By In Stuff

Snyder

Ten years ago, I sat in a room with Bill Snyder … and we talked. We had “talked” dozens of times through the years, of course, because I was columnist for the Kansas City Star and he was head coach at Kansas State. Our paths crossed often. But this was different. Snyder had just retired as head football coach of the Kansas State Wildcats.

And this time we really talked.

“I enjoyed it,” he told me. “In my own way.”

It is all but impossible to explain the sports miracles that Bill Snyder has pulled off in his time at Kansas State. To explain it well enough, you’d first have to be able to recreate in people’s minds just how bad it was when he got there. And it’s all but impossible to do that for anyone who wasn’t there to see it.

Yes, you can say, “Oh, it was the worst program in college football — probably the worst in all of Division I college sports.” You can talk about how the team had not won a game in three years. You can recount that the school had never won a bowl game; heck they’d only APPEARED in one bowl game, a stray Independence Bowl sometime in the ’80s, before it became the Poulan/Weedeater Independence Bowl, before it became the Duck Commander Independence Bowl and long before its current incarnation as the Camping World Independence Bowl.

They lost to Wisconsin 14-3 in that game. The runner-up Independence Bowl trophy was the biggest one in the Kansas State trophy case.

Here’s a good one: From 1935 to 1988, Kansas State won a total of 137 games.

Doing the quick math: That’s 54 seasons, 137 games, yeah, that’s 2.5 wins per season … for more than a half century.

There’s a great story a friend of mine tells about playing at Kansas State in 1988, the year before Snyder arrived. Kansas State did a lot of glorious things that year. They lost every game, of course. They let Barry Sanders run for 320 yards against them. They gave up 70 to Oklahoma. And so on. But the moment that will stick with my friend happened against Tulane early in the season. The Wildcats scored on a wild play with 1:40 left to take a 13-9 lead. On the play, Greg Washington had apparently fumbled, but the officials — no doubt with charity in their hearts — gave Kansas State the touchdown that seemed to seal their first victory in forever.

As everyone danced and celebrated on the Kansas State sideline, my buddy — who was a freshman tight end on the team — noticed that the Wildcats’ defensive coaches were down there celebrating too.

And he idly wondered: Who was up in the press box calling the defense?

Tulane promptly drove 77 yards in a little more than a minute to take away the victory.

And my buddy, not for the first time and not for the last, made his mental list of schools he wanted to transfer to.

Then Bill Snyder arrived, and to say he changed everything  — like any effort to explain the sheer awfulness of Kansas State football — is doomed for underestimation. As I wrote 10 years ago, he changed the carpeting, the offices, the wallpaper, the dress code, the practice schedule, the workout schedule, the nonconference schedule (cupcakes!), punishments, injury reports (no more), the logo on the helmet (tougher looking!), the offense, the defense, the special teams, the pregame menu, the gameday program, the academic requirements, the disciplinary rules, the language of football and, yes, even the color purple. “Make it darker!” he grumped; he thought bright purple represented losing.

And that Independence Bowl runners-up trophy? Oh yeah. He got rid of that.

When my buddy showed up for his first weight training session with Bill Snyder’s team, he noticed that by every weight machine was a plastic garbage can. That, he soon realized, was where you were supposed to throw up.

Every tiny step up met with a flyswatter. Snyder was promised some improvements to the football facilities, but construction stopped in the middle because the school ran out of money. When Kansas State finally broke through with a victory — a 20-17 win over North Texas — the fans tore down the goalposts, mortifying Snyder. Whenever Kansas State came even close to winning, people rushed over to congratulate Snyder on the moral victory, motifying him even more.

“You must be proud of the way your team didn’t quit,” reporters said to Snyder.

“They don’t let you quit,” he said with steel in his voice.

The thing about Snyder: He was obsessed. You hear about obsessive coaches all the time; well they were the ones who looked at Bill Snyder and thought, “Man, that guy’s crazy.” There’s an oft-told story that he once talked to a hypnotist to ask if it was possible to live without sleep. He explained to me that story was never told exactly right. But when I asked for the real details, he shrugged. “It’s probably close enough,” he said.

