Bruce Snyder leaves behind strong legacy

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Bruce Snyder wasn't Arizona State's greatest coach. That would be Frank Kush. But Snyder ranks a solid No. 2, and he also was something few coaches are: well-rounded.

Snyder loved to read. He could talk incisively about things other than football. And, get this: He was a nice guy.

Not long ago, he was also doing something few football coaches do: Enjoy retirement.

Then, in June, his doctor gave him stunning news: He had Stage IV melanoma. The story is gracefully told in this column by George Schroeder.

The situation was dire. Realistically, it was a death sentence. But, of course, Snyder fought like crazy. And he shared his journey with the world on his blog.

But that final journey ended Monday. Snyder was 69. He leaves behind a wife, three daughters, a son-in-law, two grandchildren, four sisters, two brothers and his beloved dog, Ella.

And an impressive legacy.

His being well-rounded and good-natured, of course, isn't why Pac-10 fans will remember Snyder today. He was a heck of a football coach, winning Pac-10 Coach of the Year honors at two different schools and nearly leading Arizona State to a national championship in 1996.

He compiled a 58-47-0 record in nine seasons at Arizona State, the win total ranking second behind Kush.

What Arizona State fans will remember most fondly was a scintillating 1996 season, when Jake Plummer, Pat Tillman and the Sun Devils were in the national title hunt until the waning moments of the Rose Bowl, when Ohio State and quarterback Joe Germaine broke their hearts in a 20-17 defeat.

Still, that 11-0 regular season, which included a 19-0 domination of two-time defending national champion and top-ranked Nebraska, and a final No. 4 ranking earned Snyder numerous national coach of the year awards. And probably more than a few moments of "what if" when the lights went off. Snyder, recently enshrined into the ASU Athletic Hall of Distinction, went 126-106-5 in 20 years as a head coach. He also earned Pac-10 Coach of the Year honors at California in 1990 after the Bears finished 7-4-1 and defeated Wyoming, 17-15, in the Copper Bowl -- Cal's first bowl berth in 11 years and first bowl win since 1938. In 1991, his final season at Cal, he led the Bears to a 10-2 record, No. 8 national ranking and a win over ACC champion Clemson in the Citrus Bowl. So, within a six-year span, he led two different Pac-10 teams to final top-10 rankings. If someone else has done that, well, I couldn't find him. He coached more than 40 players at ASU who were selected in the NFL draft, including seven first-round draft choices: Shante Carver, Craig Newsome, Erik Flowers, Adam Archuleta, Todd Heap, Levi Jones and Terrell Suggs. That's an impressive resume by any measure. It's a coaching legacy that will endure. And here's a guess that those who knew Snyder well also will treasure his legacy as a person.