Lutz Blog

Bob Lutz: Bill Snyder heads to the Hall of Fame with a motley crew

Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder, selected for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame on Friday, has 187-94-1 during 23 seasons with the Wildcats.
Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder, selected for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame on Friday, has 187-94-1 during 23 seasons with the Wildcats.

It’s interesting that four of the headliners for the College Football Hall of Fame class of 2015 are a coach currently banned from coaching, a former linebacker once banned from playing, a Heisman-Trophy winning running back who had an affinity for marijuana and Bill Snyder, who always kissed his mother and makes sure his tie is straight before he goes out in public.

This is an interesting group that will be inducted in New York in December.

Former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, currently the president of Youngstown State, is serving a five-year show-cause order from the NCAA for his failure to report his knowledge of extra benefits received by some of his Buckeyes players.

Ex-OU linebacker Brian Bosworth was suspended by the NCAA before his senior season after admitting he used performance-enhancing drugs.

And Ricky Williams, a two-time All-American at Texas and the 1998 Heisman Trophy winner, left the Longhorns as college football’s all-time rushing leader.

Their accomplishments on the sideline and on the field are unquestionable. But it’s interesting that three guys with such turbulent backgrounds are in the same induction class as Kansas State’s Snyder, the Manhattan miracle worker who turned around the country’s most moribund program and returned for a second act after retiring in 2005.

Bosworth, to his credit, has been apologetic and accepted responsibility for his actions at Oklahoma. A recent ESPN “30 for 30” special highlighted Bosworth’s career and he spent much of the documentary explaining his actions to his son. It was a captivating look at a complicated man and we shouldn’t begrudge his election into the Hall of Fame 30 years later.

Williams, too, has been contrite about his marijuana use, which led to four suspensions from the NFL, one of which cost him the entire 2006 season. He finished his NFL career in 2011 with just more than 10,000 rushing yards.

Snyder, as far as I can tell, has never failed to dot an ‘i’ or cross a ‘t.’

It’s a great honor for a once-in-a-lifetime coach who was told he was crazy for taking the job at Kansas State in 1989, at which time the Wildcats had played in one bowl game.

Nobody wanted to coach at Kansas State after Stan Parrish was fired following a three-year record of 2-30-1. Parrish was highly regarded after leading Marshall to its first winning season in 20 years in 1984. The Thundering Herd was 7-3-1 in 1985, which led to plans for a new stadium. But Parrish decided to leave for Kansas State, where he was an abysmal failure like most of the coaches who preceded him.

Parrish went on to be quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator at Michigan, where he worked with Tom Brady, and spent two years as quarterbacks coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

He was a good football man who simply wasn’t up to the massive job of making Kansas State anything but a lovable loser.

Snyder, though, was. He never looked back after leaving Iowa, where he was a little-known assistant to Hayden Fry.

As Snyder said during a news conference Friday in Dallas, where the College Football Hall of Fame inductees were announced, the Wildcats incrementally got better during his first few seasons. The explosion into greatness didn’t happen until his fifth season in 1993, when Kansas State improved from 5-6 to 9-2-1.

The Wildcats won at least nine games from 1993 through 2000, including four consecutive 11-win seasons at the end of that string.

It’s been a storybook run for Snyder, who at 75 is showing no signs of a second retirement. He’ll deal with a rebuilding effort in 2015; it’s likely Kansas State will be picked, at best, in the middle of the pack in the preseason Big 12 rankings.

Things like that, though, don’t deter Snyder, especially considering where he’s come from.

Congratulations to the Kansas State coach on being recognized for his incredible accomplishments and an amazing career. Somehow, even being a Hall of Famer doesn’t seem like enough.

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