Bill Snyder has been elected to the College Football Hall of Fame as a member of the 2015 class. He is only the fourth active coach to ever earn a spot in the Hall of Fame, after Bobby Bowden, John Gagliardi, and Joe Paterno, and the only one still active as a coach.
Snyder has gone 187-94-1 over 22 seasons, including two Big 12 titles, and 16 bowl appearances.
Joining Snyder in the Class of 2015 is fellow coach Jim Tressel, based on his tenure at Youngstown State, as well as 15 former players:
- Trev Alberts, Nebraska LB, 1990-93
- Brian Bosworth, Oklahoma LB, 1984-86
- Bob Breunig, Arizona State LB, 1972-74
- Sean Brewer, Millsaps DL, 1989-92
- Ruben Brown, Pittsburgh OT, 1991-94
- Wes Chandler, Florida WR, 1974-77
- Tom Gatewood, Notre Dame SE, 1969-71
- Dick Jauron, Yale RB, 1970-72
- Clinton Jones, Michigan State RB, 1964-66
- Lincoln Kennedy, Washington OL, 1989-92
- Rob Lytle, Michigan RB 1974-76
- Michael Payton, Marshall QB 1989-92
- Art Still, Kentucky DL, 1974-77
- Zach Thomas, Texas Tech LB, 1992-95
- Ricky Williams, Texas RB, 1995-98
The milestones of Snyder's football career are well known. A long-time assistant to Hayden Fry, he first came to Kansas State in 1989, to take over college football's worst Division 1-A program. Over the next 16 seasons, he helped guide the Wildcats to national prominence, winning several bowl games, and a Big 12 championship. He'd orchestrated the single greatest turnaround in college football history, a feat that earned him the highest praise from one Barry Switzer:
He's not the coach of the year, he's not the coach of the decade, he's the coach of the century
He came. He stayed. He conquered. Then, inexplicably, he retired. Perhaps he felt the game had passed him by. Perhaps he wanted to spend more time with his family. Perhaps he wanted to play a little more golf.
Not content in retirement, however, and unhappy with the shape Kansas State football was taking, he came back. Improbably, he did it all again. Armed with a cast of lightly recruited players and a stable of walk-ons and also-rans, Snyder has gone 51-25 since 2009, winning a Big 12 title and leading Kansas State to five consecutive bowl games, and a brief reign at the top of the polls in 2012. He has also won widespread respect from the world of college football, not just for doing the near-impossible, but for doing it the right way.
But wins, championship rings, awards, and media attention, these are not the full measure of a Hall of Fame career. One of the requirements for the honor is as follows:
He must have proven himself worthy as a citizen, carrying the ideals of football forward into his relations with his community and his fellow man with love of his country.
There is an oft-repeated story about Snyder. Before he signed on to be the new head coach back in 1989, he took a walk around campus, making small talk with random strangers, and polling passing students about how they liked the school. Snyder remembers that on a freezing cold day in Manhattan, everyone he stopped took the time to chat with him. It was the friendliest campus he'd ever seen, so he came. He stayed. He conquered. He built a program, mentored his players, supported the institution, and came to love the community as if it were his family.
This, then, is his real legacy. Snyder is in the Hall of Fame now, not only because he wins a lot of games, and not only because he does it the right way, but because he does the thing that matters the most. He cares.