MANHATTAN — Kansas football is in a bad place, but Bill Snyder has lived through worse.
That’s what the longtime Kansas State football coach said Tuesday when asked if the recent struggles taking place in Lawrence remind him of the moribund team he took over in Manhattan 28 long years ago.
“I don’t know that there is any program that has been or will be in the situation that was at Kansas State at that particular time,” Snyder said. “Kansas has had some success in the past. They are not the losing-est program in the history of college football, and all that goes along with it.
“They are going through some difficult times right now, but ... They are not where we were.”
Snyder is right to think that way. Before his arrival, the Wildcats had lost more games than any other team in major college football and had played in just one bowl game. They were also stuck in a 27-game winless streak, playing home games in front of minuscule crowds.
There’s a reason Snyder famously said, “I think the opportunity for the greatest turnaround in college football exists here today, and it’s not one to be taken lightly,” at his introductory press conference.
Still, the Jayhawks are spiraling in that direction.
Before KU coach David Beaty was hired in 2015, the Jayhawks limped through five ugly seasons that produced a total record of 12-48. Beaty took over a mess, and he has been unable to lead his team out of it. His overall record: 3-28.
The worst results have come this season. Since opening with a win over Southeast Missouri State, Kansas has lost to a pair of MAC opponents and started Big 12 play 0-4, losing its past two games 45-0 and 43-0.
The Jayhawks have also lost 44 consecutive road games, tying the FBS record set by Western (Colo.) State from 1926-36. They are arguably the nation’s worst power-conference team. Hard to believe they won the Orange Bowl 10 years ago.
“We knew this wasn’t going to be easy,” Beaty said earlier this week.
In fact, he knew winning at KU was going to be incredibly difficult. So difficult, that Snyder is one of the coaches he looks to for inspiration.
His goal is to duplicate the rebuilding process that has taken place at K-State, as the Wildcats have won 205 games, played in 18 bowls and claimed two conference championships under Snyder.
“You look at the guys who have done it throughout their careers,” Beaty said. “Bill is certainly one of those guys you look to. I think you look to Frank Beamer, the way they started out up there at Virginia Tech. People think about all those straight bowl games, but it didn’t start out that way. I look to Bill Self, back when he was at Oral Roberts. He and I have had many conversations about building.”
It took Snyder a few years to turn K-State into a consistent winner. He went 1-10 in his first season and didn’t reach a bowl until Year 5. But once the Wildcats reached that level, they stayed there.
KU and K-State will play Saturday in Lawrence, with both teams in need of a victory. A win would mean the world to the Jayhawks, and it would get the Wildcats back to 4-4 and on pace to reach their eighth straight bowl.
With that in mind, Snyder said he has been focused more on what the Jayhawks have done this season than how they might compare to struggling programs of the past, even his own.
But Beaty sees obvious similarities.
“It’s about building something,” Beaty said. “It’s a process. It doesn’t happen overnight, and there are no guarantees that you are not going to step backwards before you step forward, but that is where courage and belief in your plan (come in). We are committed to getting this thing right, and we have a great opportunity this week.”