This column was among many published in a special Bill Snyder tribute section of The Manhattan Mercury on Sunday, December 16, 2018.
Viewed one way, Bill Snyder’s second retirement is nothing more, nothing less, than the inescapable march of time. All good things must come to an end. Snyder was not going to coach forever, and sooner or later, the day would come when he would step aside. Try as we might, we mere mortals cannot stop biology.
I’ve been in Kansas all my life and can think of no other human being in our state who commands respect at the level of Bill Snyder. Because of his accomplishments, certainly, but an equal measure owing to his character. Over his K-State career, the two became inexorably intertwined.
The family, work ethic, bootstrap culture that defines the middle of our country goes to the very nature of a land grant school. That’s what reflected back when Snyder looked in the mirror. He saw it, recognized it and capitalized on it. Our heartstrings were successfully tugged while we stood and cheered gridiron victories. Effective public relations lift up and magnify legitimate emotion. Let’s call it the 17th Goal for Success.
Does the same vibe exist in Ames and Stillwater? Maybe, but I don’t write twice-monthly columns for the Ames or Stillwater dailies and Bill Snyder coached here, not there.
In addition to this special newspaper section, the man has a highway, a stadium and a cheeseburger named after him. That stuff will last forever. Well, OK, maybe the newspaper will get recycled and the burger may become the Klieman club sandwich, but you get the picture. The man’s accomplishments will transcend his time.
My sense is, as much as he tries to portray otherwise, Snyder has a pretty good handle on reputation management. It doesn’t hurt that fans learn of the hand-written note, and then of the sentiment which motivates it. The conventional wisdom is he does not peruse the message boards, but I suspect for the first time in his career, he heard the whispers. He’s also smart and humble enough to recognize that unless carefully managed, whispers can transition seamlessly into out-loud conversations and then cacophonies that force Athletic Directors’ hands.
When Snyder hung up his Nike’s the first time, I thought then, the time was right. I soon found myself in the minority when I became a vocal Ron Prince guy. Gadget plays and all-purple uni’s couldn’t save him when the losses began to outnumber the wins and the whispers leapfrogged out-loud conversations directly into a cacophony.
Did Bill Snyder retire at the right time? Did he leave on his own terms? Does he have peace of mind? Judge for yourself, clearly and I hope so.
I’m a big believer in the notion that the humility, loyalty, hard-work-begets-success culture will remain at the bedrock of our lives in America, and that it will be closer to the surface here in the middle of the country. But I also believe it will manifest itself differently as each succeeding generation brings new blood, new ideas, new ways of thinking into our football program, community and society.
When I stop and think about it, at age 49 in 1989, that’s exactly what Bill Snyder did.