Nearly 30 years ago to the day that Kansas State hired Bill Snyder off of Hayden Fry’s staff at Iowa, the university issued a statement on Sunday afternoon saying that Snyder would transition to a special ambassador role for the university, as stated in his current employment agreement.
Notably, I have yet to see any statements from Snyder himself. Take that for what you will.
(I think he’s being pushed out by the administration (again) under pressure from donors and fans, who haven’t hesitated to put out tributes of thanks on social media.)
Regardless, this marks the end of one of the most remarkable coaching runs in the entire history of college football. Take what Kansas has been for the last 10 years and multiply that times about ten, and you have the condition that Bill Snyder found at KSU when he took over in 1989.
Snyder took a team on a 27-game winless streak and won in his fourth try. While that was K-State’s only win in 1989, it was a step in the right direction. The Wildcats would win five games in 1990, and the rest, as they say, is history. KSU has only had one season since 1989 with less than 5 wins. For perspective, from 1900-1988, it’s way easier to count the number of times K-State had seasons of more than four wins (24) instead of less than five (65).
- Snyder is responsible for 19 of the Wildcats’ 21 bowl appearances
- From 1997 to 2000, the Wildcats won 11 games every year
- From 1935 to 1988, K-State won just 24% of its games
- K-State had just one winning season between 1971-1988
But the worst part of it all has been Snyder’s absolute domination of the Sunflower Showdown. Bill Snyder will retire with a 23-4 record against the Kansas Jayhawks - and that’s AFTER losing three of his first four matchups with KU. That means that over the last 23 meetings, Snyder was 22-1 against Kansas. And yes, I’m omitting the Ron Prince era (2006-08).
To add even more insult to injury, most of those games weren’t even close. 41-7. 54-6. 64-0. And etcetera. Over his 27 years, Snyder beat KU by an average of more than three touchdowns; the average score of the Sunflower Showdown was 36-14. From 1995-2015 - 20 years! - it was even worse, with the average being 44-11.
So that begs the question - Is the nightmare finally, mercifully over?
Kansas has certainly been on a bad streak of its own. By sheer wins and losses, the David Beaty era at Kansas was the worst four year stretch in the history of Kansas football (6-42, 0.125). But things are looking up now with the hire of national championship winning head coach Les Miles.
It appears as if the Mad Hatter has a good shot at breaking the Manhattan Curse. The talent level at the two schools certainly seems comparable these days - the Jayhawks lost at KSU by four points this year after falling by just 10 points in 2017; that’s clear improvement over the beatdowns we’ve become accustomed to.
K-State’s potential coaching list probably looks much like KU’s before Miles became an option - Seth Littrell, Jim Leavitt, Brent Venables, Chris Klieman, and Neal Brown are the hot names at the moment.
The odds are K-State will hire a good football coach. But Bill Snyder is a generational coach who had multiple opportunities to leave in the 1990s for a “bigger school” and instead chose to stay at K-State. He is THE REASON Wildcat football still exists in D1.
Fortunately (for KU), the odds are not good that K-State will hire the next Bill Snyder. That means that whoever they get, it is not likely that K-State will continue to win 10 out of every 11 matchups against KU for the next 30 years.
I look for the Sunflower Showdown to get a LOT more interesting, starting now.