MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Bill Snyder, whose turnaround of Kansas State has been called "the Miracle in Manhattan," has told school officials he'll return to coach the Wildcats again. The 69-year-old Snyder was introduced at a news conference Monday morning.
Snyder retired three years ago after taking the losingest program in major college football history and turning it into a winner, an achievement that many in college football thought impossible. He left with a 136-68-1 record and will replace the man who replaced him, Ron Prince, who was fired with three games left but finished out the season.
The school said only that the Monday news conference was to discuss the coaching situation.
Kansas City Chiefs safety Jon McGraw, who starred for Snyder from 1999-2001, said he spoke with his old coach several months ago and "got the feeling he missed being out of coaching."
"But it didn't occur to me he would want to come back," McGraw said.
Snyder was the offensive coordinator at Iowa when then-athletic director Steve Miller hired him after the 1988 season. The Wildcats had gone 0-21-1 their two previous years and many people were wondering if the school ought to give up major college football status.
The Wildcats had a record of 299-510, the only major college with 500 losses. They'd won one conference title -- in 1934 -- and enjoyed only two winning seasons in 34 years.
But by 1997, Snyder had the Wildcats contending for national as well as Big 12 honors. As one long-suffering fan put it at the time, "It's like we're a big extended family that's been living in poverty for generations, but now we've got a smart uncle who's making us all rich."
When Snyder retired as the most revered figure in the school's athletic history, the stadium was renamed "Bill Snyder Family Stadium," and the highway leading from Interstate 70 into Manhattan was renamed "Bill Snyder Highway."
Prince, who replaced Snyder after the 2005 season, was 17-20 and beaten down by the same disadvantages that have plagued Kansas State for decades: no major population within a short distance to recruit from, little tradition and less money than more richly endowed institutions.
In a profession known for sleep-deprived workaholics, Snyder's nearly inhuman devotion to his work became legendary. During his tenure as head coach, one of sons, Ross, was recruited by several smaller schools in the area as a running back.
On national signing day, Ross decided to attend Butler County Community College. A reporter who knew the family approached Snyder following Kansas State's recruiting news conference that day and remarked that he thought Ross had made a good choice.
"Who did he sign with?" Snyder asked. He had been so wrapped up in Kansas State's recruiting, he hadn't yet learned where his son was going to school.
Another key reason for Snyder's success was his eye for coaching talent. Among the young assistants he brought to Kansas State who went on to become head coaches were Bob Stoops at Oklahoma, Mark Mangino at Kansas, Jim Leavitt at South Florida and Mike Stoops at Arizona.
His first Kansas State team won only one game, beating North Texas with a last-minute drive. The next year they were 5-6, matching their best record in 17 years. In 1993, they won the Copper Bowl and began a string of 11 consecutive bowl trips.
In 2003, the Wildcats beat Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Game for their only league title since 1934.
Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer told the Associated Press when Snyder retired that he considered what Snyder had done at Kansas State "the greatest coaching job in history."
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