Posted: Wednesday September 26, 2012 12:41PM ; Updated: Thursday September 27, 2012 3:28PM
Stewart Mandel
Stewart Mandel>COLLEGE FOOTBALL MAILBAG

It's time to appreciate Bill Snyder's career at Kansas State; Mailbag

Story Highlights

Despite never winning national title, Bill Snyder's career at K-State is remarkable

The NFL replacement ref fiasco is far more egregious than any BCS-related errors

Plus: Manti Te'o's Heisman hopes, the state of LSU passers, a reader video, more

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Kansas State's Bill Snyder
Bill Snyder boasts a career record of 161-83-1 at Kansas State, a .659 winning percentage.
William Purnell/Icon SMI
The Mandel Initiative Podcast
Stewart and Mallory discuss the big wins for Notre Dame, Florida State and Kansas State. Oregon State beat writer Lindsay Schnell joins the show to analyze the surprising Beavers.


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Late Saturday night in the Oklahoma press box, while writing my postgame column on Kansas State's win, I went to Bill Snyder's Wikipedia page and noticed something that probably hadn't been there an hour earlier. Someone had added a new title to his name.

Most informed college football fans would readily agree Snyder is one of the sport's all-time great coaches, and yet you could go months without hearing his name. Then his Wildcats go and upset Oklahoma, and we all slap ourselves and go through another round of ... this.

Stewart -- I am fascinated by the job Bill Snyder has done at Kansas State. Is he as good as he seems, and if so, why does he fly so far under the radar as far as top coaches go? With what appears to be a weak recruiting base, he built the program to a premier level, retired, watched it crumble, then rebuilt it again in short order back to a top 10 national ranking.
-- Bob Karcher, Austin

To appreciate just how incredible Snyder's career has been, consider this: Snyder's winning percentage in 21 seasons at Kansas State is .659. The program's winning percentage in its other 92 seasons of football is .357. Even with its modern success, K-State's all-time winning percentage (.439) is lower than all but three BCS programs (Northwestern, Indiana and Wake Forest). Try to imagine current Indiana coach Kevin Wilson, who went 1-11 in his first season (much like Snyder went 1-10 in his debut campaign), eventually leading the Hoosiers to six 11-win seasons in seven years (as Snyder did from 1997-2003). That's how improbable Snyder's run would have seemed in 1989.

There are a number of reasons Snyder flies under the radar. For one thing, he's nondescript. When you think of the most celebrated coaches both past (Bear Bryant, Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler) and present (Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, Chip Kelly), the majority of them have distinct personalities. They give memorable quotes. Even after 20-plus years on the sidelines, Snyder is mostly anonymous outside of Kansas (though we know he loves Pinocchio). Good luck getting him to say much more than "we've got to keep rowing the boat."

Snyder also isn't considered the guru or pioneer of a certain type of offense or defense. Few realize he was one of the first to employ his quarterback as a shotgun zone-read runner back in the late '90s, directly influencing future spread-option coaches like Meyer.

And then there's the one glaring omission from his résumé: a national title. I would contend that winning 10-plus games a year at Kansas State is more remarkable than winning a national title at an established powerhouse, but the general public wants trophies. Bobby Bowden turned Florida State from an also-ran into a preeminent program, but he wasn't truly lauded until winning his first title after 18 years at the school. Nebraska's Tom Osborne "couldn't win the big one" right up until he won three in a four-year span just before retiring. It's a lofty standard, especially given the subjective nature of college football's national championship, but it's reality.

Few expect this year's K-State team to contend for the top prize. But it could very well win the Big 12, which would be quite a feat given the context. Remember, the Wildcats had started to slip in the two years before Snyder retired in 2005 (going 4-7 and 5-6, respectively). Like many, I was skeptical of K-State's decision to bring him back in 2009 at age 69. Obviously I was wrong. Snyder's methods are timeless. Hopefully one day they'll be appropriately appreciated.

Barring a complete meltdown in college football, the Sooners are once again out of the national title picture. It's been 12 years since they won a national title and four years since they played for one. In the meantime, Saban has won three and Meyer has won two. Is it time to pull the plug on Bob Stoops and back a dump truck full of money to Jim Harbaugh's house yet? I know Stoops has averaged 10 wins a season and run a "clean program," etc. I frankly don't care. He's only won one national title and that isn't good enough for Oklahoma, nor should it be.
--
Kevin Lessard, Wellington, New Zealand

Hang on. I need a second to process which part of this e-mail is more delusional: the notion that Oklahoma should fire Bob Stoops or Kevin's apparent belief that Harbaugh would voluntarily leave his gig as the coach of a Super Bowl contender to come to the Big 12. Amazingly, it's probably the second part, which is saying something, because the first part is pretty absurd, too. Stoops has won 80 percent of his games in 14 seasons, but you're right -- he's only played for four national titles. What a loser.

I'm not saying everything's peachy in Norman these days. Having attended last week's game, there's definitely something "off" about that program right now. Yes, it lost a lot of key players from last season, but it's more that the Sooners' swagger is gone. Kansas State beat Oklahoma on its own field and no one there seemed particularly surprised. In fact, one program insider flatly told me before the game, "I don't think we're very good this year." Even Barry Switzer thinks these Sooners "just don't have the talent."

But given Stoops' substantial track record, I wouldn't count out his team after one conference game. It's not like the Wildcats dominated the contest; it was all but decided by three brutal turnovers. Mike Stoops' defense did a nice job containing Collin Klein prior to two fourth-quarter touchdown drives. Landry Jones obviously has his limitations, but the offense has some nice young players, like freshman receiver Sterling Shepard, that will only get better as the season goes along.

This may just be a transition year before the Sooners really take back off in 2013. And given all realistic options, I'd gladly take Stoops coaching that team.

For those people that think our BCS family is the only dysfunctional family on the block, have you met our new neighbors, the NFL Replacement Refs? How would you compare the most egregious BCS errors to what's happening in the NFL right now?
-- Trevor Kuhn, Portland, Ore.

It's not even close. The NFL's officiating crisis has poisoned that league's credibility so badly it makes every controversy in BCS history seem like little bug bites by comparison. You may not like the inherent subjectivity of college football's national championship, and you may disagree with various results the pollsters or the computers have spit out over the years. But at the end of the day, no one is questioning the legitimacy of the actual on-field results. You may not agree with the established rules that govern the BCS, but those rules have at least been enforced correctly. The replacement refs are making procedural errors that directly affect the outcomes of games (and, in turn, teams' Super Bowl chances). Fans of the 2004 Auburn Tigers may disagree, but those gross injustices inflicted on NFL teams and their paying fans are far more inexcusable and avoidable than any BCS controversy.

Now, college football has not been without its own heinous officiating mistakes over the years. The Colorado-Missouri Fifth Down game was arguably a more egregious debacle than Monday night's Seahawks Fail Mary because it involved no degree of judgment whatsoever. The officials in that 1990 game flat out botched a basic procedure, and it wound up directly impacting not only the final score, but also the national championship race. The 2006 Oregon-Oklahoma onside kick replay fiasco was also pretty bad, though it wasn't the last play of the game. But one thing's for certain: The replacement refs have given everyone new cause to appreciate not only the regular NFL refs, but the top college officials as well. There are roughly 40 more FBS games than there are NFL games per week, yet there haven't been remotely as many game-changing errors so far this season as there have been through the NFL's first three weeks.

 
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