Rece Davis, master of ceremonies for the College Football Hall of Fame ceremony, asked for one more question, gazed around the room, and saw the raised hand of a woman in a purple shawl.
“I have just one question,” Sharon Snyder said. “He’s very good at math, and I used to be a math teacher. However, I need to remind him that we have five children.”
Bill Snyder, architect of perhaps the greatest turnaround in college football history at Kansas State, had forgotten to mention one of his five kids and the room roared with laughter.
“I was just thinking about that,” Snyder said. “I don’t know who I missed.”
That would be daughter Whitney, a former standout in equestrian at Kansas State. Dad blushed and apologized, and the spin on this slip might be that it took so many people to turn around the nation’s most moribund program that Snyder didn’t have time to name them all.
Let’s go with that.
“So many wonderful things wouldn’t have happened in my life without all those people,” Snyder said.
Snyder was among 17 new Hall of Fame members introduced on Friday, a kickoff occasion to the College Football Playoff title game on Monday between Oregon and Ohio State.
He’s the fourth coach to be inducted while coaching, following Florida State’s Bobby Bowden, Penn State’s Joe Paterno and John Gagliardi of Division III St. John’s in Minnesota.
“It means I’ve been around a long time,” said Snyder, 75
He’s been around for 23 years over two tenures at Kansas State, where he arrived after serving as Iowa’s offensive coordinator. The Wildcats had posted 30 nonwinning seasons in the previous 33. Snyder turned the team into a winner in his third season, won a bowl game in his fifth and had Kansas State ranked first nationally in his 10th. His 187-94-1 career record speaks to only part of his impact at Kansas State. Winning football changed the image and fortunes of the university and community.
“Perhaps the greatest coaching job of our generation,” said Davis, an ESPN studio host.
There’s a Big 12/Big Eight flavor to the list. Besides Snyder, Oklahoma linebacker Brian Bosworth and Nebraska linebacker Trev Alberts were announced. Both players had been on the ballot for several years, and Bosworth was passed over many times because he was banned from the game for admitting to steroid use.
Bosworth, the only two-time Butkus Award winner as the nation’s top linebacker, said he didn’t mind the wait.
“I think the journey took place the way it needed to take place,” Bosworth said. “If it had happened 10 years ago, my heart, my mind, my spirituality wouldn’t have been in the same place.”
From the Big 12 era, Texas running back Ricky Williams, the 1998 Heisman Trophy winner, and Texas Tech linebacker Zach Thomas got the call.
Among others who will be enshrined at a formal ceremony in New York in December are Washington offensive lineman Lincoln Kennedy, Pittsburgh offensive tackle Ruben Brown, Florida wide receiver Wes Chandler, Arizona State linebacker Bob Breunig and Michigan running back Rob Lytle.
“When I played college football, my greatest motivating factor was I didn’t want to let my teammates down,” Kennedy said.
Also announced was Kentucky defensive end Art Still, who went on to become an All-Pro with the Chiefs and is a member of the team’s Hall of Fame.
Still, from Camden, N.J., said he originally wanted to go a Big Ten school, and it appeared Michigan State was the destination. But a new staff at Kentucky, led by head coach Fran Curci, persuaded Still to become a Wildcat.
“They said I’d have an opportunity to come in and play right away,” Still said.
Kentucky went 19-4 in Still’s final two years. He was an All-American in 1977 and the Chiefs made him the second overall pick in the 1978 draft, behind Texas running back Earl Campbell. Still was a four-time Pro Bowl selection with the Chiefs and is a member of the team’s Hall of Fame.
The college hall class included a controversial choice. Former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, who won the national championship for the 2002 season, was forced to resign after the 2010 season after he withheld information from the school and NCAA about possible violations by some of his players.
The NCAA imposed a five-year show cause order on Tressel that would mean possible sanctions to any school that hired him as a coach. Today, he’s president of Youngstown State.
“That was looked at closely,” said Steve Hatchell, who oversees the Hall of Fame as president and CEO of the National Football Foundation. “This wasn’t shoot from the hip. It was all carefully considered.”
Tressel was nominated by a group that considers the candidacies of those associated with the level below Division I. He spent 15 years as Youngstown State’s head coach and won four NCAA championships.
College Football Hall of Fame Class of 2015
Trev Alberts, LB
Brian Bosworth, LB
Bob Breunig, LB
Sean Brewer, DL
Ruben Brown, OT
Wes Chandler, SE
Thom Gatewood, SE
Dick Jauron, RB
Clinton Jones, RB
Lincoln Kennedy, OT
Rob Lytle, RB, (deceased)
Michael Payton, QB
Art Still, DE
Zach Thomas, LB
Ricky Williams, RB
Youngstown St., Ohio St.
▪ Some 5.06 million have played college football in 146 years. Including the 2015 class, the Hall includes 963 players and 209 coaches.
▪ The Hall of Fame was established in 1947 and among those in the first class were Jim Thorpe, Red Grange, Knute Rockne and Amos Alonzo Stagg.
▪ The induction ceremony will be Dec. 8, 2015, at the National Football Foundation annual dinner in New York City.