Originally Published: Oct 28, 2009 10:26 PM CDT
Oklahoma Sports Staff Writer
NORMAN, Oklahoma – Bob Stoops’ illustrious coaching career began at Kansas State, where he was given his first leadership opportunity by head coach Bill Snyder.
Snyder arrived at Kansas State in 1989 and promptly named Stoops co-defensive coordinator, a position he retained until 1995 when he became Florida’s defensive coordinator.
When Snyder and Stoops joined Kansas State, it was in the middle of a 27-game winless streak and was considered to be one of the worst programs in the nation. In the six seasons before Snyder’s arrival, the Wildcats had only won nine times in 66 games.
“I’ve said this before, but it’s true, I don’t know that anybody really has any idea how bad off and what poor shape that program was in,” Stoops said. “It’s talked about, but when you live it, you really realize what a horrible situation we came into ? Just being a part of that process for seven years really grows you as a coach.”
In the first season under Snyder’s direction, Kansas State struggled to a 1-10 record, but it was all uphill from there. In the following six seasons, the Wildcats went 47-23-1. During Snyder’s tenure from 1989-2005, he won 136 games. That is more than his predecessors won in the previous 53 years combined.
Bob Stoops was defensive co-coordinator at the time with Jim Leavitt, who is now the head coach at South Florida. Stoops left for Florida the same year that the Big Eight became the Big 12. Despite the fact that Stoops has moved on to attain success as a head coach, he said his memories at Kansas State are some of the best of his coaching career.
“You have to find a way,” Stoops said. “Coach Snyder was very much that way, and all of us as assistants when we got there, we weren’t going to fail. One way or another, we were going to get this turned around. I’ve got to admit, that first year, I was wondering. But it happened, little by little. It was a very rewarding experience, too. Some of my favorite wins I’ll always cherish are from there.”
Stoops arrived at Oklahoma in 1999, with Snyder still leading Kansas State to unprecedented success. Stoops’ first showdown against his mentor came in 2000, and it was a memorable one.
With Kansas State ranked second in the nation, the Sooners defeated the Wildcats 41-31 and derailed their possible national championship season. OU then had to beat them again in the Big 12 Championship, which they did 27-24.
That win sent the Sooners on to the national championship, where they defeated Florida State and won their first championship since 1985.
Snyder retired in 2005 after suffering his first consecutive losing seasons since his first two years at Kansas State. Stoops said he was not surprised when he learned of Snyder’s announcement.
“I know how much he had invested for so long,” Stoops said. “I can envision myself down the road, at some point, there’s a certain point that, ‘Hey, it’s time to do something different.’”
After Snyder’s replacement, Ron Prince, led Kansas State to just one winning season, Prince was fired and Snyder returned. Under his direction this season, the Wildcats have already matched their total wins and surpassed their conference wins from last season.
“I guess for him he just felt the need to come back,” Bob Stoops said. “He’s healthy and he’s able to do it, so he obviously felt it’s what he wanted to do and good for him. I’m happy for him, and he’s doing a great job as usual.”
The Sooners travel to Manhatten Saturday, and Stoops will face his mentor for the first time since 2005. Stoops has a career 5-1 record against Snyder, with his only loss coming in the 2003 Big 12 Championship when the Sooners lost in a 28-point rout.
While Stoops has moved on to achieve great success on his own, he is well aware of how much of his skill as a coach is thanks to the time he spent learning from Bill Snyder.
“Coach Snyder gave me a break and gave me a full-time job at Kansas State when he came into the program,” Stoops said. “I don’t know how to quantify how much, but he certainly has had a major influence.”
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