What’s perhaps most remarkable about the news that Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder has signed on to lead the Wildcats again in 2018, the year he turns 79, is that it could work well for both sides. Snyder hadn’t committed to returning as recently as last week, but the program announced Tuesday that he will in fact be back:
"As long as I remain in good health and have a positive impact on the young people in our program, I will continue to be the head coach at Kansas State University. Those factors have not changed." -Coach Snyder#EMAW #KStateFB pic.twitter.com/nxKoNCd4dn
— K-State Football (@KStateFB) January 3, 2018
In many cases, a coach turning 79 might not be seen as the best fit for a program going forward, but the case of Kansas State and Snyder is a special one. Snyder already retired once, after the 2005 season, and the Wildcats went on to a 17-20 mark in three seasons without him under the leadership of Ron Prince. Following Snyder’s 2009 return, they’ve gone 74-42, including an 8-5 mark this year that saw a spectacular comeback against UCLA in the Cactus Bowl. And he’s 210-110-1 overall at the school (which had a 299–509–41 record, the worst in the top level of NCAA football, when Snyder first took over in 1989), and their stadium has been named after him and his family for over a decade. Snyder has meant a ton to Kansas State, and he doesn’t appear to have lost his coaching touch at this point, so if he wants to stick around, it’s tough to argue that he shouldn’t have that opportunity.
The key question for the Wildcats is more about who succeeds Snyder, and making that decision in 2019 instead of 2018 doesn’t seem all that bad. Kansas State under Snyder has been a remarkable program, one that’s perhaps found more success recruiting overlooked players out of junior colleges than anyone else. They haven’t been able to compete with a lot of traditional heavyweights in the standard out-of-high school recruiting rankings, which have a lot to do with program history and location, but have compensated by finding junior college players and molding them into excellent NCAA athletes. And whoever replaces Snyder will probably have to follow that mold, at least to some degree.
Snyder has made it clear he’d like his son (Kansas State special teams coach/associate head coach Sean Snyder, who played at the school as a punter from 1990-92 and has been an assistant coach with the Wildcats since 1994) to take over, which has led to some planned deals (like a 2016 one with Jim Leavitt) being scrapped. Whether Sean Snyder will get the head job when his father retires or not remains an open question, but another year to evaluate him against the rest of the market doesn’t seem like a terrible thing. And there isn’t much at this point to suggest that the elder Snyder is slipping; yes, an 8-5 season isn’t great, but it’s far from bad in a tough Big 12 conference, and it marks the fourth out of five seasons where the Wildcats have recorded at least eight wins (and if you go back two more years, they have an 11-win season and a 10-win one). This team has clearly hit a solid and impressive level under Snyder, and there shouldn’t be any rush to push him out the door while his teams are still succeeding. When he does retire, he’s going to leave some awfully big shoes to fill, and more time to decide on who should fill those shoes doesn’t feel like a bad idea.