Endings are inevitable. No career lasts forever. Even active Hall of Fame coaches eventually must concede to the factors that are unavoidable.
As much as it’s painful to write, it might be time for Bill Snyder to retire for a second and final time following the end of this season.
Kansas State is 2-3 heading into Saturday’s game at Baylor. The Wildcats still have games remaining with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU and West Virginia. K-State started 2-4 in 2013 but won six of its last seven. Snyder has had just six losing seasons, the most recent in 2015 (the Wildcats finished 6-7 with a loss in the Liberty Bowl).
Through five games, Kansas State has played like impostors. It needed a miracle rally to avoid a loss to FCS South Dakota and its other victory was over UTSA. In three losses to Power Five teams, the Wildcats have been outscored 84-31.
In the last 10 days, cracks have appeared in the K-State foundation. During a lopsided loss at West Virginia, Snyder changed quarterbacks – replacing starter Skylar Thompson with Alex Delton. Only two people knew about the change – Snyder and Delton. First-year offensive coordinator Andre Coleman, quarterbacks coach Colin Klein and Thompson – found out when Delton took the field.
Delton’s forte is running while Thompson is a better passer. The coaching staff believes Thompson gives the Wildcats the best chance to win. So, eyebrows were raised about the switch in Morganton and then when Bill Snyder announced Delton would start against Texas.
At halftime Saturday, the Longhorns held a 19-0 lead. K-State’s offense had produced three punts and Delton had been sacked for a safety. On the last play of the half, on fourth down at the 2-yard line, the Wildcats went for it but Delton’s pass to a wide-open receiver was dropped in the end zone. Thompson took over in the second half and Kansas State rallied before losing, 19-14.
While playing two quarterbacks with different skill sets doesn’t appear to be working, Snyder is adamant.
“Some of you don’t want to hear what I’m saying, but both quarterbacks are going to play,” Snyder said after the game. “Both will play.”
Snyder’s weekly news conferences are staid affairs. The coach, wearing a coat and tie, sits behind a desk and patiently answers questions. It resembles a tenured professor lecturing an upper level class.
This week, questions about the quarterback controversy turned Bill Snyder into a cranky coach.
Thompson is producing better numbers than Delton and the first question at Snyder’s media appearance was, “What are we missing that has you so insistent on playing both quarterbacks right now?”
“What are you missing?” Snyder replied. “Probably that you aren’t on the field coaching.”
Just under 13 minutes into the session, Snyder reached his QB question limit and told a reporter to “write the hell what you want to write.” Instead of answering questions for 30 minutes, which is typical, Snyder was done in less than 20 with most of his answers brief and lacking content.
Dana Dimel, who Kansas State’s offensive coordinator for eight seasons, is now the head coach at UTEP. The quarterback uncertainty plus the new dynamic of a revamped coaching staff apparently is causing a rift.
Snyder turns 79 Sunday. If the time has come to retire for a second time, it will not be a simple or easy transition. Last August his contract was extended through 2022 and it has a $3 million buyout provision. That’s not a huge amount but money won’t be the issue.
Since returning to the job in 2009, Bill Snyder has been angling to set up his son as his successor. Sean Snyder has been K-State’s associate head coach/special teams coach. Athletic director Gene Taylor will have a challenging decision when and if Bill Snyder steps aside. Few expect that his son will get the job. If Kansas State is to remain a relevant program, Taylor will need to conduct a national search.
For much of his second act in Manhattan – where the first act was perhaps the most amazing program-building accomplishment in college football history – Snyder has appeared to wave a magic wand and taken hard-working, dedicated 3-stars and produced teams that over achieved. Twice (1998 and 2012) Kansas State – Kansas freaking State – came within one game of playing in the Bowl Championship Series title game.
Perhaps we’ve fallen under the wizard’s spell. Bill Snyder’s teams were always under estimated in preseason polls that we came to believe that, no matter what, Snyder would grind away, prepare his team and figure out a way to win more than he lost and get the Wildcats into a bowl game.
Kansas State could turn things around and qualify for a bowl game. And a losing season would not be the only reason for Snyder to step aside – or be asked to step aside. At halftime against Texas, veteran offensive lineman Dalton Risner rallied his teammates with a passionate speech.
“It’s us against the world,” Risner said Tuesday. “It’s us in the locker room. I love y’all (media) in here, I love the K-State fans and everything, but, at the end of the day, it’s us 120 guys in that locker room against everyone else.”
Snyder’s teams have overcome adversity dozens of times when the experts thought it was impossible. But even the spell casters encounter foes they can’t defeat. Yoda failed in his one-on-one with Darth Sidious. Dumbledore could only advise The Boy Who Lived; it was up to Harry Potter to vanquish Lord Voldemort.
This sad conclusion is that it’s time for Snyder The Sorcerer to abdicate.