Bill Snyder spent 17 seasons at Kansas State building what was dubbed the Manhattan Miracle, a body of work highlighted by a Big 12 title in 2003. He retired in 2005 after winning more games than the 11 coaches before him combined.
After three years away from coaching but not from the program, he returned to roam the sidelines in a stadium that now bears his name.
In Part 1 one of this two-part Q&A, he talks about how recruiting has changed during his absence, and what he found when he returned as coach.
How would you evaluate year one of the second go around, especially based on what you expected coming in?
Bill Snyder: It’s kind of like riding a bicycle I guess, you’ve got to get back on. It comes back to you in stages and that’s kind of the way it’s worked for me. I had those moments that—and it probably happened daily—things come back to me and I have that, “Aha!” moment where you say, ‘Aha! Now I remember.’ This is the way we should be doing this. So I think it was just a matter of getting acclimated more than anything else.
Did a lot change in the years you were away, or not?
BS: Well, I think probably the biggest change that I’ve seen was just the way cyberspace has taken over recruiting and how it has expedited the recruiting process and consequently, as you look around the country, you have young people that finish their junior year of high school and people are filling up their boat with commitments. And I think so much of that—because the actual rules have not really changed and probably need to now that the recruiting seasons are out of balance—but I think the fact that there are no hidden secrets. Every youngster out there, you have immediate access to what he’s doing and what’s going on with him. You know you get all these text messages, I get 200-300 a day that define every eighth grader in the country. Well, not really, but all the youngsters, the underclassmen, provide video on tape of themselves and it expedites things so very, very quickly and schools have gotten into that mode of being able to evaluate and make offers and I think young people have acquired these offers and are in a hurry to accept those offers because people offer so much earlier now and the youngster doesn’t want to get left behind on his school of choice, so he makes that decision very early and very quickly. So, consequently, everything is at least a half a year or a year ahead of where it might have been normally four years ago when I was last coaching. So that’s the biggest change for me.
What’s that change in recruiting done to affect the game itself?
BS: Well, I don’t know that that in itself has a dramatic change on the game, other than the fact that you’re getting more and more young guys. About 15 years ago, we brought a young fellow in here, a quarterback by the name of Brian Kavanaugh and held him out the first semester and he entered school as a part-time student—came at midterm. Now they call that a grayshirt. And more and more of that is taking place, and so consequently, you have young people here with an opportunity, without losing any eligibility, to go through spring practice with your team, enrolled in school, before they actually begin their tenure. So, I think its just a matter of knowing, if it’s a true freshman, that he gets five and a half years to complete four years of eligibility instead of a normal five years.
I remember reading that famous story in Sports Illustrated from 1989 about K-State when you first got there, and in that story, you said something to the effect of, “These players didn’t think they could win.” Obviously, this is a very different situation than you came into back then, but with the losses the past few seasons, had you seen a change in the culture among the team, in terms of how they viewed themselves or approached the game?
BS: I think to a certain degree, that’s probably the case, but I think that’s true anytime you make the change. And when I retired and we brought in a new staff, there were certainly changes in philosophy, which, rightfully so, there should be. And so when I came back there was a little different culture so to speak. That’s not saying it’s good or bad, it’s just a little bit different. So that’s no different than it was in 1989 when I came. Change promotes that, and sometimes you can allow that. A lot of people don’t respond well to change. That’s human nature perhaps, not to. The important thing is how quickly you can adapt to change and understand that change can be of value to you. So, you know, that’s part of what has to take place. And what you try to do is help young people understand that the change doesn’t have to be bad. It’s something you should be able to embrace and allow to help you.