Bill Snyder is 79 years old.
Kansas State’s head coach hasn’t been a spring chicken in decades, but he has been undeniably consistent. He’s led K-State from being one of the worst programs in college football to the doorstep of a national title berth in 1998 and plenty of solid years since.
Besides the three years he spent retired from 2006 to 2008, Snyder has been the steady captain of the ship. But is it taking on more water than even Snyder can handle?
Kansas State reached Week 10 at 3-5 and 1-4 in the Big 12. Even Snyder is acknowledging that it hasn’t been this bad in recent times:
Here's Bill Snyder on the state of the program (ship) right now. To his credit, he didn't shy away from answering any questions today. pic.twitter.com/YSI6PqELOA— John Kurtz (@jlkurtz) October 28, 2018
“I’ll have to reinvest some time and find out if the ship has ever been in this condition before,” Snyder said after losing by 37 to Oklahoma in Week 9. “I’m not sure that it has. I can’t tell you that I’ve got the immediate answer.”
The Wildcats are barreling headfirst toward their most losses since Snyder first rebuilt the program.
Yeah, the Ron Prince years were terrible, but he did get the team to two 5-7 records. With four games left, the 2018 Wildcats have these remaining win probabilities, per S&P+:
- TCU: 27 percent
- Kansas: 70 percent
- Texas Tech: 29 percent
- Iowa State: 23 percent
5-7’s probably the best this team can hope for, even though the Snyder factor is still hard to discount. This team, which beat South Dakota by only three points in Week 1, also blew Oklahoma State out in Week 7, so it’s hard to put anything past K-State.
Yet this team hasn’t earned the usual benefit of the doubt about Snyder teams. The Cats are 96th in S&P+ and haven’t been higher than 74th all season. They are near the bottom in the country in almost all major offensive and defensive statistical categories, whether the stats are conventional or opponent-adjusted.
When things are going well for the Wildcats, we laud Snyder for doing more with less. When they aren’t, they look like most teams would look after they’ve spent years finishing nearly dead last among Power 5 teams in recruiting rankings.
A 4-8 record would be the program’s worst since Snyder’s first year, 1989.
Soon, Kansas State’s going to have to reckon with the hard question: Is it time for him to not be Kansas State’s head coach?
There is rarely ever a ride into the sunset for the legends of the sport.
People have thought this for at least a couple years now, but the game might finally be passing up Snyder. That’s possible even though he’s only one season removed from an 8-5 campaign with a team that had little business being 8-5. Some openly wonder whether Snyder has lost the locker room, and all of this leads to a fair question about whether he should continue.
Bring On The Cats, which says tension hasn’t been this high in Manhattan in a decade, called in early October for everyone to start asking harder questions of Snyder:
It’s time for fans, and the media, to come to grips with the idea of a post-Snyder K-State football program. When the program has a new coach completely free of Snyder’s influence, the media will need to step up, and the fans need to be ready.
It should be abundantly clear by now that, if we take Bill Snyder at his word, the direction he has set the program on is not working, and that continuing down that path is going to make things better. So while it brings me not the slightest bit of happiness to say this, I can’t hold on to hope any longer.
It’s time. It need not occur now, because no change is rescuing this season and Snyder deserves the dignity of finishing out the year. But athletic director Gene Taylor needs to lay the groundwork for a full regime change, because nobody on the current staff is the answer.
Further, BotC makes the case Snyder has spent the last 20 years trying to recapture K-State’s moment near the mountaintop, to the program’s overall detriment.
Snyder’s long shadow is the elephant in the room.
The Wildcats play at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, after all, and they may soon have to figure out if they want to keep the program under the Snyders’ stewardship. Snyder’s long been public about wanting his son, associate head coach Sean, to replace him. The school hasn’t always agreed. Snyder has a rare clause in his contract that says he’ll have “appropriate input” in the school’s choice of his replacement.
If there is a time for Kansas State to move on from Snyder, or for him to “retire,” it might just be now, despite a new contract that would extend him to age 84 if played out in full.
However Snyder leaves his post, the aftermath might not be pretty.
For a little while now, much of the fanbase has been in the difficult position of wanting to move on from a local deity.
Whenever it’s time, Clemson defensive coordinator and former Wildcat player and assistant Brent Venables will be the outside name you hear all over the place. Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt might come up, too. He reportedly once had a verbal agreement to follow Snyder, and his contract specifies he doesn’t owe the Ducks a buyout if he goes to K-State to be head coach.
Whoever the candidates are, they’ll be pitted directly against Snyder’s son.
And remember, Kansas State has already seen in Prince how ugly it can get when you pick the wrong guy to follow Snyder.
The stakes here are huge.
Kansas State fans may not be ready to acknowledge it, but they could quite suddenly look a lot more like rival Kansas if the administration makes the wrong next hire. Then again, with the Jayhawks at 3-5 this season too, the Wildcats might already be headed that direction.