He never stopped. Not ever. Once, defensive coach Brent Venables, who played for Snyder at Kansas State (and is now defensive coordinator at Clemson), left his office for five minutes to get a drink. When he returned there were a note on his door: “If you ever leave this building again, you’re fired.”

Thing is, Snyder didn’t just work 20 hour days — lots of coaches do that — he WORKED 20 hour days. That is to say: He was so absurdly organized that he spent every one of those 1,200 minutes doing SOMETHING to help the team. There was no small-talk. There was no wasted motion. He thought through every conceivable detail, searched for every edge. When Kansas State went with Nebraska to play in Japan in 1992, Snyder worked it out so his team got the shady side of the plane. When his teams arrived on road trips they were given minute-by-minute itineraries — I mean MINUTE BY MINUTE — of how they would spend the next 36 hours (“From 7:12-7:28: Ride on team bus to hotel. Arrive at hotel at 7:28. Dinner begins promptly at 7:51”).

All of this made him inscrutable to most of us. Snyder never seemed to like winning (anyone who ever covered Snyder knows he is ALWAYS grumpier after wins than losses). He did not seem to enjoy what most people would consider the fun parts of being a football coach. It was never easy to figure what inspired him, what motivated him, what drove him.

Mostly he would sit in his office, Kenny G music playing — yeah, Kenny G, what of it?– and he would watch the same film over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and … you get it. He was tireless about finding that one almost invisible technicality that might make the difference. Snyder’s favorite thing to say, the quote he repeated so often that everyone around him could hear in their sleep, is: “Get a little bit better every day.”

And, he told me, that’s what he was doing in that room, at 4 in the morning, staring at the same play. He was trying to get a little bit better.

“I always believed there was something more I could learn,” he told me.

Kansas State won one game his first year, but everyone could sense that something fundamental had changed. The second year, they went 5-6, and in the third year they won seven games for the first time in 37 years.

Just that was pretty miraculous. Everyone thought that was the high note; he had brought respectability to Kansas State. Amazing. But it was nothing. From 1993 to 2003, the Wildcats went to 11 straight bowl games. They went 11-1 in 1997, losing only to a great Nebraska team that split the national championship. The next year Kansas State won its first 11 games and seemed on their way to the national championship game when things fell apart in the final minutes of the Big 12 Championship Game, sending Snyder into a deep depression. A few years later, they would win their first Big 12 Championship Game. And, along the way, Snyder coached some amazing players, won big game after big game, and helped come up with all sorts of football innovations including the Wildcat offense.

But I bring up that moment, 10 years ago. He had just retired to the shock of everyone. Snyder just didn’t seem the retiring type. Yes, it’s true that some of his magic had begun to wear off. The team began losing and Snyder, though he worked as hard and efficiently as ever, began to feel like something was gone. “I could feel the players and coaches looking at me as if there was this feeling: ‘We’ll get out of this. He will pull us through,'” Snyder said. “But our success had always come from pulling closer together. There were things creeping into the program, instances of selfishness, and it no longer felt like we were pulling together the same way.”

He looked so pained. And in that moment, I wanted to understand him a little bit better. I wanted to try and get at what had convinced Snyder that he could really turn around Kansas State’s football team. I wanted to understand the motivation for a man to be that committed to the details, that driven by a crazy dream.

I can’t tell you that I figured it out. I certainly can’t say I’ve figured him out. Mostly, that day, I saw a man who was in conflict with himself; he had retired and seemed to be trying to convince himself that there were things outside of football he wanted to do. But even in that moment, he did not really seem convinced.

And he wasn’t convinced. After three tumultuous and blah years with Ron Prince leading Kansas State, Snyder came back to coach. And though this second run hasn’t been quite as remarkable as the first time around, he did turn Kansas State around again. He has led the Wildcats to six straight bowl games and in 2012 even had them in the national championship picture for most of the season.

But I think I figured out something that day. Saturday, Bill Snyder won his 200th game. That’s something. We love counting things, and so even though the Wildcat did not play well and beat a dreadful Kansas team that has won just twice all year (once at Texas?!), the victory still inspired the Kansas State players to carry Snyder off the field on their shoulders. He looked half excited and half embarrassed about that.

