MANHATTAN — The saga surrounding Bill Snyder’s future has finally ended and so has his remarkable 27-year run as Kansas State’s hall of fame head football coach.
Eight days after K-State finished its 2018 season with a disappointing 42-38 loss at Iowa State, Snyder stepped down on Sunday, the university officially announcing his retirement at 2:10 p.m. According to the news release, Snyder will transition into a role as special ambassador for K-State — a position stipulated in his employment contract.
K-State also announced that a national search to find Snyder’s successor already has begun. The university said it will use Ventura Partners to assist with the coaching search.
With a record of 215-117-1 record, Snyder leaves as the 20th winningest coach in FBS history. The five-time national coach of the year and seven-time conference coach of the year was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in December 2015.
Snyder is credited with arguably the greatest turnaround in college football history, dubbed the Miracle in Manhattan, and then came out of a three-year retirement in 2009 to “calm the waters” on a Kansas State football program that had again fallen into decline.
“Coach Snyder has had an immeasurable impact on our football program, Kansas State University, the Manhattan community and the entire state of Kansas, and it has been an honor and a privilege to get to know and work with him the past two years,” K-State athletic director Gene Taylor said in a prepared statement. “He and his family have touched the lives of so many people, from student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans, and he is truly one of the greatest coaches and leaders in college football history. His impact on college football is unmatched and legacy is one that will last a lifetime.”
It was not the storybook ending Snyder, 79, might have hoped for.
For the second time in four years, K-State was on the verge of securing a bowl bid — the team’s ninth straight — by ending the regular season with a three-game winning streak. But the Wildcats blew a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter at Iowa State to finish at 5-7, their worst record in the 10-year period known as Snyder 2.0.
Still, by walking away when he did, Snyder exited with his legacy intact. That included 19 bowl games after K-State had just one in the years prior to his arrival. He led the Wildcats to two conference titles and achieved two No. 1 national rankings while coaching 214 players who received All-America recognition.
Thanks to Snyder, at least two generations of K-State fans have known nothing but football success. To older supporters who well remember K-State’s football designation as “Futility U,” he still is regarded as a savior.
“This university, this community and this state are deeply indebted to coach Bill Snyder. Since arriving on campus in 1989, Coach has delivered on all his promises — and more,” said K-State president Richard Myers. “He brought Kansas State University football to the national stage and built a program on the bedrock of integrity, honor and his famed 16 goals for success.
“He came here, and stayed here, because of the people. He made us a family — a proud purple family who travel in record numbers to watch him lead the Wildcats to victories, bowls and rankings never achieved before. Coach Snyder has always taken the time and care to turn his players into college graduates, community leaders, successful businessmen and leaders of strong families.
“Bill Snyder is a legend and his legacy is one that K-Staters for generations will value and cherish.”
He was introduced as the Wildcats’ 32nd coach on Nov. 30, 1988, almost 30 years to the day before calling it quits. He arrived as a relative unknown after a long and successful run as offensive coordinator under Hayden Fry at Iowa.
Snyder’s first team in 1989 went 1-10, but the hard times didn’t last as he compiled a 135-58 record over the next 16 years. The first landmark was K-State’s invitation to the 1993 Copper Bowl in Tucson, Ariz., just the second bowl game in school history, where the Wildcats pummeled No. 20-ranked Wyoming 52-17 to complete a 9-2-1 season.
The Copper Bowl began a run of 11 straight bowl appearances, six seasons with 11 victories, a No. 1 national ranking in 1998 and the school’s first Big 12 championship in 2003.
The 1997 team went 11-1 and beat Syracuse in the Fiesta Bowl as thousands of fans flocked to Arizona. The following season the Wildcats breezed through the regular season unbeaten, including an historic victory over Nebraska, and jumped to No. 1 in the national poll, only to suffer a heartbreaking overtime loss to Texas A&M in the Big 12 championship game.
Arguably the biggest victory in program history came in 2003, when after finishing first in the Big 12 North, K-State stunned No. 1-ranked Oklahoma, 35-7, in the conference championship game.
But that was a high-water mark, as the next two seasons produced losing records, leading Snyder to retire for the first time following a 5-7 2005 campaign. He soon discovered that retirement was not to his liking, and when successor Ron Prince was fired after three tumultuous seasons, Snyder came back, in his words, “to calm the waters.”
The 2009 team went 6-6, but did not have enough victories over Football Bowl Subdivision teams to qualify for a bowl game. That changed the following season, when a trip to New York and the Pinstripe Bowl started another eight-year bowl run. The Wildcats had to win their last three games in 2015 to keep the streak alive, and faced the same predicament this year, only to fall short at Iowa State.
The highlight of the second Snyder term came in 2012, when the Wildcats went 11-2 overall, claiming their second-ever Big 12 championship before falling 35-17 to Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl.
To put Snyder’s 215 career victories in perspective, K-State won a total of 148 from 1937-88 and the Prince years from 2006-08.
In addition to his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame, Snyder also was enshrined in the Kansas State Athletics Hall of Fame in 2008.