Manhattan Bill Snyder has nothing on Portia in "The Merchant of Venice." The quality of mercy, Kansas State's football coach insists, is not strained.
Unfortunately for Snyder, though, mercy isn't dropping like the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath.
Everybody wants to schedule the losingest 520 defeats in 95 years and counting major college football team in the country.
"Kansas State is a high priority scheduling item," Snyder told the Big Eight Skywriters on Wednesday. "There's not a school in the country that wouldn't kill for the opportunity."
The Skywriters laughed at that remark because it sounded like hyperbole. Maybe it isn't, though.
SNYDER HAS watered down K-State's non-conference schedule, acquiring Western Illinois and the two New Mexico schools to replace the likes of Wyoming and Florida.
Florida, incidentally, bowed out amicably (although the Gators exacted a pound of flesh later when they hired basketball coach Lon Kruger), but Wyoming took the 'Cats to court and won a $50,000 judgment.
Costly, yes, but the potential for victory is far more precious than money to the win-starved K-State program.
During the last five years of the 80s, Kansas State's record was 4-50-1. In the last three years, it's been 1-31-1. Snyder's philosophy is clear. If you can't beat 'em, drop 'em.
"I was promised I would have autonomy in those decisions," he pointed out, "and it's not over. We have a long way to go."
Indeed, Snyder has been reworking future schedules.
"We still have some major changes that have to be made," he said. "I see some snags. Some teams in the future we couldn't buy out. There was no price."
SNYDER WOULDN'T name the schools without mercy and, unlike most football media guides, K-State's contains no listing of future schedules.
"We need some compassion around the country," Snyder said. "It's not a level playing field. We've got 68 kids on scholarship. We've tried everything. We even went through a lawsuit with one."
Still, the Skywriters were a bit puzzled. Snyder had told them earlier that his most difficult task here had been trying to convince the players to "lift their expectation levels."
Yet by arranging softer slates, Snyder seems to be telling his players that he doesn't have confidence they can reach a higher level.
"Yes, we want to expect more," he rebutted, "but let's get in a position to win, too."
Somebody it wasn't Portia said winning begats winning, and it's pretty obvious Snyder will try anything within reason and the rules to do it.
How insidious can defeat be? Bad enough that Snyder all but told the Skywriters he was glad last year's seniors were history. That's right. Gone.
"WE NEEDED a graduation. We needed those kids to move on," he said. "Those kids had been beaten back so much, they felt there was only so much you can do.
"That sounds kind of harsh, and I don't want it to sound like that," he added, "but we need an infusion of people who expected more of themselves. I'm talking about work ethic, how you practice, saying it's all you can do."
Every man who has coached at Kansas State has searched for answers mostly in vain only to be succeeded by another man who believes it can't be that bad.
After awhile, some realize they made a mistake. Snyder isn't one of them. At least not yet. Even during last year's 1-10 season he remained upbeat.
"At no time did a light come on and say, `Why are you here?''' he stressed.