And afterward, Snyder was Snyder. It was beautiful. I once joked that if Bill Snyder’s team ever DID win a National Championship, he would begin the postgame press conference by saying, “We were poor in the punting game today. We have to clean that up.”

After winning No. 200, he really did say, “You know, I probably don’t sound in a pretty good mood today. But I’m responsive to how we played, and we played rather ugly today. I don’t feel good about that, I assure you.”

Well, that’s Bill Snyder. Ten years ago, when we talked, really talked — about family, about faith, about what excellence means — I asked him if coaching was any fun at all because he never seemed to be having fun. “I know people thought for me to enjoy things, I needed to be out on the town, drinking beer with some of the guys, but that just wasn’t my way,” he said. “I went back to work after games because that was just how I did things.”

And that was the thing that I had not realized. Those hours of watching film, those countless plans and itineraries he came up with, the endless moments he would spend trying to solve a tiny problem no one else could even see, those weren’t his burden. Those were Bill Snyder’s reward. The wins were nice. The losses hurt more. But the true joy for him came in finding some tiny way to make the team .0001% better.

And so Saturday night, after becoming the sixth coach to win 200 games, I imagine that Bill Snyder celebrated by watching some TCU tape. He might have even turned up the easy listening music to 4. That is what makes Bill Snyder happy.

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45 Responses to Snyder

  1. Frank says:

    I was a transplant from Iowa living in KC when Snyder went to Kansas State. A coworker who was a KSU grad was laughing about the logo change when I told him to go look at what happened when Snyder’s mentor – Hayden Fry – took over at Iowa a decade earlier. I’d seen the Bill Snyder story already, and I may have been one if the few who weren’t surprised at what he pulled off.

  2. KHAZAD says:

    Bill Snyder has gotten his 200th win in his 25th season as head coach. The program had exactly 200 wins in the last 68 seasons where he was not the coach.

  3. JC says:

    Great article! No one other than the players and coaches within the program get to know Snyder, all others are just naive. He is the epitome of consistency and focus! Just what a college kid needs.

    • SDG says:

      That’s usually why parents put their kids in sports. To teach them discipline, goal-setting, teamwork, ambition, give them a peer group that’s similarly-focused, keep them in shape and get it so they aren’t using drugs or getting into trouble.

      The question is why do we need a secondary avenue to do these things? In other words, we don’t play sports for their own sake, we play them for the supposed ancillary benefits. What does that say about the value of sports?

  4. Steve Fetter says:

    Very nice article! We will not see his like again although we will remember him driving into the Little Apple on Bill Snyder Hwy, walking by the Bill Snyder statue into Bill Snyder stadium.

    Come on back for a game next year Joe, you will not recognize the town or the stadium.

  5. Big Steve 46 says:

    I think that it was the old Senator Gene McCarthy, who after a quixotic run for the President of the U.S., said about why politics: “A successful politician is like a successful football coach – you’ve got to be smart enough to figure out how to win and dumb enough to care.”

    These obsessive sports coaches are all the same – boring, self-obsessed and, in the long run, a drag on the academic purpose of the institution.

    • Alvin says:

      That seems kind of harsh, but I have to agree with you. I’m thinking ASU when Frank Kush coached there. A man so tough that John Elway was scared to play for him. The football program has since declined and the school’s academic reputation has risen since then.

    • Bigger Steve 87 says:

      Anyone who would use the word “quixotic” sounds pretty boring and self-obsessed to me.

      What the article doesn’t mention—–and what you anti-college-sports intellectuals don’t understand—-are the countless lives that are positively affected by Coach Snyder’s love and devotion to them and to the program. To accuse him of even a hint of selfishness is colossal ignorance from someone who might be able to quote dead Senators but knows little about what Bill Snyder has meant to thousands of young men and their families.

      • SDG says:

        The question isn’t where people who play/coach college sports are good or bad. I’m sure many of them are good people. The issue is whether it’s the best use of resources given colleges are supposed to educate the next generation and enable them to get/create the kinds of jobs that ensure the country’s success. Would you support the kind of money spent on college athletics to, say, hire hire poets or competitive LARPers or poodle groomers to come to colleges? I’m sure there are plenty of poodle groomers who could impact students and teach them structure and discipline.

