Snyder's return to KSU not really stunning

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

I was always surprised that Bill Snyder left football in the first place when he retired in 2005. I have never seen any coach more consumed in the process of building a program than Snyder was.

And when I saw him a couple of times in recent seasons, he always seemed kind of sad because he wasn't coaching anymore. So it's not a surprise that he's coming back to Kansas State after Ron Prince was dismissed after three seasons as the Wildcats' coach.

Apparently, the rejuvenated Snyder believes that he can pull the Wildcats back into Big 12 relevancy after three years with Ron Prince, including no bowl trips in back-to-back seasons.

Snyder was the architect of modern football's most stunning reclamation project. He took KSU on a magical ride during his earlier career, directing them to 11 straight bowl games and the cusp of the BCS championship game in 1998.

But it was how he did it that was so memorable. I've never seen anybody who managed the details quite like Snyder did.

There were the stories about how Snyder made his team sleep on one side of the airplane during a trip to the Coca-Cola Bowl in Japan so they wouldn't be facing the sun. He demanded his butter whipped rather than in pats at pregame meals because it was easily digestible. And he was legendary because he waited to eat his one meal of the day at 1 a.m. when he returned back home because he was working so late at his offices.

Snyder could coach a little bit, too. He made the Wildcats meaningful first in the Big Eight and then in the Big 12. And it hasn't been that way since he left.

When Snyder is announced, he inherits a returning nucleus that isn't devoid of talent. The Wildcats lose only seven starters from the group that capped a 5-7 season with a 38-30 victory over Iowa State on Saturday.

The key will be the return of quarterback Josh Freeman, who has been ranked as one of the top potential NFL draftees at the position but who has said he would be willing to talk to the new coach before he makes his decision. If Freeman returns, the Wildcats should be a bowl contender next season.

Another reason that might have triggered Snyder's decision is the wide-open nature of the Big 12 North Division. The balance of powers is heavily tilted to the South Division, but the North has never appeared more wide-open.

Chase Daniel will be leaving Missouri and Jeremy Maclin likely could go, too, from the two-time North Division champions. Nebraska has made its first steps back under Bo Pelini, but still has a ways to go to return to title contention and loses starting quarterback Joe Ganz. Kansas will return Todd Reesing, but the Jayhawks took a big step back from the Orange Bowl team of last season. Colorado has struggled through an injury-riddled season and has been a disappointment this season. And Iowa State is in the midst of the longest road losing streak in the nation.

At 69, it will be interesting how long Snyder will remain as the coach. I'm thinking he might hire an experienced assistant to work with him as a "coach in waiting" while Snyder wraps up his career.

A good candidate might be Florida defensive line coach Dan McCarney, who coached in the league at Iowa State and earlier served with Snyder on Hayden Fry's staff at Iowa earlier in his career. Other former Snyder protégés who might make sense include former Houston coach Dana Dimel or former SMU coach Phil Bennett.

But the wisest decision might be turning to current Oklahoma defensive coordinator and former standout KSU linebacker and assistant coach Brent Venables. His resume has never looked stronger after he cooked up a dramatic defensive plan that handcuffed Texas Tech in a 65-21 victory on Saturday. He's already interviewed for other jobs like Clemson, but a chance to come back home might be intriguing to him.

Whatever happens, Snyder has made KSU football meaningful again. And it will be interesting to see how the rejuvenated master of rebuilding programs fares the second time around.