Although “Celebrating Snyder” was a celebration of coach Bill Snyder’s outstanding coaching career, in Snyder’s closing speech he called for a standing ovation to the community and emphasized one word – “family.”
“It had to be a family here for 30 years,” Snyder said. “We’ve been through good times and not so good times, but we’ve always been together and we’ve always done it together, near or far. This is a special community. This is a special university. But for one reason and one reason only: because of you.”
Bramlage Coliseum hosted a ceremony in honor of Snyder’s prolific Kansas State coaching career Saturday. The event featured speeches from: Mitch Holthus, formerly the voice of the Wildcats and now in the same role for the Kansas City Chiefs; former star wide receiver, Kevin Lockett; donor and friend of Snyder, Jim Colbert; Jon Wefald, former K-State president; former center and current Pittsburgh Steeler B.J. Finney; and former K-State assistant coach Bob Stoops.
Snyder engineered one of the greatest turnarounds in college football history, transforming a perennial bottom-feeder into a national contender. In the five-year span leading up to Snyder’s arrival, Kansas State posted an abysmal record of 6-47-2 (.109).
Snyder eventually turned Kansas State into a program into a perennial contender.
Lockett said he could tell from watching Kansas State from afar that big things were in store.
“I’m from Oklahoma, so I’ve followed Big 8 football my entire life," he said, "but I could tell something special was being built in Manhattan, Kansas. Nobody knew exactly what that was. You could just feel something special and part of that came out in the recruiting process."
Snyder also was awarded the Big 12 Coach of the Year award four times in his tenure.
One of the things that made Snyder an elite football coach was his ability to instill confidence into his players. Stoops, an assistant under Snyder who eventually became a storied head coach in his own right at Oklahoma, pointed to Snyder’s knack of getting people to believe in themselves.
“I never, ever doubted it because of Coach Snyder. He knew how to win,” Stoops said.
In his illustrious 27-year career, Snyder led Kansas State to 19 bowl games, two conference championships and finished with an overall record of 215-117-1 (.647).
In 1993, Snyder led Kansas State to its first bowl victory, a 52–17 thumping of Wyoming in the Copper Bowl. Wefald basked in the glow of that signature win.
"It was like going to heaven," he said.
Finney, who was part of the team that won the Big 12 in 2012, highlighted Snyder’s’ recruiting pitch to him.
“He asked me, ‘Do you want to be a part of the second greatest turnaround in college football history?’” Finney said. “That got me. He saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself.”
Despite Snyder’s quiet nature, Stoops reminded those in attendance that his former boss never could be underestimated.
“Don’t let that soft demeanor fool you," Stoops said. "Believe me: He is a bulldog, and I’ve always loved that about him,” he said.