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Kansas State's Bill Snyder: National Coach of the Year?

The Wildcats are unbeaten and all of the credit goes to Bill Snyder.


One of the primary reasons we started this site is our belief in the power of coaching. Talent of course matters as evidenced by taking a quick look at the last decade of national champions in college football. However, even teams with every advantage possibles struggle, at least relatively so, when they don't have the right General running the army. For a few cases in point, consider the following:

  • Prior to the Nick Saban and Les Miles eras taking over at LSU in 2000, the Tigers won 55.36% of their games from 1980-1999. Since 2002, LSU has won 77.70% of their games.
  • Prior to Bob Stoops taking over at Oklahoma in 1999, the vaunted Sooners won 67.76% of their games from 1980-1998. Since 1999, the Sooners have won 81.33% of their games.
  • Prior to Mack Brown taking over at Texas in 1998, the Longhorns won 63.64% of their games from 1978-1997. Under Brown, Texas has won 79.19% of their games.
  • Prior to Pete Carroll taking over at USC in 2001, the Trojans won 61.37% of their games from 1981-2000. The Trojans won 83.62% of their games under Carroll.

Coaching matters and in our opinion, it matters above all else. For the ultimate example in how much coaching matters, we turn to Kansas State's Bill Snyder. Coach Snyder's Wildcats are off to a 6-0 start this season, with impressive victories over Texas Tech, Baylor, and Miami. However, we don't want to focus on one year. We want to focus on Coach Snyder's body of work as the prime example of how a single coach can change the entire identity of a football program. Let's consider a few things first with regards to the history of the program:

Team Years Wins Lossess WP% Bowl Appearances
Kansas St. 1896-1988 (93 years) 299 510 36.96% 1


Team Years 8+Win Seasons 8+ Loss Seasons
Kansas St. 1970-1988 0 12


Team WP% in 5 Years Prior to Snyder
Kansas State 10.77%

These numbers culminated in 1989, leading to....


--Article from September 4, 1989 edition of Sports Illustrated.

That year, Bill Snyder was hired and began his tenure as head coach at Kansas State. Now, let's fast forward and take a look at how the Wildcats have fared under Snyder's leadership:

Coach Team Years Overall WP% Bowl Appearances
Bill Snyder Kansas State 1989-2005, 2009-Present 65.68% 13*
*Assuming a Bowl Appearance for 2011 given the Wildcats are bowl eligible after first six games


Coach Team Years 8+ Win Seasons 8+ Loss Seasons
Bill Snyder Kansas State 1989-2005, 2009-2010 10 1

Finally and most impressively:

Coach Team Years 11+ Win Seasons
Bill Snyder Kansas State 1997-2003 6

We knew Bill Snyder was a good coach, but after digging into the numbers, we are simply astounded by the coaching job he has done for the Wildcats. Given the state of the program prior to his arrival in Manhattan (KS), it is nothing short of miraculous. This season, the Wildcats are off to a 6-0 start and appear to have at least two more victories on the docket and a really great chance at a 9-win season. Over the last four years, the Wildcats have had an average recruiting class of 80.25 (out of 120 teams), so it's pretty safe to assume that Snyder is not recruiting his way to victories. If he is not recruiting his way to victories, then how is Snyder doing what he is doing? This year may be a great example of how Snyder does what he does. Let's look at a few numbers:

Coach Team Year Scoring Off. Natl. Rank Avg. Scoring Def. Natl. Rank
Bill Snyder Kansas St. 2011 58 (out of 120) 21 (out of 120)

So, from the looks of it, Kansas State has a very average offense with an above average defense. Typically, teams with these kind of national rankings aren't 6-0 with victories over Miami (avg. recruiting class of 20.25 over last four years), Texas Tech (avg. recruiting class of 34.25 over last four years), and Baylor (avg. recruiting class of 49.75 over last four years). After digging around for a while, we think we may have stumbled on to the reason for the Wildcat's fast start:

3rd Down Efficiency - Offense 3rd Down Efficiency - Defense 3rd Down Differential Turnovers Lost Turnovers Gained
48.42% 32.05% 16.37% 7 13

So, the Wildcats have a 16.37% positive difference between how often they convert on third downs and how often they prevent their opponents from converting. Additionally, they have forced almost twice as many turnovers as they committed. From our standpoint, the above numbers really demonstrate coaching in action. Third down efficiency numbers are great indicators of coaching because they point to strategy, play calling, and execution.

As complicated as football can be, in the end it really isn't any more complicated than finding ways to score more points than your opponent. If you can find ways to keep your offense on the field more than your opponent, you have drastically improved your chances of winning the game. Offensive scheme, positive 3rd down efficiency differential, and positive turnover margin are all major contributing factors to overall success. The 2011 Kansas State team is certainly proof of that.

So, why is Bill Snyder a great coach and leader? Our best answer is that we don't know. The late, great leadership and management guru Peter Drucker once said the following about leadership: "Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes." From everything we have had read and know about Bill Snyder, he is a rather boring guy. He certainly doesn't fit the "energetic, motivating, recruiter" profile so many AD's seem enamored with these days.

However, from our standpoint, Snyder's somewhat plain style is just as much of a Red Herring as is a coach's energetic style. As Mr. Drucker noted, leadership should be defined by results not attributes. When you consider the results Bill Snyder has produced at Kansas State, it's hard not to place him the upper echelon of leaders and coaches in the history of college football.

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