MANHATTAN — Bill Snyder is the oldest active coach in college football, but you wouldn’t know it watching him hold court earlier this week at Kansas State football media day.
The 78-year-old with nicknames like “wizard” and “legend” meandered across the field in a suit and tie as players spoke about the upcoming season. He exchanged jokes and handshakes with reporters with a smile on his face and a spring in his step.
This was a big departure from last year, when he seemed fatigued while battling throat cancer. Here, with his 27th season approaching and cancer treatments a thing of the past, Snyder seemed downright energetic. So much so that he spoke about his future as if it weren’t uncertain at all.
“I could go on for quite some time,” Snyder said, “if I don’t get fired and keep having an impact on the players in my program and my family is comfortable with it. I don’t see any particular end in sight.”
Many like to ask Snyder how much longer he plans to coach. It’s a question that hangs over the program and feeds endless speculation.
Last year, he publicly debated his coaching future until deciding to keep going a few weeks after the Cactus Bowl.
After meeting with athletic director Gene Taylor, Snyder decided he would try to coach for as many more years as his body allows. Still, that type of wavering created questions on the recruiting trail. Snyder is now doing his best to deflect those concerns like a coach in his prime.
When a recruit comes through Manhattan on an official visit and inevitably asks if Snyder plans to be the head coach for another five years, the max length of a college football career, Snyder responds: “I have no intention not to be.”
But his answer doesn’t end there.
“A head coach is supposed to be there for five years, so with every guy coming in, you are supposed to tell them you are going to be there five years,” Snyder said, “but I don’t know if I’m going to be here in five years and I don’t want to lie to you. I wouldn’t be worth my salt and I wouldn’t want to play for me if I was going to lie to you.
“When you get to be 100 years old, you have to think through things a little bit and make sure your health is good, make sure you want it and you’re doing a good job.”
K-State assistants are ready to help with any additional questions a recruit might have.
Believe it or not, they say Snyder’s age isn’t hard to work around. Coaches come and go for myriad reasons in college football.
An up-and-coming coach can leave at any moment for a better job. A struggling coach can get fired just as quickly. Snyder has been on the job since coming out of retirement in 2009, and, during that time, K-State is one of only three Big 12 teams without a coaching change. Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech and West Virginia have all switched coaches, with several doing so more than once.
K-State coaches tell recruits they have a stable situation and view Snyder as a positive, regardless of how much time remains in his coaching career.
“I would never tell a kid to come to K-State because of Coach Snyder,” offensive coordinator Andre Coleman said. “I would tell them to come to K-State because of the values he instills, but not for Coach Snyder. His core values will be here even after he’s gone.”
For now, Snyder says he is in good health and still wants to win as badly today as he did when he was hired in 1989. He says it’s “silly” for anyone to think otherwise. The Wildcats have also played in eight straight bowl games. No signs of slowing down there.
A new, younger vibe has even surfaced at K-State football practice. With three new coaches on staff (Brian Norwood, Zach Hanson, Eric Hickson) and four old coaches in new roles (Andre Coleman, Collin Klein, Charlie Dickey, Blake Seiler), there has been a noticeable infusion of energy.
“Younger coaches create some enthusiasm,” Snyder said. “Eric Hickson flies around and enthuses a lot of players in the program. A lot of our coaches just have that kind of passion for the game.”
After all these years, Snyder remains chief among them.