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Comprehensive and Complex Thoughts On Bill Snyder's Return

Everyone should know by now that I don't see the world in black-and-white.  Without getting too philosophical, I do believe there is a right and a wrong, but the real world rarely allows for nice, clean distinctions between the two.  In every situation, the context and background facts will shape our judgment regarding whether the decision made in response to the situation was "right" or "wrong."  However, the objective facts behind the situation almost never make for an easy, black-and-white judgment.

That's why you won't hear me say that hiring Bill Snyder was "right" or "wrong."  A lot of what went into the situation makes me very, very disappointed in the decision that was made.  On the other hand, I can't turn off the purple tint through which I see the world, which permits me to find some ways in which this could work out.

Judging by the comments in the press conference open thread regarding the facts and opinions expressed by several local journalists, I share with a lot of you a deep disappointment in the way this situation was handled.  If we take at face value the information provided by the media members linked above, there was no coaching search done.  Neither Gary Patterson nor his agent were ever contacted, nor was Patterson ever considered.  We didn't think about taking a look at Turner Gill or Todd Graham or checking in to see if Jim Leavitt had changed his mind.

Of course, none of that should surprise us.  Bob Krause, a university administrator with no athletic department experience, is "in charge" of our athletic department.  He's being overseen by Jon Wefald, who has less than zero athletic department experience and has a track record (Jim Wooldridge, Ron Prince) for throwing his weight around at exactly the wrong time.

With all these sources indicating that Snyder was the only man ever considered for the job, I am at a loss to explain what was behind the initial Gary Patterson rumors.  I know Tim Fitzgerald from, and there is no way he fabricated that story.  Friends of mine from Nebraska and Texas told me that very day they were hearing the same thing.  Bob Lutz wrote the very next day that sources were telling Jeffrey Martin of the Wichita Eagle the very same thing.  With no further information, I'm left to speculate about how all this information came out, and the only conclusion I can reach is that it was intentionally fabricated to make it appear that Krause and Wefald actually engaged in this thing known as a coaching search.

Conventional wisdom holds that, when you fire a coach, you have a search to replace him.  Maybe you appoint a search committee, maybe you hire an outside agency.  Either way, you get some people who know what you're looking for and identify some candidates that fit that criteria.  While conventional wisdom is not always the best method of attacking a problem, there is a reason it's known as "conventional."  In most situations, it works.  I have grown tired of defending the unconventional actions of the K-State administration because, while there is a chance that a non-conventional approach to a problem will work, odds are that it won't. 

Think of it in blackjack terms.  Sure, you could hit on 18, but the odds of you picking up a three, deuce or ace are very low.  Sure, we could hire an unproven offensive coordinator from a middle-of-the-road ACC team who has no ties to the Big 12, but the odds that he will turn out to be a good coach are extremely low.  Sure, we could rehire a coaching legend who has been out of the game for three years, but the odds that he will resurrect this program are similarly low.  I should put a star next to that pending who his assistant coaches will be.

Beyond merely gambling on Snyder, we are entrenching the image that K-State football is nothing without Snyder at the helm.  K-State was never any good at football before Snyder arrived, and in the infinitesimally small sample size since Snyder retired, the Cats haven't been any good since he left. 

The solution to this problem, however, is not to go running back to the one coach who has ever had success at your institution.  The solution is to identify the next coach who you believe is most likely to have long-term success at your institution.  While Snyder instantly gives K-State the best head coach in the Big 12 North, as Panjandrum and others mentioned in the open thread, it remains very much an open question whether he will be able to lead us back to even the modest successes of seven- or eight-win seasons, and a much bigger question as to whether he will be a long-term solution at age 69.  At best, we can hope that he will hire a few dynamic assistants and, when the time comes to step down for good, one of them will be prepared to lead K-State into the future.

Here, however, is where I disagree slightly with the sentiments expressed by others and have actually changed my opinion somewhat recently.  Lutz writes that Wefald is putting Snyder's reputation and legacy at risk by rehiring him now.  But no matter what happens this time around, nothing can tarnish Bill Snyder's legacy.  What he accomplished in Manhattan cannot be taken away, changed, altered or replaced.  What is done is done, and nothing will change it.

However, Wefald and Krause are putting their legacies at risk.  For all their faults athletically, that pair took over a moribund state university with 16,000 students in 1986 and made it an impressive academic institution of which its alums can be proud.  I take great pride in telling people that I went to K-State, and I know those of you who went to school there do, too.  We owe an awful lot of that pride, at least academically speaking, to Wefald and Krause.

In addition, we can take pride in what has been accomplished athletically by K-State.  A remote state-school with a small budget has been able to produce competitive teams in football, men's basketball, women's basketball, volleyball, and occasionally other sports.  The fact that Wefald and Krause recognize athletics as a crucial component to the success of a major university is to their credit.

Unfortunately, that recognition has turned into an obsession that has led to a series of bad decisions that threaten to undo a substantial portion of the good that this duo has done at K-State.  Wefald changed K-State from an academic afterthought to a school that I spurned my home-state University of Nebraska to attend.  He had a hand in changing it from a football disgrace to one of the premier programs in the Big 8/12 for a 10-year stretch.  Now, he may be remembered more for having a hand in moving us from historic Ahearn Fieldhouse to Bramlage Coliseum, nearly destroying our proud basketball tradition, hiring an unproven and unprepared offensive coordinator from Virginia, and for running back to a legend because he hadn't put the proper personnel in place to conduct a proper coaching search.

Good luck, Bill Snyder.  Jon Wefald's legacy is in your hands.