Bill Snyder is a complex man composed of innumerable attributes, all of which figure in how this force of nature became a virtual miracle worker at Kansas State.
Compassion is part of his makeup, as many of the thousands of people who’ve received handwritten notes from him might know.
But that’s often obscured by the more high-profile traits that fuel him: the numbing consistency and endless persistency that make him a control freak of epic magnitude even in a profession dominated by that mindset.
This is a man who for most of his tenure at K-State has sought to cheat time by eating once a day, typically late at night while watching film on a treadmill.
This is a man whose imaginative penchant for detail has extended to such excruciating minutiae as patrolling butter vs. margarine for team meals and what side of the plane to Tokyo in 1992 his team would fly on with Nebraska so as to minimize the sun and maximize its sleep.
This is a man who scripts everything, typically months in advance, and expects others around him to do the same …
And then to make circumstances yield and conform to his script instead of vice versa.
So this explains at least a little bit about both how the 78-year-old Snyder arrived at a rare cringe-worthy moment on Thursday night and just how out of character his apparent defense of not releasing a player from scholarship was.
It also speaks to how remarkable the ensuing events were.
The saga in a sense ended Friday with the player, receiver Corey Sutton, being released from his scholarship after all.
But not before Snyder’s ill-considered words made a squabble into a national story and left him apologizing Friday afternoon.
“I would like to apologize to Corey and his family for my remarks last night which included sensitive and private information,” Snyder said in a statement. “I spoke out of line and for that I express a sincere regret for my comments.”
Snyder surely has publicly apologized for something before.
But it’s hard to recall anything with such a humbling hat-in-hand component to it.
And the fact that it was delivered on the first full day new athletic director Gene Taylor had returned from the Big 12 meetings suggests a developing new dynamic in Manhattan.
Snyder isn’t in control of Taylor, who evidently has sufficient respect from Snyder that he can reason with him.
Taylor may or may not have had to force or extract Snyder’s apology, but at the very least he was able to work with him towards an appropriate resolution of an unnecessary debacle.
This is just a moment in the early stages of their relationship, but it’s a promising glimpse because of the hovering elephants in the room:
How much longer Snyder can or should go on and how much say he should have in his replacement -- whom Snyder seems determined to have be his son, Sean, K-State’s special teams coordinator.
It’s early yet, but it’s encouraging that Taylor seems to have a more effective relationship with Snyder than did predecessor John Currie entering into what figure to be some mighty complicated days ahead.
It won’t be good for anybody if Snyder isn’t heard, but it also won’t be good for anybody if he has carte blanche.
This episode exposed that in an entirely new way, both in terms of the power a coach can wield and the need to have checks and balances.
What had begun as a typically measured Snyder sound bite on Thursday morphed into a curious stream-of-consciousness crescendo that left a distressing impression of Snyder.
As he spoke of Sutton, Snyder transitioned to a point that conceivably had not been about Sutton … but also was immediately in the flow of Snyder’s words about him (and was acknowledged Friday to be so).
“There’s a young man who’s been in trouble twice, tested positive twice,” Snyder said before a Catbackers function in Overland Park. “I’ve never kept a player in our program who has tested positive two times. Drug testing. We have some rules in our athletic department that allowed that to happen at this time.”
Even with the apology, the optics were disturbing.
It was an egregious violation of privacy policies and evidently against FERPA itself, and it was all the more baffling coming from a man who treats injury reports like the nuclear codes.
In seemingly trying to talk in generalities about or around Sutton, Snyder lapsed and transgressed into one of the most personal of areas.
How and why he allowed this crude slip is a mystery, even if there could be any number of reasons.
Snyder, who is contending with throat cancer, received treatment at the University of Kansas Cancer Center.
It’s purely speculation, but could it be that lingering wooziness was a factor in his judgment or perception?
Or maybe his filter has eroded some as he ages, exacerbated in this case by his exasperation with what he perceives as an increasingly instant gratification generation.
Most tangibly, though, it’s believed Snyder was aware that Sutton had referred to him as a “slave master” on Twitter before deleting the Tweet.
That was a reckless and rotten thing for Sutton to say, on many levels, but of course Snyder has to be above retaliating.
Even with the surprising public apology, it’s hard for anyone to un-see what Snyder did.
The perception will linger that Snyder has become not just the coach who won’t grant a release from scholarship for an unhappy player but one who will punish him for going public about it.
Despite Sutton’s protests, the issue perhaps would have remained largely under the radar if not for the fascinating twist of the typically reserved Snyder … talking too much.
He began innocently and logically enough – though the essence of his initial point would make for an excellent panel discussion in itself:
“If you’re (second team), you probably want to be a No. 1, and if you have the option to leave and you have 22 No. 2s on your team leaving, you don’t have much of a team left,” he said Thursday. “It doesn’t make sense to not try to prevent that from happening.”
Again, reasonable minds can debate that point either way:
The epidemic transfer trend, particularly in college basketball is disconcerting as it careens towards virtual free agency.
But also troubling is the notion that a student-athlete simply doesn’t have the right to make a change if he or she is unhappy where they are.
Little is known about why Snyder had taken such an obstinate stance in the case of Sutton.
In the past, he’s treated different players wanting to transfer in different ways. In some cases, Snyder allowed it more easily, in others he balked but ultimately relented.
For that matter, surely there have been situations in which a player had an urge to leave and was persuaded to stay and all was well that ended well.
That didn’t happen with Sutton, who appeared in 10 games as a reserve last year but announced last month that he planned to transfer.
In part, he told The Star, that was because he had been told by receiver coach Andre Coleman he would start last year.
Snyder denied that Coleman would have said such a thing, saying “that’s not even close to being accurate.”
Whatever has led to all this, though, Snyder lost this battle … in terms of how petty he looked and in the sense that Sutton got his release and the signal that Taylor is in charge.
All because one way or another, for one reason or another, the man whose compassion runs deep found that in short supply.
And the man who has been able to control everything for once wasn’t able to control himself.
Even so, there is a win-win that could come of this:
Snyder and Taylor have much work with each other ahead, and being able to collaborate (one way or another) to produce a clear-headed, fair-minded result amid this conflict makes for a nice initial foundation toward the right solutions down the road.