Bill Snyder spent one semester of his years as a college student at the school known today as Missouri Western State University.
But his time there and growing up in St. Joseph shaped the life of college football coach who is about to begin the 27th season of a Hall of Fame career at Kansas State.
Thursday, Missouri Western honored him by dedicating the Bill Snyder Pavilion on the west end of Craig Field at Spratt Stadium.
“It was an unbelievable time, and I have an amazing appreciation for St. Joseph and the people of St. Joseph who have been truly special to me,” Snyder said. “I’m so proud of this university.”
Bill Snyder Pavilion features two levels for hosting events and an 80-foot flag pole that displays a large American flag. The pavilion was built and donated by Steven L. Craig, namesake of Craig Field and the Craig School of Business on campus.
Snyder, who lived as a youth with his mother Marionetta in a three-room apartment, graduated from Lafayette High in 1958. He briefly attended Missouri.
“I did extremely poorly,” Snyder said. “I was out of my element. My mother had saved all of her life to send me to college, and I was wasting her money. So I came back to St. Joe.”
And enrolled at Missouri Western Junior College, where he played on the basketball team and “averaged two minutes a game and scored less than that.”
But the return home allowed Snyder to reevaluate his direction.
“It gave me a restart, and it allowed me to go on and finish my education,” he said. “It opened the door for me to have opportunities.”
Snyder became a coach immediately after college, mostly in the high school ranks in California. His served as an assistant football and swimming coach at Austin College in Texas before, joining Hayden Fry’s staff at North Texas in 1976. He followed Fry to Iowa, and from there took over at Kansas State for the 1989 season.
Snyder authored one of the greatest turnaround jobs in sports history, inheriting a program that had won 299 games in its first 93 years. Snyder’s teams have won 210 games and appeared in 19 bowls.
In 2015, he was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame, a rare honor for an active coach.
Thursday, he remembered his roots.
“St. Joseph will always have a special place in my heart,” Snyder said. “Missouri Western likewise.”