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Bill Snyder, nearing 77, still going strong

MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Bill Snyder's office hardly smacks of a septuagenarian's domain.

On the television to the front of him he has the news broadcasting faintly into the background. Off to the side stands a StairMaster, which Snyder works out on daily while watching film on the same TV to, he says, avoid "eating time."

To his left, he has yesterday's spring practice playing on another TV. Behind his chair, his computer screen is still on. On his desk, Snyder has an unopened bottle of water and a half-drunk cup of coffee, of which he'll go through at least dozen a day.

"There's a lot of scientific evidence now that coffee isn't bad for you," Snyder said. "That's great [for me]."

As he enters his 25th season at Kansas State, Snyder continues to defy the expectations of his age. This fall, the hall of famer will turn 77, which makes him the oldest coach in college football by a full five years. In fact, with South Carolina's Steve Spurrier and Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer retiring last year, Snyder is now more than a decade older than any other active FBS coach outside Ohio's Frank Solich.

And yet, those who know Snyder say he's still going strong as ever.

"When we go to those Big 12 meetings, and he speaks, everyone pays attention," said Texas Tech's Kliff Kingsbury, who at 36 is the youngest coach in the league. "He's the most well-thought out, articulate, smart person in that room.

"And it's amazing, that at that age, he can still do it at that level."

Speculation turned rampant last year that Snyder might join Beamer and Spurrier in retirement, especially after the Wildcats lost six straight as injuries ravaged his young rebuilding roster.

Snyder, however, proved that even now his magic touch still hasn't waned.

Despite having to resort to playing wide receiver Kody Cook at quarterback, the Wildcats closed out the regular season with three consecutive wins to, improbably, reach a bowl.

Shortly thereafter, Snyder revealed he'd be back for at least another year.

"He's in good health and he's still making a hell of a difference," said former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer, who has become friends with Snyder over the years. Switzer is only a year older than Snyder but hasn't coached since the 1990s.

"If he was getting his ass kicked, he wouldn't be coaching," Switzer said. "It wouldn't be any fun. But he's winning and having success.

"As long as it's fun for him, he's going to coach."

Snyder has no answer about his youthful exuberance.

"I don't feel a great deal different," he said. "I don't know why. I try to keep myself healthy and all, but there's far more to it than that, I assure you."

The trick probably isn't his eating regimen, which might make some doctors cringe.

"I've never eaten breakfast in my life," Snyder confessed. "I was like how most youngsters are -- sleep until five minutes before you have to be some place. That became such a habit that I never really [ate breakfast]."

Amazingly, Snyder later started skipping lunch, finding that hour the best time in the day to focus.

That ploy worked so well that Snyder also gave up normal dinners, opting instead to eat late at night when his 18-hour workday is done. Sometimes that includes a fast-food stop on the way home, "or whatever might be in the refrigerator."

"My doctor [who has finally gotten Snyder to snack on fiber and apples during the day] constantly tells me that's not the best thing in the world," he said.

Snyder's workout schedule, however, is far more doctor-approved.

In-season and during spring ball, he uses the StairMaster. In the offseason, he swims and walks the treadmill.

Staying active probably helped him avoid serious injury this past season at Texas, when All-American kick returner Morgan Burns was belted out of bounds squarely into Snyder's chest. The impact caused Snyder to land on his back, slamming his head into the turf.

The hit was so ferocious that athletic director John Currie and assistant athletic director Clint Dowdle instantly rushed toward the elevator to get to the field. By the time they got to the sideline, Snyder was back coaching, as if nothing had happened.

"It scared the daylights out of me, but he's tough," said Sean Snyder, the coach's son and K-State's associate head coach and special teams coordinator. "He was fine."

Though Snyder knows retirement is coming "before too very long," he's not ready to give up the game just yet.

And though he might be the game's oldest coach, Snyder has shown he can adapt with the times. In the spring, he allowed his team to blare music during the practice for the first.

This week, he even joined Twitter.

"I'm not one of those individuals, even though it seems to get broadcast that way, not open to change," he said. "But I despise change for change's sake.

"If it's better, I'm all for it."

Snyder retired himself after the 2005 season before returning in 2009. During that stint away, Snyder stayed busy. Among several other non-football endeavors, he helped initiate the Kansas Leadership Center; he wrote a textbook for the Staley School of Leadership Studies.

"With anybody, if you can stay busy and do the things you like to do and enjoy it, it keeps you young," Sean Snyder said.

Over the last seven years, that's included coaching.

Yet when Bill Snyder's second and final retirement from football finally does arrive, don't count on him slowing down.

"I've never had to experience, 'What do I do today?'" he said. "Because I've always had something to do."