Even in retirement, Bill Snyder prefers to divert attention away from himself in a public setting.
Snyder spoke for nearly 30 minutes at Kansas State’s football banquet on Sunday and he spent the vast majority of that time thanking his former players, support staff and family for all they did for him during his legendary 27-year coaching career with the Wildcats.
K-State honored Snyder with videos and the crowd gave him several standing ovations, but he seemed more focused on everyone else in the building.
Snyder praised K-State’s senior class, raved about equipment room employees who work behind the scenes and closed with a special thank you to his family.
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“You have been truly, truly special,” Snyder told the crowd at the end of his speech. “There are no words that I could provide you right now that would adequately (summarize) my feelings, my passion and my love for each and every one of you.”
These were his first public comments since K-State announced Snyder would not return as football coach next season following a disappointing 5-7 campaign that ended without a bowl game for the first time since 2009. So people were curious what he had to say. Turns out, his message was the same as always.
When he did reflect on his K-State coaching career he didn’t say anything about his 215 victories, 19 bowl trips and two conference championships. Instead, he spoke of how many former players he has coached who earned academic all-conference honors.
He thought he coached football players with high character during his time in Manhattan, and he shared a story to reflect that point.
During one of K-State’s many bowl trips, the team attended a special meal at a steak restaurant in the days leading up to the game. And a staffer at the restaurant wrote Snyder a letter to say how impressed he was with the Wildcats during the meal.
The other team playing in the bowl, Snyder said, struck this staffer as “rude and arrogant.” Players entered the restaurant wearing headphones and demanded service rather than asking for it. Then the Wildcats entered the restaurant the following day and behaved like “polar opposites.”
Everyone on the team said thank you. Snyder made conversation with the wait staff. They left a good impression, because they behaved with class. The restaurant staff was blown away.
“I brought that and read it to you, because I am proud of that,” Snyder said. “And I hope our young people are proud of that. They need to continue to be proud of that.”
When Snyder reflected on the 2018 season, he focused on the positives. Change one play from narrow losses against Baylor, Texas, TCU and Iowa State and it could have been a very different season. Snyder encouraged the Wildcats to strive for more next year, reminding his former players that they will return several starters.
He also bid farewell to K-State’s senior class.
“It wasn’t the season that they desired and wanted, but when you think back to their careers here every other featured a bowl,” Snyder said. “Just an amazing group of young people. I certainly have great love for them. They have been very, very special to Kansas State and to our program.”
University president Richard Myers and athletic director Gene Taylor were also in attendance. Both shared kind words about Snyder in between other remarks about the season that was and the ongoing search for a new coach.
Taylor said the past week has been stressful. It was nice for him to take a step back from his coaching search and honor Snyder.
“It’s been a real pleasure to work with a coach of his stature,” Taylor said, “and just the kind of person he is.”
Myers thanked Snyder for everything he did since arriving in Manhattan in 1989, and said he hopes the coach will remain an active supporter of K-State football. He said they are still working through exactly what his role with the university will be moving forward, but his contract stipulates that he will have the opportunity to become a special ambassador to the university at a yearly salary of $250,000.
“We have been made much better by Coach Snyder,” Taylor said. “I also know Coach Snyder has set us up for continued success here at Kansas State University. For that, we will always be indebted … Always.”
When Snyder was done with his speech he pulled out a surprise award and presented it to his wife, Sharon. It was a plaque that he hoped would properly reflect his gratitude for all the support she and her family have given Snyder and the K-State football team over the years.
Without his family, he said, none of his success would have been possible.
The crowd roared as he handed her the plaque and wrapped his arms around her. Then he turned to his former players and supporters and waved back.
A week after announcing his retirement, both sides were still saying thank you.