Jeff Kolpack, Published August 29 2013
Bill Snyder has been the man in Manhattan
The head football coach at Kansas State is that revered.
He will lead his team onto Bill Snyder Family Stadium tonight to face North Dakota State. That will begin Snyder’s 22nd season at the school, a tenure that’s been divided into two separate stints. The first, which lasted 17 years, brought the program from being the laughingstock of the Big 12 Conference.
Youngstown State head coach Eric Wolford remembers it well. He was part of Snyder’s first recruiting class. K-State was on an 0-26-1 slide at the time.
“The thing with Coach Snyder is he has a standard and he’s not going to deviate from that,” Wolford said. “He’s not going to worry about wins and losses. We won one game that first year.”
That 1989 team went 1-10. That improved to mediocrity the next three years, with seasons of five, seven and five wins. Then came the breakthrough in Wolford’s senior season.
“He has a blueprint about accountability and doing things right,” Wolford said. “He’s not going to waiver, ever, with the discipline of his football team. He’s not going to keep a guy around who gets into trouble. He’s not going to be held hostage by that. He knows over the course of time you can build a strong foundation with that type of foundation.”
Snyder said as much earlier this week when he was asked how he was able to elevate his program.
“Over a period of time, I think the capacity of young people to feel the need to have the discipline to do the things they are asked to do, to do things the right way and truly be invested in that daily preparation allows you to get better consistently,” he said.
Better? Try much better. The Wildcats went 9-2-1 in 1993 and beat Wyoming 52-17 in the Copper Bowl.
“Since then they haven’t turned back,” Wolford said. “There have been a couple of down years, but they’ve really been going at a good, long pace.”
Snyder retired in 2005, with the last two seasons fielding teams with losing records.
K-State finished around the .500 mark in the three seasons Ron Prince was head coach before Snyder returned in 2009.
It took a couple of years, but the Wildcats returned to the national top-25 stage. They are now the first top-level BCS program NDSU will have faced in its short Division I history.
At least it appears the Bison have the team to hang in there for four quarters. NDSU is coming off two straight FCS national titles with a team that has almost everybody back, including 10 starters from the best defense in the FCS last season.
Wolford said the Bison need to get through fall camp relatively healthy, which head coach Craig Bohl confirmed that was the case this week.
“We’re facing the Big 12 champions from last year, and there’s no other way to compare yourself to a high-level FBS team than to go down there and face these guys at their house,” said NDSU quarterback Brock Jensen. “It’s going to be interesting to see how we match up.”
The key matchup will be in speed. Both teams are similar in size with the exception of a couple of positions. Snyder said in his weekly news conference that he thinks NDSU is faster than people realize.
“The challenge is to go into a hostile environment and play at the tempo, speed and athleticism that they have,” Bohl said.
NDSU will have to do it with 22 less scholarships – a typical storyline in these FCS vs. FBS games. But if the Bison need to look for advice on how to face a team with more resources, they can look to K-State. The Wildcats built their program in the 1990s with significantly less revenue than other Big 12 schools.
“Coach Snyder has been able to do it at that location and with the conference they play in,” Wolford said. “I think they beat Texas five out of six years for a stretch there. There’s a significant difference in resources between those two schools.”
Wolford, for one, said it will be “an intriguing game for me.” That goes for a lot of college football fans knowledgeable about the FCS and FBS differences.
NDSU is 6-3 in FBS games under Bohl. None of those victories, however, came against a program of K-State’s status.
Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia