Standing above the north end zone, watching the postgame festivities, as the JumboTrons blared with some of the best highlights of Bill Snyder’s 25-year career, I looked to my left and saw a fan wiping tears from his eyes.
As each highlight rolled, fans around me cheered as though the plays were happening in real time. Travis Ochs vicious sack of Eric Crouch in 1998 drew giddy laughter from a few. Darren Sproles catch and run for a long touchdown in the 2003 Big 12 Championship had one fan with a faded jacket and grey in his beard softly jumping up and down as he yelled “Sproles!”
It’s been a long journey to these 200 wins for Snyder.
But consider this: he did it in 25 years when it took 13 K-State head coaches before him 51 years to amass just 130 wins. K-State was famously referred to as “Futility U” by Sports Illustrated when Snyder arrived in 1989, and TB did a great job breaking down the numbers on how the legendary head coach has vastly changed that perception.
But in the 27 years since his arrival at K-State, Bill Snyder has meant more than anything numbers can quantify. He’s become as much a symbol of the university as the Powercat logo he helped create. He’s helped grow the profile of the athletic department, the university, and the community in which it resides. He’s brought smiles to the faces and tears of joy to the eyes of thousands upon thousands of fans.
As Colby Moore and Dalton Risner carried Snyder from the field on their shoulders, chants of “Hail Snyder” emanated from the student section across the field. Other fans gave the old man a standing ovation.
Snyder himself was stoic.
Known for his trademark consistency, he said he was in a bad mood in the postgame presser because K-State didn’t play very well in its 34-19 win over rival KU. When I asked Deante Burton if Snyder said anything special to the players in the locker room, Burton said he acted no different than if it were his second win.
Coach may be feeling more than he lets on, but even if he isn’t, that’s OK. He doesn’t have to feel it. The fans in the stadium felt it. Those watching on TV, or listening on the radio, or watching live updates online felt it. And they’ve been feeling it for 25 seasons — a slow build to a place many who can remember the years before the 1993 Copper Bowl never thought they’d see.
After Snyder, Risner, Moore and the players dissolved into the darkness of the tunnel, I turned to head in for the postgame presser and caught another glimpse of the man next to me as he wiped some more fresh tears from his eyes. To him and to many others, 200 is more than just a number. It represents indescribable emotion. In the 90s, they had a name for what Snyder has done in Manhattan, and though the sheen has faded a bit with age, the label is still wholly accurate: it’s a Miracle.