The Kansas State Wildcats announced Sunday that Bill Snyder will retire after 27 seasons in charge of the football team.
Gene Taylor will now search for Snyder’s replacement, by far the most important task he will face as K-State’s athletic director.
With that in mind, here’s a list of names that could be considered for K-State’s football coaching vacancy, in no particular order:
Seth Littrell, North Texas: One of the top up-and-coming head coaches in college football, Littrell may very well top Taylor’s wish list. A source close to Litrell said there is mutual interest here. North Texas went 9-3 this season, including blowout wins over Arkansas and SMU. Litrell, 40, is a former Oklahoma captain. He’s led the Mean Green to three straight bowl games and has been mentioned as a candidate for virtually every opening. There will be competition for any school looking to hire him. His buyout, per a contract extension signed earlier this year, is $2.1 million, according to the Denton Record-Chronicle.
Brent Venables, Clemson defensive coordinator: Here’s a name that K-State fans have floated for years when discussing succession possibilities. Venables, a former K-State linebacker and assistant coach under Snyder, is one of the best coordinators in the nation. He has turned Clemson into a defensive beast since arriving there from Oklahoma. But he has never been a head coach before and can be extremely selective whenever he chooses to make the jump. Venables makes $2 million a year with the Tigers, but would not owe the school any buyout money if he leaves for a head coaching gig.
Jim Leavitt, Oregon defensive coordinator: Former AD John Currie reportedly once tried to hire Leavitt as defensive coordinator/head coach in waiting under Snyder, but the deal never materialized. Leavitt, a former head coach at South Florida and the current defensive coordinator at Oregon, still appears to have interest in K-State. His Oregon contract, which pays him $1.7 million annually, contains a special clause that drops his buyout to zero if K-State hires him as its next head coach. Leavitt has been mentioned as a potential candidate at Colorado.
Chris Klieman, North Dakota State: Taylor hired Klieman to replace Craig Bohl, and he has since won three national titles at the FCS level. It’s rare for a FCS coach to make the jump straight to a power-conference job, but there is shared history here. Perhaps that will make him a candidate as Taylor looks to replace Snyder.
Mike Norvell, Memphis: In his three years with the Tigers, Norvell has gone 26-12. That’s the most wins of any coach over a three-year span at the school. Norvell, 37, has guided Memphis to an 8-4 season this year. He is the highest-paid coach outside of the power conferences with a salary of $2.6 million. His buyout is $500,000.
Neal Brown, Troy: He led Troy to a 9-3 season and appears to be one of the rising coaches in the Sun Belt. Throw in recent victories over LSU and Nebraska, and he has a strong resume that will make him a candidate for several openings.
Mike Leach, Washington State: If Taylor swings for the fences here, as some K-State insiders have suggested he might, he could give Leach a call. Leach appeared ready to leave Washington State for Tennessee last offseason. It’s at least conceivable he would also consider leaving for K-State. But the Cougars are currently in the top 15 and bound for a major bowl game after a 10-2 season. He seems to have it pretty good in Pullman. Timing, among other factors, could make this a pipe dream.
Gary Patterson, TCU: Could the most iconic football coach in TCU history be ready for a new challenge at his alma mater? You never know. He helped the Wildcats reach the Independence Bowl (the program’s first postseason game, ever) in 1982 as a graduate assistant and still talks about it today. Patterson has been at TCU since 2000 and guided the Horned Frogs to 166 victories.
Sean Snyder, Kansas State special teams coordinator: It seems unlikely Taylor would seriously consider Sean Snyder for this position, but Bill Snyder will push hard for him. It’s no secret he wants his son to get the job.
Blake Anderson, Arkansas State coach: He has gone 39-24 over five seasons with the Red Wolves, winning at least seven games and advancing to a bowl each year.