Bill Snyder, the Hall of Fame Kansas State coach who orchestrated one of the most improbable program turnarounds in college football history, announced his retirement Sunday afternoon.
Snyder, 79, went 215-117-1 over 27 seasons at Kansas State, including a 128-89-1 record in the Big 12, with two conference titles. The Wildcats, however, went just 5-7 this year and missed out on a bowl for just the fourth time since 1992 under Snyder.
"If I was not wanted and didn't feel like I was having an impact on the lives of young people and my family wasn't interested in me continuing, I certainly wouldn't," Snyder said last week when asked whether he would continue coaching.
The school said in a statement that Snyder would transition to a special ambassador role for the university.
Despite ending his career with a losing season, Snyder, who in 2015 became just the fourth active coach ever to be enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame, will go down as one of college football's greatest coaches for engineering the "Manhattan Miracle."
When Snyder was hired at Kansas State in 1989, the Wildcats were in the midst of a 27-game winless streak and had appeared in only one bowl in the 77-year history of the program. Five days before Snyder's first game, Sports Illustrated dubbed Kansas State "Futility U" in a feature about college football's "most hapless team."
"There is only one school in the nation that has lost 500 games," Snyder told the magazine then. "This is it, and I get to coach it."
Yet three years later, Snyder coached the Wildcats to a winning record. Five years later, he led them to their second bowl in the program's history. And by 1998, he had Kansas State one game away from playing for the BCS National Championship; Texas A&M upset the Wildcats in double overtime in the Big 12 championship game to knock them out of the national title picture.
"Coach Snyder has had an immeasurable impact on our football program, Kansas State University, the Manhattan community and the entire state of Kansas, and it has been an honor and a privilege to get to know and work with him the past two years," athletic director Gene Taylor said in the statement. "He and his family have touched the lives of so many people, from student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans, and he is truly one of the greatest coaches and leaders in college football history. His impact on college football is unmatched and legacy is one that will last a lifetime."
Snyder previously retired in 2005, but when successor Ron Prince was fired three years later, Snyder returned to the helm at age 69.
In late 2016, Snyder was diagnosed with throat cancer but recovered from chemotherapy treatments to coach the Wildcats through the 2017 season. This summer, he agreed to a new five-year deal with the Wildcats that would've gone through the 2022 season.
Snyder's 215 career victories are the fourth most among active FBS coaches behind North Carolina's Mack Brown (244) and Notre Dame's Brian Kelly and Alabama's Nick Saban, who are both tied with 231.
Potential replacements for Snyder figure to include North Texas head coach Seth Littrell, Memphis head coach Mike Norvell, Troy head coach Neal Brown, Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt (a former Kansas State assistant under Snyder) and North Dakota State coach Chris Klieman, whom Taylor hired when he was the athletic director in Fargo.