        • misc says:

          KSU athletics operates wholly on the revenue it generates. No School funds are used. Not one dime. It DOES however bring students and prestige to the university which BTW has also improved academically in the last 20 years significantly.

          • mike says:

            I continue to be amused and amazed at the number of people who are clueless that football and basketball programs bring in MILLIONS to their schools-NOT JUST THE ATHLETIC DEPARTMENTS-through TV contracts, and don’t bleed one frickin’ dime from funding for academics. That includes the salaries of the profs and administrators who criticize and/or dismiss them as a necessary evil.

    • Jeff says:

      I’m assuming you don’t have ties to kstate. Not only did he save the football program, he saved the university and Manhattan. The excitement of winning a few football games brought confidence and pride to a school desperately needing it. Enroll increased, spending on academics increased, academic standards increased, and a small cow town became a vibrant place. None would have happened without Snyder. Without the scandals all too common.

      • invitro says:

        Why is increased enrollment good? I’m sure spending on academics (and everything else) increased, since enrollment, and thus income, increased, but did professors’ salaries increase? And I’m not buring that academic standards increased, given that enrollment increased, that seems rather unlikely, unless affirmative action or enforced diversity ceased at the same time.

        • SDG says:

          I know you’re trying to start an argument, but affirmative action and enforced diversity (not a thing) have nothing to do with anything. As the economy changes and the kinds of jobs where you don’t need a college degree are disappearing (and most companies won’t look at you without one anyway), more people are trying to get into college. Because there’s money to be made, naturally, colleges are going to increase their enrollment, particularly state schools who, arguably, have a mandate.

          Also, a quick google confirmed that the %of minority students at KSU is far below the national average, which makes sense since it’s, you know, in Kansas.

          • invitro says:

            If you think that affirmative action and enforced diversity don’t lower academic standards, you need to leave your fantasy world and enter the world of facts.

        • misc says:

          yes they increase every year even during the recession. You can see it as they post it in the paper. its pretty easy to research this stuff folks you have ZERO idea what you are talking about. I live here, I follow KSU and its sports, I know what I am talking about.

      • DB says:

        Manhattan went from `41,000 in 1990 (2 years after he started) to `56,000 in 2013. Basically about the same growth rate of Lawrence (while KU continued to stink in football). I cannot find historical enrollment numbers for both schools (basically trying to compare both large state schools and their towns) but I assume they both went up as more and more kids want to go school. So basically both large state institutions got bigger as enrollment went up and both towns increased in size to support the larger schools. Looks like KSU has a 99% acceptance rate so they just accepted more students and did not increase selectivity (which I am not sure is good or bad specially for a state school). None of this reflects on whether the school is good or not and I am sure it is a fine university. However, I will guess that nothing that Bill Synder did had a real giant impact on KSU other than pride in a football team versus college enrollment rates in general.

        We have however seen many examples of the hagiography of sports coaches (specially in football) lead to some real problems of oversight whether or not the coaches actually knew of them (I will not even try to enter the Joe Pa world). We have never had a discussion of whether competitive sports actually help a school (Univ. of Chicago seems to be doing fine). The Venables story is not endearing to me and the lack of work life balance (what if his kid was sick) is actually sickening. I would rather have more John Gagliardi(s) in this world.

        • Matt says:

          KSU was a glorified JUCO/trade school back in the ’80s. The current university certainly isn’t elite by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s become a respectable institution that’s currently in the middle of a big push towards increasing research by 2025.

          There was talk about the Big 8 dropping KSU entirely back before Snyder was hired. If that had happened, I believe KSU today would be in a similar place as Wichita State or other MVC schools. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but the money Snyder has brought into Manhattan has definitely not stopped at the football field. It’s changed the entire town.

        • Richard says:

          Stagg helped build up the U of C to a larger extent than almost anyone now realizes back in the early days of college football.
          The Chicago Maroon were one of the powerhouses of college football back when Yost was coaching Michigan.

