Kansas City, Mo. — While creating his "Miracle in Manhattan" and taking Kansas State from the depths to the heights, Bill Snyder sowed coaching seeds that have taken root all over the United States.
Bob Stoops at Oklahoma, Mike Stoops at Arizona, Phil Bennett at SMU, Mark Mangino at Kansas University and Jim Leavitt at South Florida are only a few of the former Snyder assistants who've become head coaches.
"He taught us how to coach," Mike Stoops said. "His legacy will always be a relentless work ethic and unquestioning loyalty. And it was the greatest turnaround in college football history. That's as true a statement as anybody can make."
When Snyder arrived from Hayden Fry's Iowa staff at the end of the 1988 season, Kansas State was the only major-college program with 500 losses. Its creaking, rusty, 1950s-era facilities did not measure up even to top-flight high schools.
Many felt it was time for Kansas State to withdraw from collegiate competition, as Wichita State had done, and leave KU as the only big-time football program in the sparsely populated Sunflower State.
"It's time to put Kansas State on a slow boat to the Missouri Valley," one Big Eight administrator had reportedly said after the Wildcats went on NCAA probation for an outrageous walk-on player scam.
"I don't believe as much as you write about it, you truly know how down it was and how poor and how bad it was," Bob Stoops said. "The facilities, the players on scholarships ... their budget at the time and what their opportunities were to do it.
"What he has been able to do is just remarkable."
Wisconsin defensive coordinator Bret Bielema, who has been designated to succeed head coach Barry Alvarez, was on Snyder's staff in 2002-03.
"The knowledge and experience I gained in my two years with coach Snyder at Kansas State helped guide me to my current position at Wisconsin and will continue to guide me in the future," Bielema said. "Coach Snyder accomplished one of the greatest turnarounds in college football history at Kansas State, and it was an honor to be a small part of that."
Chuck Neinas, the founder of the College Football Assn. and former commissioner of the Big Eight Conference, often gets asked the same question almost everywhere he goes.
"They say, 'How did Bill Snyder do it at Kansas State?"' Neinas said.
In those dark early days, before high school superstars would even return his calls, Snyder was forced to develop an uncanny knack for sizing up a young athlete's potential. The foundation of the program that would one day capture a Big 12 Conference championship and play in 11 straight bowls was laid with average athletes who were coached to their utmost performance.
"The blue-chippers wouldn't even talk to Kansas State," Neinas said. "So Bill and his staff had to be so very, very careful to find kids they could develop into good players. Then as they started winning, the blue-chip players started paying attention to them.
"The construction project Bill did at Kansas State is unsurpassed in my memory in terms of developing a program."
Leavitt said he was proud to have been a member of Snyder's staff.
"We have patterned our program verbatim after Kansas State," he said. "I couldn't admire coach Snyder more. He's one of the greatest coaches in NCAA history."
Chuck Long, one of Stoops' assistants at Oklahoma, remembers Snyder as his position coach when he was quarterback at Iowa.
"When you went into games, you felt like you had already played the game," he said. "I've learned a lot from him that I still use today, even from when I was a player for him. I use some of the same drills that he had way back then. They still work today."
Kansas City Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil got to know Snyder when he was broadcasting television games.
"No football coach did a better job of coaching football players than Bill Snyder," he said. "No football coach. No coach of the year. No national-championship team. None of them."
At his weekly news conference Tuesday, Penn State coach Joe Paterno praised Snyder as a person who did not promote himself, instead putting his team first.
"He did a great job at Kansas State and is somebody I admire very much both as a person and as a football coach," Paterno said. "I hate to see some of those guys get out of it. I hope we have young people who are coming into it who are coming into it with the same kind of commitment to what college football is all about and not necessarily how much money they are going to make. Bill was never that way."