by Lisa Sisley on December 19, 2018
I’m no football expert, Lord knows, but I’ve lived in Manhattan long enough to remember the before, during, and now after of Bill Snyder’s time at the helm of our team. Aside from maybe Isaac Goodnow, it’s hard to imagine anybody before or since who’s made a greater impact on our little piece of the planet.
I’m also no economist, but I bet somebody has calculated, or tried to calculate, the economic impact on Manhattan — and Kansas — of having a legitimate, contending football program. Of still being in the Big XII. Of having full hotels and restaurants and parking lots. Of the sales tax receipts on everything purple you could possibly imagine. Of all the other multipliers that helped build this strong community and, eventually, allowed New Boston Creative Group to also grow and prosper.
I came to Manhattan as a K-State student in 1981, but I was always a K-Stater. My dad was a proud alum. “Jayhawk” was a dirty bird/word in our house. But K-State was a basketball school then, and we just didn’t talk about football. When I got here, I bought season football tickets for almost nothing. Games were just a cheap partying venue with a little bit of football thrown in. When Nebraska came to town, they turned the stadium red and we all just tried to keep from being mowed down by the convoy of red Caddies from the north.
1982 marked the only (temporary) bright spot in K-State football for decades, with a trip to the Independence Bowl, thanks to Jim Dickey’s strategic redshirting scheme. Then we returned to hopeless mediocrity.
We K-Staters were used to a revolving door of coaches who failed to get us a sustainably respectable program. There was plenty of blame to go around, but fundamentally, we needed a person at the top who had a vision and a plan and the will to win — along with the support of the administration.
Speaking of the administration….
Maybe no one — with the stubborn exception of Jon Wefald, who arrived as the new K-State president in 1986 — saw any way out. But then, President Wefald was stubborn about a lot of things, like reversing our dismal enrollment and upping K-State’s research funding take.
He called a press conference in 1989 to announce yet another new coach. And we figured out pretty quickly after that day that the man introduced to us wasn’t just another new coach. We heard about his intense work schedule. His attention to detail. His expectations of the players.
It took a couple more years for the wins to come, but then we started to let ourselves hope. And for the last 30 years, things have been pretty good around here. Pretty good indeed.
Thank you, Coach. My life is better because you made Manhattan your home. We all owe you more than we can ever repay. Enjoy the accolades. You’ve earned them all.