ARLINGTON, Texas — Nearly eight months after the fact, Matt Campbell said he hadn’t given it much thought. Campbell, Iowa State’s coach, matched wits against Bill Snyder in his final game leading Kansas State — a game that saw the Cyclones rally from a 38-21 deficit with 12 minutes remaining to win 42-38.
Eight days later, K-State announced Snyder’s retirement after 27 seasons as head coach. When Campbell heard the news, he said the victory was the last thing on his mind.
“I didn’t think about in terms of that aspect of it,” he said at Big 12 Media Days earlier this month. “I thought only about my absolute respect for Coach. Way before I got to Iowa State, Coach Snyder was a guy I looked at and had so much admiration for, because of who he was and what he stood for, the integrity he built a football program with.”
Simply having the opportunity to take the same field as Snyder, a College Football Hall of Famer — among countless other accolades — was “an honor” to Campbell.
“For me — I said that after the game that we played against them — Coach is a guy who’s had a huge impact on who I am and how I believe in building a football program,” he said. “I just had a great respect for who Bill Snyder was and what he stood for.”
Les Miles, in his first season as Kansas’ head coach, won’t have the chance to face Snyder in the annual Sunflower Showdown. But during Miles’ time as Oklahoma State’s head coach from 2001 to 2004, the two squared off in back-to-back seasons. The Wildcats pounded the Cowboys 44-9 in Manhattan in 2002 before Oklahoma State avenged that defeat with a 38-34 win in Stillwater in 2003.
Miles, like Campbell, expressed his admiration for all Snyder accomplished in his illustrious career.
“I liked Coach Snyder,” Miles said. “I felt like he was a great coach. I still think he is. He’s very special.”
It took until the Big 12’s spring meetings in May for Mike Gundy to finally wrap his head around Snyder’s retirement. Looking around the room during the meetings and not seeing Snyder, Gundy said, was “unusual.” Snyder coaching K-State is all Gundy’s ever known. He put it in perspective for a young reporter, who told Gundy he was born in 1996.
“So in 1989, I was playing, and he was coaching. Give that some thought,” said Gundy, who has served as Oklahoma State’s head coach since 2005, taking over when Miles left for the same position at LSU. “I was a senior in college, playing at home, and he was coaching. And really, he’s been there ever since. He took a what, (three-year) leave or something? So you think about that, and he’s been there ever since. So it is very different.”
Snyder’s legacy is so great, it even spurred Gundy, a dyed-in-the-wool Cowboy dating back to his time as a player and assistant before becoming head coach, to do the unthinkable: cast his lot alongside one of Oklahoma State’s most hated figures.
“One of the few things that I agree with Barry Switzer on,” Gundy said, referring to the uber-successful former Oklahoma head coach, “is that (Snyder is) obviously ‘the coach of the century’ for what he did.”