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Bob Lutz: With a secure legacy, Snyder's coaching future in doubt

... Bob Lutz Column brought to you by Renewal by Andersen

Bob Lutz
December 28, 2017 - 1:01 pm

We wonder why Bill Snyder continues to coach football at Kansas State.

He’s 78 and he’s done pretty much everything a coach can do, with the exception of winning a national championship.

Snyder has been inducted into eight Halls of Fame, won Big 12 championships, been on the cusp of national titles and had a stadium named after his family.

He built a laughingstock Kansas State football program into one of the country’s best and most respected. There is no one who doesn’t hold Snyder in high regard.

Though there were some rough patches with the media in the early going, most of us have come to accept and respect – if not understand --- Snyder’s idiosyncrasies.

He is a true coaching icon, one of the best in the history of college football.

His legacy is enormous, his legend built.

Yet he trudges on.

We spent most of the time leading up to Kansas State’s Cactus Bowl win over UCLA this week hypothesizing about Snyder’s future. There seemed to be an acceptance, or close to it, that the K-State coach, who just finished his 26th season in Manhattan, was done.

But when asked after the Wildcats’ victory if that was the case, Snyder juked the questioner with an answer he’s given so many times. He hasn’t decided whether he’ll be back for his 27th season or not.

When he decides, we can assume, he’ll let us know. Meanwhile, it’s odd to see such a great coach and man almost being pushed out the door even though he’s had only three losing seasons since 1994.

Is Snyder the future of Kansas State? Of course not. He represents the past but his two feet are planted firmly in the present, too.

If Snyder returns in 2018, he’ll have a solid group of players. Every offensive starter is set to return except for junior fullback Winston Dimel, who will transfer to UTEP where his father, Dana, will be a first-year coach after serving on Snyder’s staff.

The K-State offense never quite put it all together in 2017. Starting quarterback Jesse Ertz could not stay healthy, which gave understudies Skylar Thompson and Alex Delton lots of time. And, mostly, they took advantage of their opportunities. It’s hard to know which one will go into 2018 with the edge.

The Wildcats do lose five defensive starters, including tackle Will Geary, end Tanner Wood and linebackers Jayd Kirby and Trent Tanking. That’s a hit, but K-State returns its secondary intact and what a secondary it could – even should – be.

Is Snyder really going to step aside with such a potentially good team returning?

It’s difficult to know what the veteran coach is thinking. But the last time he resigned, following the 2005 season and successive losing campaigns, he was miserable.

After the Ron Prince years (2006-08), K-State’s administration rushed an eager Snyder back into the coaching job. And, for the most part, the results have been good. Kansas State’s 2012 team was 10-0 and ranked No. 1 before a shocking 52-24 loss at Baylor ruined any national championship hopes.

Snyder’s K-State teams have won 10 or more games nine times, but none since 2012. The Wildcats won 11 games six times in seven seasons from 1997-2003, but have reached that level only once since.

Snyder and his teams spoiled a fan base, one that remains incredibly loyal to the man but longs for the success that was once commonplace.

The risks of the future don’t need to be explained.

Kansas State has had 23 winning seasons since 1940 and 18 of them belong to Snyder. Manhattan was a football wasteland before Snyder arrived in 1989 and the fear of every K-Stater is that it’ll go right back to being one when he leaves.

He’s not only a great coach, but a woolly security blanket.

What Wildcats fans would like to believe is that Snyder has done enough now to assure the continued success of the program in the post-Snyder era. He’s infused more than a quarter century of positive vibes into Kansas State football.

But it’s hard to shake the Prince era, which looked a lot like many of the eras that Snyder was not involved with at Kansas State.

Prince was a bad hire, the result of an administration that was too cocky. Remember, even the great Snyder was coming off two consecutive losing seasons in 2004 and 2005 before stepping away. Prince wasn’t just taking over for a great coach, he was asked to replenish what had been lost.

And he wasn’t even close to being up for the job.

K-State is in better shape now than it was the first time Snyder left, although the Wildcats are not close to being what they were during his best years.

And that’s the quandary. What is possible for K-State nowadays?

If you’re satisfied with 7-6, 8-5, 9-4 and getting to a bowl game every season, then you’re probably not sweating this.

If you want the Wildcats to look more regularly like a Big 12 championship-caliber team, then you have concerns.

I think the breakdown of satisfied K-State football fans is about 50/50. Which is about where I have the odds of Snyder returning in 2018.

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