Sean Snyder is headed to the West Coast. And he’ll be joining the most prestigious football program on that side of the country.
Multiple sources told The Mercury Thursday that Snyder will become the newest member of Southern California’s coaching staff as its special teams coordinator. Snyder replaces John Baxter in the coordinator role; USC head coach Clay Helton dismissed Baxter on Dec. 29, one day after a lopsided 49-24 defeat to Iowa in the Holiday Bowl.
Snyder didn’t return The Mercury’s calls for comments.
The move brings Snyder’s 26-year run with Kansas State to a close.
Snyder was the Wildcats’ senior special teams analyst last year; in that role, however, he was not an on-field assistant coach at practice and on gamedays, as he had been the previous eight seasons on the staff of his father, legendary Hall of Fame head coach Bill Snyder.
Joining the Trojans links the younger Snyder to his father’s past: Bill Snyder served as a graduate assistant at USC under John McKay during the 1966 season.
Sean Snyder recently had been linked to special teams positions at both Texas and Nebraska. The Longhorns went on to hire Jay Boulware as their tight ends coach and special teams coordinator. The Cornhuskers lost special teams coordinator Jovan Dewitt to North Carolina. Nebraska elected not to replace Dewitt with a dedicated special teams coordinator, meaning it will address coaching the unit in a different manner.
Snyder will be tasked with turning around what has been one of the nation’s worst special teams units in recent years.
The Trojans allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown in the Holiday Bowl loss to the Hawkeyes. It was a familiar issue for USC: It ranked last in the 130-team FBS in kickoff return coverage during the 2019 campaign, allowing 29.78 yards per kickoff and giving up two touchdowns.
But Snyder has had a knack for special teams excellence.
During his time tutoring K-State’s special teams from 2011 to 2018, the Wildcats set or tied eight school records, while 20 specialists and returners put their names at the top of the program’s record book in individual categories.
From 2013 to 2017, K-State boasted the first-team All-Big 12 kick returner every season, the longest streak in conference history. In sum, Snyder helped players to 27 total All-America honors and 21 All-Big 12 accolades. In 2015, Morgan Burns led the country in kickoff-return touchdowns (four) and ranked third nationally in kickoff-return average. In addition, he set a league record by earning the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week award each of the final four weeks of the 2015 regular season.
Snyder’s coaching earned national recognition multiple times over. He was named the Special Teams Coordinator of the Year in 2015 and 2017 by national college football writer Phil Steele.
The FootballScoop website also picked Snyder as its Special Teams Coordinator of the Year in 2015.
Prior to his time as an on-field coach for his father — he was the associate head coach in addition to his duties as special teams coordinator during Bill Snyder’s second stint as head coach — Sean Snyder was K-State’s senior associate athletics director in 2009 and 2010. From 2001 to 2008, he was K-State’s associate athletics director, and he was an assistant athletics director from 1999 to 2001.
He began his coaching career as a part-time assistant coach under his father (1994-96) before becoming the Wildcats’ director of football operations, a role he held from 1996 to 1999.
With his departure for Los Angeles, this year will mark the first time since 1993 Snyder won’t be an employee of K-State’s athletics department.
While it’s his coaching acumen that landed him the USC job, Snyder was a stellar specialist in his own right.
Snyder was part of K-State’s inaugural Ring of Honor Class in 2002 and a 2016 inductee into the K-State Athletics Hall of Fame after authoring one of the greatest punting careers in school history during his two-season stay (1991-92) in the early years of his father’s first tenure.
In 1991, he won the Big Eight Conference’s defensive newcomer of the year award after averaging 40.5 yards per punt as a junior.
He was even better the following season, earning first-team All-America honors from the Associated Press, Kodak and Athlon thanks to his then-school record 44.7 yards per punt. (One of his pupils, Devin Antcil, surpassed that mark last season with his 45.4 yards-per-punt average.)
After his college career concluded, Snyder signed with the then-Phoenix Cardinals in 1993. The following year, he signed with another team that has since changed its name — and its city — in the San Diego Chargers before returning to Manhattan to start his coaching career.
Records show Snyder made $200,000 in his analyst role last year. The parameters of Baxter’s contract at USC were not known. As a private university, USC is not required to disclose employee salaries, which includes coaches.
Prior to joining USC, Baxter worked at Michigan for one season, serving as the Wolverines’ special teams coordinator in 2015. Baxter’s base salary during his lone campaign at Michigan was $350,000. Had Baxter remained with the Wolverines, his 2016 base salary was slated to rise to $375,000.