          Those 2 schools were the best teams west of the Appalachians back in the day. Between 1901 and 1908, those 2 schools won every single B10 title between them (as well as 5 national titles between them)

    • Marc Schneider says:

      I agree with much of what you say, but I don’t see how a coach is a “drag” on the academic purpose. I think that sports-even at football factories-is largely irrelevant to academics, but not necessarily destructive. I went to a big football school for grad school and, while I saw lots of corrupt things-players getting easy classes, etc-I don’t think it had much impact on the rest of the school or the student body. The graduate program I was in was highly ranked and whatever emphasis there was on the football team didn’t affect that. And there are lots of really good schools with very good athletic programs as well. And, to me, a good athletic program enhances the college experience because, let’s face it, how many people go to college strictly for the intellectual stimulation. (Other kinds of stimulation, for sure.)

      Having said that, football coaches, especially in college, are the kind of people I could not see having a conversation with, especially in the South, where they are really representatives of a status quo. People are very impressed with stories like this about Snyder or other coaches that live and breathe football to the exclusion of everything else, but I find it sort of appalling.

      • invitro says:

        “corrupt things-players getting easy classes” — I don’t see what’s corrupt about players being able to take easy classes. Aren’t all students able to take easy classes if that’s what they want to do? Do you mean the players got undeserved high grades? If so, how would you know this?

        FWIW, the main and maybe only problem I have with college sports is giving people scholarships for athletic ability. People usually defend this by saying these scholarships go to disadvantaged students… well, fine, it’d be better to give them to disadvantaged students, but based on academic ability rather than athletic ability. I don’t see how it helps the country to take the college experience away from smart kids and give it to dumb kids because they can run fast or jump high. (Apologies to any readers who were dumb kids.)

        • Dr. van Strijcker says:

          Quite the assumption that scholarship football players are “dumb kids”. I’ve known quite a few that were smart, in fact.

          Football scholarships at KSU (and many other universities, I’m sure) come from a specific endowment meant for athletic scholarships. They’re not taking away an opportunity for a “smart kid” to get a scholarship at all, as the scholarships for educational merit come from another place entirely.

          • invitro says:

            I think you’re trying to miss the point. There should not be any kind of endowment for athletic scholarships. That money should go to the only kind of scholarships that should exist (at a public university, anyway): academic scholarships.

          • Marc Schneider says:

            Invitro,

            What do you mean by academic scholarships? Are you also saying there should be no financial aid except for kids that could qualify for an academic scholarship?

          • invitro says:

            No, of course not. There are many kinds of financial aid, and I think academic scholarships form only a small subset. You’ve got work study, very low interest loans, financial aid that is dependent on maintaining a high academic record, lots of different kinds. But I think the reasons why students receive these kinds of aid is legitimate, as opposed to the reason of being able to run fast or jump high. Perhaps the athletes could be paid with the work study pool. But that brings up other issues…

        • Marc Schneider says:

          Invitro,

          Corrupt might have been the wrong word. But I do know something about this only because when I was in grad school, I had a friend who was a grad student in PE (yes, really) who told me stories about athletes taking glorified first aid classes that constituted academic classes. I also was told by other teaching assistants at the school (University of Georgia) who were friends that that athletic department monitored TAs to make sure that they were not hard graders. For example, I was a TA for one year and did not have athletes in my class, arguably because they had no record of how I graded. Whether that’s true or not, I can’t verify but I do know that there was a scandal at the school after I left about players being given grades for work they didn’t do. I don’t have a problem with players taking easy classes as long as they are real classes.

          All of this is anecdotal and was really secondary to my main point, which was I don’t see how athletics negatively impact the academics of a school at all. It’s not as if the professors are refusing to do research because the football team is too good.

          But, as others have pointed out, I don’t see the particular benefit to a school from having great athletics. I certainly don’t see why it’s a benefit for a state school to increase its enrollment by getting more out-of-state students (which I think is generally what happens with successful sports teams). There might be exceptions but I don’t think the University of Miami (where I went to law school during the height of “The U” stuff) is any better or worse a school for having had a great football team.

          But I do think good teams make it more fun for the student body; more opportunities to get drunk and, uh, do other things.

