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It’s time we ask Bill Snyder the hard questions

Bill Snyder has built a mountain of well-deserved good will in Kansas and across the country, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be asked hard questions.

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Texas v Kansas State Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Wow, time really flies.

Seven years ago this week, I wrote my first post on Bring On The Cats. Back in 2011, I was a lot different than I am today. When I wrote that post, I was a little more than a month removed from living in my parent’s basement. I was a 26-year-old college dropout working as a dispatcher for the K-State Police Department. I’d never ventured more than 100 miles from my hometown of Wilson, Kan. without my parents.

And I was as big a Bill Snyder fan as anyone.

In light of Tuesday’s press conference, a lot of K-State fans I see on social media remind me of 2011 me. They believe Bill Snyder can do anything. They still believe in the magic. They, like I did, probably believe that K-State’s 2011 win against Baylor had more to do with Bill’s will—a sort of Jedi-like force control—than a sound defensive scheme and a ball-control offense. It took a lot of time for me to transform into what I believe today—and I’ll get to that. I promise this has a point.

That post I wrote in 2011, mixed with the excitement for the 2012 season, led me to keep writing posts for BOTC. Midway through K-State’s run to the 2012 Big 12 Championship, I was added to the BOTC staff. Two years later, I was hired as a real sportswriter, and I was able to actually cover the team up close. By 2017, journalism had so poisoned me that I went to straight news coverage and became an editor, then I came to Atlanta and tried journalism there.

Then, Tuesday, I sat and listened to the softball questions the K-State media hurled at Bill Snyder, most of which he bunted, as he usually does. But when John Kurtz progressively decided to add just a tiny bit more mustard to the normal softball pitches, Snyder acted as though he’d been beaned. And a lot of fans cast Kurtz and the whole K-State media as the villain.

In 2011, or even 2014, I would’ve understood why people would be upset with Kurtz, or anyone, for continuing to question Snyder about his methods. But after two years in straight news media, I think it’s time we start asking Snyder the tougher questions.

When I became a newspaper editor in 2017, I’d never really covered anything outside of sports, and most of my work covering sports was at the high school level or at K-State. Preps reporting is full of softballs. High school kids don’t need that grief. And the K-State media is largely populated with K-State grads, many of whom are from Kansas and, like me, grew up loving the team and idolizing the coach. So, though TB often did his best to try to push me, I wasn’t too motivated to ask anyone—least of all Bill Snyder—the hard questions.

But when I moved to news, I had to learn how to ask the hard questions fast. Even in a small town like Junction City, there’s no room for softball journalism. I wasn’t out there busting heads and breaking stories as often as I would’ve liked, but I did take part in my share of tense interviews and endured my share of nasty feedback.

That’s why Tuesday was so surreal. Snyder’s reaction surprised me because I thought Kurtz was doing what we were all supposed to be doing. If you listen to the audio of the exchange, Kurtz’ questions were fair. It was clear after the first one that Snyder was annoyed, but the questions weren’t tough.

The problem is that Snyder has never really been questioned. His universe is so contained that any suggestion of scrutiny is met with silent, intense stares, followed by immediate dismissal. He’s made a career out of canned answers. He’s almost predictable, and he’s rarely been challenged. In 2014, a student journalist opened a presser by asking Snyder about the infamous Pat Roberts commercial. She was immediately shut down by K-State Athletics staff, and she left.

And that’s fine. Bill Snyder is not an elected official. He has no obligation of transparency to his constituents. By the nature of his job, he can walk into a presser, tell the media to “write what the hell you want to write,” and walk right back out if he wants. He’s built a massive mountain of good will with the fan base. As long as he keeps telling fans how important they are, and sending nice notes to opposing players after games, he can do with the media what he pleases.

But by giving the media an opportunity to ask questions, he’s giving them the right to ask the hard ones. And I say they should. It’s about time.

If you read the comments on the posts here on BOTC or follow TB on Twitter, you know that TB has pretty well summarized what’s probably going on in K-State’s locker room. But, accurate as it seems, it’s still just conjecture, and as TB says at the end of his thread, when you give answers that aren’t based on the available evidence, no one is satisfied.

Except of course the fans that think Snyder can do no wrong. And those fans are as entitled to their opinion as anyone. But as Snyder approaches 79, it’s time for fans, and the media, to come to grips with the idea of a post-Snyder K-State football program. When the program has a new coach completely free of Snyder’s influence, the media will need to step up, and the fans need to be ready.

That time will be here before you know it. Time really flies.