am an unrelenting pessimist when my Cats are down late in games but I felt it. Then I muttered to myself and realized why I knew K-State would pull it out.
"Snyder is going to find a way."
Bill Snyder found a way. He did it because he is a legend. He knows football and he is without doubt the most underrated coach in the sport.
I would almost venture into the territory of best coach in the country. In case someone is not familiar with his story, let me enlighten you. I'll keep it brief. Snyder came to Kansas State in 1989 after serving as offensive coordinator under Hayden Fry at Iowa. That same year, Sports Illustrated ran a story on K-State titled "Futility U". They were the only major college football team at the time to have 500 losses. They had been winless in their previous two seasons and the school administration was considering dropping the program from Division I or perhaps folding it altogether. Snyder led the program to their first bowl win in 1993 and more consecutive bowl appearances in the following decade, including a 35-7 victory over the media darling Oklahoma Sooners in the 2003 Big 12 Championship game that gave K-State their first conference title in 69 years. Snyder retired in 2005 after two consecutive disappointing seasons and many believed the "Magic in Manhattan" was lost.
Snyder returned in 2008 after everything he had built was on the verge of crumbling due to a Ron Prince tenure marred by undisciplined football and off the field scandal. Now in his third year of his second run, Snyder has the team looking like the teams in the early to mid nineties. They won't blow teams out of the stadium, but they find ways to win. Just like they did on Saturday against the great RG3, they find a way to get it done.
College football has shifted mightily since 1989. The stage is bigger, the game is faster, the players are greedier. I won't say that it's dirtier off the field than it was then, but the spotlight certainly shines brighter and it brings more shadiness to light. That's what I find most amazing about Coach Snyder. Not only does he do well, but he does right. There's not much incentive for an 18 year old kid with great football talent to come to Manhattan, KS but Snyder has never given a car or an absurdly ridiculous amount of money to a player in order to lure them in. In fact, if he gives his players anything, it's a solid value system. No one talks about it because teaching a player to be a responsible, successful adult does not make for riveting drama. But it's a lot harder than getting a booster to pull out his pocket book.
Snyder is a coach who believes that the best victory is teaching a boy to be a man, and to be a good man. He also shows that the values that come with being a better human being can also make a better football team. As long as he and his staff can manage to get the players to buy into the values, then they will win ball games. This year's team is buying in. Talent still counts for a lot which is why this team most likely won't win them all, but they've proven they can hang with the best of them.
To build a dynasty out of hard work and good character in this day and age one time is amazing, but to do it twice, that's unprecedented. I don't think I'm the only K-State fan who will say that as bad as I want to see the Cats win a National Title, just knowing that we're a good team filled with great people and led by the legend that is Bill Snyder is good enough for me.