          • invitro says:

            Well, if teachers were pressured to grade athletes differently, that’s corrupt. This is probably neither here nor there, but I was a TA for many years at three large universities, and taught several, maybe a few dozen, scholarship athletes. I was never pressured to grade or teach them differently. I didn’t know if they were scholarship athletes unless they mentioned it to me, or I happened to recognize their names. Some of them came to office hours a lot, and some of these needed me to sign a form saying that they came. The athletes were from all different sports, both male and female, black, white, and other ethnicities, and I don’t recall that they were particularly more or less skilled than the non-scholarship athletes.

          • invitro says:

            I should add something: at one school, I was director of a tutoring lab, and so tutored/taught hundreds of students beyond my regular students. Many of the athletes I’m remembering are in that group, and from other tutoring instances, and from being a teaching assistant rather than the lead instructor of a class.

          • Marc Schneider says:

            I certainly don’t claim to have definitive knowledge about whether athletes receive preferential treatment. But, to be fair, athletes, especially in the revenue generating sports (ie, football and basketball) have a rough road to hoe to actually get an education. They have to spend a lot of time at practice (although there are NCAA limits) and are often traveling to games during the week. It’s not easy. Even for the non-revenue generating sports, it’s not easy for an athlete. So some of the criticism of athletes is probably unfair.

            What bothers me more about college sports is this sort of us against the world attitude that football coaches, especially, inculcate in the players. The coaches, of course, are under pressure to win or they are out on their asses, but it would be nice to see a coach who actually encouraged players to participate in the college experience. Maybe this is unfair, but I have the feeling that, for most of the coaches, their feel for academics is limited to making sure the players are eligible.

          • invitro says:

            “So some of the criticism of athletes is probably unfair.” — Just to be clear, I have no criticism of athletes, and probably not of coaches. My primary criticism is of the decision to allow athletic scholarships at public universities.

            The large amount of hours required of athletes to practice may not be so bad if you view them as being on a work study scholarship. But that’s only if the typical amount of hours required for work study is close to that required of athletes, and I don’t know if that’s the case.

            To summarize, this is what I think I’d be in favor of. Eliminate all athletic scholarships, and funding of all athletic departments and staff. Use the money for academic scholarships, given to kids from the same population that received the athletic scholarships, and on academic buildings and staff. Allow all sports to continue as what I think are still called “club sports”, with no funding, but with an unpaid faculty or grad student advisor or two.

          • Marc Schneider says:

            Invitro, I had a work study job most of my time in college. I think it was 20 hours a week. I’m not sure how that compared to practice time for athletes, but I certainly wasn’t getting pounded on the football field or scrimmaging on a basketball court.

          • SDG says:

            That’s the issue. There have been plenty of scandals where atlhetes (in the big sports) get to take ridiculous joke classes and the work isn’t even graded seriously. So these athletes are cheated out of an education. And they are paid far, far, below market value because they’re “student-athletes” so they’re cheated out of a salary. No one complains about this situation because a few of them turn pro and make zillions, but what happens to the average college football or basketball player who doesn’t make it into the NFL or NBA?

            Basically colleges (and therefore the taxpayer) subsidise rich private athletic leagues to function as minor league systems. Has their “college” experience benefitted the actual athletes? The usual argument is even the ones who don’t make it as athletes benefit because they have a college education, but is that actually true?

          • invitro says:

            Of course the athletes benefit. Even if they got zero educational benefit at all, they don’t have to work for four years. (And don’t try to tell me that football practice isn’t ten times more preferable to slinging fries at McDonald’s). Most people would consider a four-year paid vacation to be a pretty nice benefit.

          • invitro says:

            I forgot to say: the athletes are not the victims here. The victims are the kids who should be getting the scholarships the athletes are getting.

          • invitro says:

            “There have been plenty of scandals where atlhetes (in the big sports) get to take ridiculous joke classes and the work isn’t even graded seriously. So these athletes are cheated out of an education.” — One more comment. You may not be aware of it, but many scholarship athletes are unable to read or write, beyond the (say) first grade level. There aren’t many college classes that these kids can take. They should be in remedial reading and writing classes, but you probably can’t count too many hours of those classes toward your degree. I tutored or tried to tutor several kids in this group, but don’t take my word for it — research the U. of North Carolina scandal and learn what the grad students (& tutors, instructors, etc.) who dealt with these kinds of kids have to say. (My experiences with this group are mostly with a remedial math class I taught, where I had to refer a few students toward the remedial reading/writing classes.)

