Bill Snyder is often referred to as the grandfather of college football – mostly because of his age relative to the nation’s other college football coaches – so when he speaks, people listen.
And he doesn’t speak out very often.
But for some reason Snyder felt empowered this week and used an interview with a Kansas City radio station to lash out at the very sport he coaches.
“I think [college football is] in a bad place right now, and I think it’s in a bad place for a variety of different reasons,” Snyder told KCSP in Kansas City. “We’ve allowed it to become money-driven. We’ve allowed it to become TV-driven. We’ve allowed athletic programs or football programs to mean more to a university than what the university was really supposed to be all about. The last I heard, these were educational institutions, and that’s what it needs to be about. … It’s not driven by values. … It’s driven by dollars and cents, and that’s unfortunate.”
I needed a day to process this comment; to calm down. Then I came to one very definitive conclusion: What a sanctimonious crock of crap.
I know Bill Snyder is old, but how could he conveniently forget how this college football revolution began?
Let me back up for a second and acknowledge that there is no football coach who has done more philanthropically for his university than Bill Snyder. He’s helped raise money for many projects around campus, including the school library, and has been a pillar in the Manhattan community. He’s universally loved not because he wins football games, but because he’s genuinely a good person who does want to give back.
But that doesn't mean he's not imparting some selective memory when making this week's comments.
When Snyder took over the K-State program in 1988, it was in shambles. It had had two consecutive winless seasons, hadn’t won a conference title since 1934 and hadn’t been to a bowl game since 1982. Snyder won one game his first season, five the next and then in 1991, gave the program its first winning season since 1970. From there, the Wildcats would make a meteoric climb up the college football ranks to finish 11-2 in 1998. Snyder’s turnaround is still considered the greatest in the history of college football.
But winning comes at a price. And to make Kansas State competitive, Snyder built those winning teams on the backs of junior college players, most of whom would have been turned away from any other university simply because of admission standards. Up until that point, teams would sparsely add junior college players to supplement the high school players – the ones that had the grades to immediately go to college – they already had because the grades weren't always there or there was a behavior issue.
Now, I’m not saying Snyder wasn’t the only one who padded his team with questionable academic, but highly athletic, talent, but he’s always been the poster boy for it and Kansas State continues to do it even in his second tenure with the program.
There are no NCAA rules against it and Snyder was credited with giving some kids the second chance they might not have otherwise received.
But in those early days, as Snyder tried to get Kansas State out of the doldrums, it was all about winning at all costs. So this line — “The last I heard, these were educational institutions, and that’s what it needs to be about. … It’s not driven by values. … It’s driven by dollars and cents, and that’s unfortunate.” — is hypocritical.
Bill Snyder provided a formula for instant turnarounds and several teams followed suit. Consequently, college football became more competitive, more desirable to watch and thus, a more profitable sport.
For Snyder to sit back and chastise college football for what it’s become is just ludicrous because he helped make it that way. Not to mention he recently signed a contract extension that will pay him $14.75 million over the next five years, which puts him among the 15 highest-paid coaches in the country.
At least Snyder acknowledges the irony in that salary figure.
“I'm grossly overpaid for what I do,” Snyder said. “That's part of what creates the issue.”
Funny, despite his assertion that he's overpaid, he didn’t turn down the extension or donate his salary to some charity group or worthy cause on campus. Coaches donate parts of their salary all the time. Tommy Tuberville gave $300,000 of his Cincinnati salary to help rejuvenate Olympic sports at the school. Mike Riley gave $300,000 of his paycheck to his assistant coaches. Snyder can’t have it both ways. You can’t say college football is money-driven and then be totally OK with becoming one of the nation’s highest paid coaches. It makes everything you say about money disingenuous.
Look, this isn’t me ripping Bill Snyder. Again, he deserves all the praise — and probably more — that he gets. But similar to Bob Stoops’ stance on paying players, these coaches need to take a step back and look at their roles in college football before getting all preachy about the sport.
Do I agree that college football is in a bad place? Not entirely. I think Snyder makes some good points about it being money driven, which has led to conference realignment, lawsuits, hurt feelings and has ruined some of the game’s great rivalries, including one that directly affects my alma mater. But on the flip side, I think college football is more interesting and popular than it was even 10 years ago. Sure, it’s not without its faults and controversy, but it’s also a rare gem in the sports world.
During the interview, Snyder, 73, said he wasn’t sure how much longer he’d be able coach, but declined to give a timetable. During his two separate coaching tenures with Kansas State, he’s been with the university 22 years. His current contract extension is set to expire when he’s 78 years old.
And college football, from a money standpoint, will only be worse by then.
“I don't know [how much I have left],” Snyder said. “It remains to be seen. If I'm healthy enough … The most significant thing is whether I'm being productive or not. If I feel like I'm not being productive here, I certainly wouldn't stay in this position.”
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