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HAWKEYE RECAP EXCLUSIVE ARTICLE


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Book Review: Bill Snyder - My Football Life and the Rest of the Story

Book Review: Bill Snyder - My Football Life and the Rest of the Story


12/31/2022 - If you follow college football, you've heard of Bill Snyder, long-time successful head coach of the Kansas State (K-State) University Wildcats. Many Hawkeye fans might remember how awful that program was before Snyder arrived in 1988. Many might also remember that he was Iowa's offensive coordinator under Hayden Fry before accepting the job.

As a child growing up in Iowa City during the Hayden Fry rebuild years, I remember how innovative and effective the Iowa offense was during that time. I followed Snyder's career from afar as he took K-State from laughing stock to almost national champions (two times).

But I didn't know much about his history, how he connected with Fry at North Texas, and the details of his career at K-State, including the former Iowa players and coaches that went through his program.

In December 2021, he published an autobiography called Bill Snyder: My Football Life and the Rest of the Story, but I just found out about it. I will try and recap the key takeaways from the book that Iowa fans might find interesting, as well as some of his accomplishments at K-State in case you need a refresher. You can also visit his Wikipedia page, which has a plethora of information.

Learn more about "Bill Snyder: My Football Life and the Rest of the Story"

Starting out, his first collegiate coaching experience was in 1966, serving as a graduate assistant coach at the University of Southern Cal (USC). He next worked as a head coach for several years in Los Angeles area high schools. He ended up at Austin College (Texas) as an offensive coordinator, where he caught the attention of Hayden Fry. From 1976 to 1978, he worked as an assistant coach at North Texas State, then followed Fry to Iowa in 1979. This is when he first became the offensive coordinator, where he served for 10 years.

For Iowa fans who have struggled watching the offense the past 2 seasons, look at how prolific the offense was under Bill Snyder at Iowa. Three times in 10 seasons his offenses ranked in the top 10 for offensive points per game!

You can review each of his 10 seasons as Iowa offensive coordinator below...

1979: 1st season under Fry, finished 4-4 in Big Ten. Dennis Mosley became the first 1,000-yard rusher in Iowa history.
1980: Still rebuilding year, ended 4-7, but a 41-0 win over Michigan State gained momentum for next season.
1981: 1st winning season since 1961, first Rose Bowl appearance since 1959, defeated #7 Nebraska, #6 UCLA and #5 Michigan.
1982: Hawks won eight of their last 10 games, finished third in the Big Ten and beat Tennessee in the Peach Bowl.
1983: Beat #3 Ohio State and #10 Indiana, won at Penn State, ended with 9 wins and Gator Bowl appearance.
1984: Hawkeyes overcame injuries to post an 8-4-1 record, including a 55-17 thrashing of Texas in the inaugural Freedom Bowl.
1985: Achieved #1 ranking, defeated #2 Michigan 12-10, won Big Ten title and made 2nd appearance in Rose Bowl, Chuck Long finished 2nd in Heisman voting. Considered one of Iowa's greatest football teams.
1986: Hawkeyes spent much of the year in the Top Ten, ending with a 9-3 overall record, and defeated San Diego State in the Holiday Bowl.
1987: Defeated #11 Indiana, and won the Holiday Bowl for the 2nd year in a row. Also played K-State at home and won 38-13.
1988: Some publications picked them first in the nation, but injuries were costly, ending with a 6-4-3 record and a Peach Bowl appearance. Interestingly, Iowa defeated K-State in Manhattan 45-10, which may have gotten the attention of the athletic department.

Snyder was not impressed on his visit to Manhattan. He actually had to scheme the offense differently to deal with the poor quality of turf conditions and the significantly crowned field. He was not impressed with the thin walls in the press box, and saw more Iowa fans at the game than local K-State fans.

After all that success, Snyder had numerous offers to leave Iowa, but he said he was happy at Iowa and wasn't interested in becoming a head coach right now. However, K-State went all out to convince Snyder to be the head coach. He initially had told them not to wait for him after the season, and he thought it was the end of the discussion. However, the athletic director and associate athletic director later showed up at his house in Iowa and refused to leave until he agreed to come visit the campus. Despite all the problems and challenges, he did like the people during his visit, and the opportunity to have one of the greatest turnarounds in college football, so he agreed to take the job.

On November 24, 1988, Snyder was named head coach at K-State. Fortunately for Iowa, he was only able to convince assistant coach Del Miller to go with him.

