Bill Snyder might have been the happiest football coach in the Big 12 when the conference announced plans to revive its football championship game for the 2017 season.
But he didn’t celebrate as much as you might think.
“There are still some other things that have to take place,” Snyder said Wednesday at annual Catbacker banquet in Wichita. “But they are getting closer.”
What more does Snyder want?
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Nothing he hasn’t said before.
Snyder has long lobbied for the Big 12 to return to its original 12-team setup, and he won’t waver from that belief. For the time being, he hopes the conference splits into a pair of five-team divisions, as Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby has said is a likely scenario. Long term, Snyder hopes the conference chooses to expand.
“Like I have said for the past 13, 14 years, I would like to go back to the way they started it,” Snyder said. “Let’s get two more teams in here and go back to two divisions and play it. Once again, I think if they get the entire picture together the right way it will be a benefit to the conference and to universities like Kansas State.”
Snyder has been a part of several conference setups since he arrived at K-State in 1989. The Wildcats started off in the Big Eight playing a round-robin schedule, transitioned to divisional play in the Big 12 and now they are back to competing for championships via the round-robin.
He has led the Wildcats to league championships and experienced heartbreak in both formats. The highlight occurred in 2003 when they won the Big 12 North and then upset No. 1 Oklahoma in the conference title game. They showed extended dominance in 2012, winning the Big 12 with an 11-1 regular season.
Snyder’s love for a conference championship was best on display that year when he said he would prefer to return to divisional play while his team was ranked No. 1 in the BCS standings.
K-State narrowly lost out on conference championships in 1998 and 2000, falling to Texas A&M in overtime and to Oklahoma by three points, respectively.
Those losses still hurt him today, but he says the opportunity to play in those games was more meaningful than outsiders may realize.
The Wildcats only played in three of the original 15 Big 12 championship games, but they were in contention for several more. That gave K-State teams something to play for every year, even when they lost a game or two early.
Snyder emphasizes that point by bringing up the 2009 season, his first year back after a brief retirement. K-State finished 6-6 that season, losing a pair of nonconference games to Louisiana-Lafayette and UCLA.
“We weren’t a good football team,” Snyder likes to say about that year.
Still, K-State turned things around and started Big 12 play 4-2, setting up a regular-season finale at Nebraska for the Big 12 North championship. The Wildcats lost 17-3 and missed out on a bowl at 6-6, but they would have played Texas for a conference championship had they won.
That opportunity was only available because of the Big 12’s original setup. Bringing back the conference championship game is a step in the right direction. Now he wants to see the league go one step further.
“I am not pushing for anything, but that is what I would like to see happen,” Snyder said. “That is just my opinion. Someone else is going to make that decision. No one is too interested in what I have to say, but it is just my belief that the original Big 12 setup was in the best interest of our program and helped us during that time.”
Kellis Robinett: @KellisRobinett