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 the final half of this Q&A, Snyder talks about changes in K-State's future schedule, how he plans to get the program back where it was only a few years ago, and what he sees for his own future.
You guys have games with Miami and Oregon coming down the pipes, games you didn’t schedule. Do you foresee keeping those on the schedule?
Bill Snyder: (Laughs) I’m not going to go to those games now, whether they remain scheduled or not. Yeah, that’s just not our philosophy in regards to scheduling. And that doesn’t help. That doesn’t assist our program. The Big 12 -- and you’ve heard me say this before -- the Big 12 is tough enough in its own right, as we all know. You go through the season and halfway through you’ve got seven or so of the Big 12 teams are in the top 15 in the country. So you’ve got a very strength-based conference. We already play eight games in the conference. We don’t need to play the same kind of games throughout the entirety of the season. We’ve never had at Kansas State, and I don’t think we’re the only team that way, we started this thing with 47 guys on scholarship when you could have 85. And we never, ever caught up to the full 85 during my 17-year tenure here. And what you find out over a period of time is the injury factor can take a season away in a heartbeat. So that’s part of your scheduling philosophy, is try, there’s no guarantee, but try to put yourself in a position where you’re not as susceptible early in the season, before conference starts, to injuries.
Moving forward to now, how close is the team right now to being able to compete for a Big 12 title?
BS: I have no idea. I really couldn’t tell you that. We’re just kind of a day-by-day program and I can’t tell you, nor can anybody else, exactly what that level of achievement is that says you can be a conference champion. We had an opportunity last year -- we weren’t good enough. But we had an opportunity to play into the conference championship. So it went into the last game of the season. We had our opportunities. We weren’t good enough to do it. What that takes to get there, we don’t have total control over that, because a lot of it has to do with how good some other teams happen to be, and that changes year in and year out, too. But our thing is just trying to be better tomorrow than we are today. That’s the way we built it, and that’s the way we’re going to try to do it again.
What are some of the more tangible steps your team is making right now toward a Big 12 title in the near future?
BS: Tangible to me might be intangible to you, or vice versa. But I see when you talk about positions, well we’ve got to have this or this developed. You’ve got to develop the quarterback position for the obvious reasons that we all know. And I think that becomes significant for us as well. But once again, it’s the tangible, measurable improvement that each guy in the program, particularly your ones and twos, need to make day in and day out. And if each one of them can find just a little way to get a little bit better in some facet of their game, then collectively as a team we become better and that’s our direction.
People love to talk about your situation at quarterback, especially this year. How high is that on your list of concerns this spring?
BS: I think it would be that way any spring. I can’t put a level of anxiety 1-10, I don’t know. I just know that we have to develop the capacity to execute our offense at that position like any other football team. It’s a dynamic role. So you know, it’s a high priority, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have other high priorities, because we certainly do.
What else are you looking forward to seeing this spring from your team?
BS: I want to see us to continue to develop their work habits. To continue to develop their capacity to be able to retain focus over an extended period of time becomes extremely important to this football team that needs to develop that way.
And also all these things we’re making headway with, but we still have a ways to go. And develop the spirit of our football team as well, so that we can become a passionate team and one that plays with great emotion. And these are intangible things, I understand. We’re trying to enhance the leadership we have within our program, to be able to have leadership from within and develop accountability. I’ve become accustomed to having teams that the young people involved had such passion for the game that they not only held themselves accountable but held each other accountable. And when that happens, you really do have a special chemistry.
Do you have any ideas about how long you want to keep coaching?
BS: I’m not going to make another career out of it, I just want to accomplish what I set out to do, and that was to help calm the waters with the K-State people who have been so wonderful to me and my family and see if we can’t get the program in a position where we can make a smooth transition and get ourselves in position to where we can be really proud of the achievement. So whatever that takes, I don’t know. We’re not there, and we’ve got a ways to go, so it’s going to take a little time.
But how much, I have no idea.