But K-State was historically and statistically one of the worst programs in college football and hadn't won a conference title since 1934. Through a disciplined process and approach (which he describes in detail in his book), very little sleep and vacation, and 80-hour work weeks, Snyder led K-State up from the ashes to a No. 1 ranking, six 11-win seasons in a span of seven years, and one Big 12 Championship. After a three-year retirement after the 2005 season, he returned in 2009 to lead the Wildcats to another Big 12 title. He ended up 215–117–1 in his K-State coaching career, an almost 65% winning percentage. In 2015, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

One of the first things he did as head coach was to create a new logo to change the image of the program. He wanted something similar to the Tiger Hawk logo that Hayden Fry helped create at Iowa when they arrived in 1979. It would be called the "Powercat" and it was added to the football team's helmets for the 1989 season. By the mid-1990s, due to the football team's rapid rise, the Powercat had replaced the cartoon-style Willie the Wildcat as K-State's primary athletics logo.

One of his first accomplishments was to get a win, which came in the 4th game of the 1989 season. It was the first victory for K-State after 30 straight losses.

Despite all his success, one of the teams he struggled to beat was Nebraska, which was in the midst of an impressive tenure under Tom Osborne. The first win over the Huskers came in 1998 (after 8 previous defeats under Snyder).

The only time K-State played Iowa after Bill Snyder took over was Iowa's 27-7 loss to #8 K-State in 2000 in the Eddie Robinson Classic at Arrowhead Stadium. It was only Kirk Ferentz's 2nd season at Iowa, and Snyder was in year 12 and ultimately ended that season 11-3, making that game an unfair contest.

Highlights from that game are below (from the K-State perspective)

What I forgot about was how close K-State had gotten to competing for a National Championship.

The first time was in 1998, when K-State was 11-0 but loss to #10 Texas A&M in the conference championship, and was passed up for a major bowl, instead being invited to the insignificant Alamo Bowl.

The second time was in 2012, when #1 K-State was 10-0, but was upset by Baylor to put them back into a tie with Oklahoma for the conference title, and kept them out of the National Championship contention.

Another similarity to Hayden Fry was his development of future head coaches. The following are assistant coaches under Snyder with ties to Iowa as a coach or player.

  • Sean Snyder (Kansas State) - Bill's son, and former punter and placekicker at Iowa, he became an All-American punter at K-State, and spent over 20 years as an assistant coach for his father. On a personal note, I got some personal training from Sean when he was at Iowa, when he helped the specialists at Iowa City City High School.
  • Bret Bielema (Wisconsin, Arkansas, and Illinois) - Former walk-on turned team captain at Iowa, he stayed on to coach at Iowa from 1994 to 2001, then joined K-State from 2002-2003.
  • Jim Leavitt (South Florida) - Was an intern and graduate assistant at Iowa from 1988-1989, then joined Snyder at K-State from 1990-1995 before taking over at South Florida.
  • Bob Stoops (Oklahoma) - All-Big ten player at Iowa, later a graduate assistant and assistant coach at Iowa from 1983-1987, then joined K-State from 1989 to 1995 before taking over at Oklahoma in 1999.
  • Mike Stoops (Arizona) - former all-Big Ten player at Iowa, graduate assistant in 1986-1987, and later assistant coach in 1991, later joined K-State from 1992-1998 before joining his brother Bob at Oklahoma.
  • Del Miller (SW Missouri State) - Hired by Fry at Iowa from 1979-1988, he was Snyder's first assistant coach hired at K-State, and he spent many seasons at K-State before leaving to be the head coach at Southwest Missouri State.
  • Nick Quartaro (Fordham and Drake) - former Iowa placekicker from 1974-1976 who was a long-time assistant coach for different programs.
  • Kerry Cooks was also a former Iowa football player, and graduate assistant at K-State in 2003, but has not been a head coach.

One of the keys to his success at K-State was developing and instilling the 16 "Wildcat Goals for Success."

1- Commitment—To common goals and to being successful.

2- Unselfishness—There is no ‘I’ in TEAM.

3- Unity—Come together as never before.

4- Improve—Everyday…as a player, person, and student.

5- Be Tough—Mentally and physically.

6- Self-Discipline—Do it right, don’t accept less.

7- Great Effort

8- Enthusiasm

9- Eliminate Mistakes—Don’t beat yourself up.

10- Never Give Up—Never…never…never.

11- Don’t Accept Losing—If you do so one time it will be easy to do so for the rest of your life.

12- No Self-Limitations—Expect more of yourself.

13- Expect To Win—And truly believe we will.

14- Consistency—Your very, very best every time.

15- Leadership—Everyone can set the example.

16- Responsibility—You are responsible for your own performance.

Snyder had also battled medical problems, specifically throat cancer in 2017 at the age of 77, which he discusses in the book.

Here is the list of chapters in the book:


Overall, I found this book fascinating, partly because of the way in which he accomplished the turnaround, and partly because of his connection to Iowa. Even if you're just a fan of sports, I would highly recommend reading (or listening) to this book.

Learn more about "Bill Snyder: My Football Life and the Rest of the Story"

 

 


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