        • Rob Smith says:

          I think the issue is that there are all kinds of scholarships given beyond needs based and academic. There are leadership scholarships, arts scholarships, faith based scholarships, just because we want you scholarships (at a lot of private schools), theater scholarships, etc. A lot of them aren’t “academic” but are based on exception talent. Football is also a talent. The idea in many colleges is to get a diverse array of talent, ideas, academics, racial/ethnic groups, sports, etc. to give a full experience to students & expose them to many types of people. Exceptional people of all types also raise the reputation of the school.

          I do agree that if you’re spending money that should be going to academics and shorting academics, it’s a bad thing. That’s an issue some places, but many of the top 20 programs pay their head coaches out of the booster club. Sometimes other expenses are paid out of the booster club, as well. Outside money by major benefactors has been used for major facility upgrades, most notably at Oregon and Oklahoma State. So that money is raised separately just for football. Personally, I think that model should be used everywhere beyond the standard cost of a team. Ideally, boosters would cover the entire cost, and with all the money in college sports, that could happen.

          • Marc Schneider says:

            I doubt that any college actually shorts academics based on what they spend on sports because a lot of the money they raise is specifically designated for the athletic department. Many of the donor couldn’t give a rat’s ass about the quality of the school but they do care about the sports teams. I assume, without any knowledge, that the academic parts of the school get some benefit from the donations.

            Originally, I think college athletics in the US was based on the Victorian notion that sports was a preparation for life, that it built character, etc. McArthur said something about the future victories in war having their origin in the playing fields of colleges. We’ve obviously gone way past that and it’s really too late to go back. I enjoyed sports when I was in college, but I really don’t watch college sports very much now, especially now that athletic departments and conferences have now just become another extension of the business world, with the same level of ethics.

          • invitro says:

            You must have made a typo, because arts are certainly part of academics. So is theater. I’ve never heard of “faith based” scholarships, but theology is certainly part of academics. And political science peeps probably believe leadership is part of academics, though that one might be a little iffy. So you might want to base your argument on work study, or low/zero-interest loans.

            Next up, football players absolutely DO NOT raise the reputation of the school. Perhaps among below-average IQ’s who care nothing about affairs of the mind, they do. But among the academics I’ve spent half my life around, they hurt the reputation of the school, if anything. But don’t take my word for it. Call up or email any professor at your local university and ask them.

            One of the main points is that ALL of the money that a university spends should go to academics. I mean, the point of a university is academics. There is no other point. A university teaches young men and women, and conducts academic study and research. That’s what it does. That’s why it exists. Public universities simply should not be in the business of spending billions of dollars on football.

          • invitro says:

            “I think college athletics in the US was based on the Victorian notion that sports was a preparation for life, that it built character, etc.” — I don’t think it was Victorian, as it was in the US, but I think you’re basically right. And I think the argument is right, but the correct solution is phys-ed classes and intramurals, not athletic scholarships.

            “McArthur said something about the future victories in war having their origin in the playing fields of colleges.” — This is probably true, too, but public universities probably shouldn’t be in the business of training Army officers.

  6. MikeN says:

    I never saw KSU terrible, but had a vague feeling that they were surprisingly elite when they nearly made the championship game.

  7. ethan says:

    Great article and thank you for writing it. One small note, Kansas beat Texas at home

  8. Jeff says:

    “after becoming the sixth coach to win 200 games”

    All at one school? More than six coaches have won 200 or more games at Division 1 level.

  9. DSE4AU says:

    I am surprised that in all this no one commented that Snyder was a letter writer. He apparently writes letters to players on opposing teams after games. After a game against my favorite team a few years ago, he wrote a letter to a player who got hurt during the game. He wished him the best in his recovery, and complemented him on his play, noting several great plays during the game. It seems he is a great example of sportsmanship in a world where that is not always evident.

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