Driving along College Avenue on Saturday, it was hard to miss the sea of purple as Wildcat football fans flocked to Bill Snyder Family Stadium to close a chapter on one era, and start anew with another.
The Wildcats beat Nicholls State in the first game for head coach Chris Klieman. He is following the legendary Snyder, who retired in December after 28 seasons in the position.
And while no one disputed what Snyder has done for K-State, fans tailgating Saturday were optimistic and excited for the new beginning.
“The kids are going to be able to be kids,” said Jamie Heidebrecht, McPherson resident and Kansas State University football fan. “More enthusiasm, more modern. It’s not 1985 anymore.”
“Although, we’re going to miss Coach (Bill) Snyder,” said Debi, Jamie’s wife.
“Yeah, we love him,” Jamie continued.
Snyder, of course, is widely considered to be responsible for the “greatest turnaround in college football history” and finished his coaching career at K-State with 215 wins and two Big 12 conference championships.
But Klieman has his own list of accolades. As the former head coach of the North Dakota State University football team, Kleiman won four FCS national championships, including last season.
Gerald Lee, a ticket holder of more than 20 years, said he thinks Klieman will do well in his new role, but he wants to see how the season plays out.
“I think it’s a ‘wait and see what happens,’” he said.
Over the last 34 years as season-ticket holders, Jamie and Debi have made the trip up to Manhattan for home games, and they also enjoy attending away games.
“We love to come to Manhattan,” Debi said.
Like the Heidebrechts, Eric Kohn and Kelsey, his daughter, were also enjoying an afternoon tailgating prior to game time.
“I think we will see a brand-new offense, a lot faster offense, and I’m just overall excited,” said Eric, a season-ticket holder of 20 years and a Salina resident. “Going to start building an awesome program.” Eric said he’s looking forward to watching the young players take the field this season.
“We’ve got some good up-and-coming folks who are going to build the program down the road,” Eric said. “I think (Kleiman’s) done an outstanding job recruiting.”
Kelsey, a K-State graduate and Kansas City resident, said it’s great to catch up with other Wildcats during the tailgates.
“I think it’s fun to see them ... connecting with people that they haven’t seen since last fall,” Kelsey said.
“We’ve had our tickets in the same spot, and it’s like a family reunion every year,” Eric continued.
As an alum, Kelsey said it is fun to see all the changes in Manhattan and on campus when she visits.
“Brings back some of those memories from when I was here,” Kelsey said. “But it’s fun to see new memories being created for other people, new students.”
The K-State Wildcats take on the Bowling Green Falcons next Saturday at home. Game time is 11 a.m.