K-State is synonymous with two things: purple, and Bill Snyder. The purple adorns the uniforms, and Coach Snyder’s name adorns the stadium, where he still stalks the sidelines on game day. Royal Purple, to be specific, has been a part of Kansas State tradition since 1896. It dominates every K-State uniform, and is the name of the school yearbook. Snyder has only been with the team since the 1989 season, but in Manhattan, Kansas, he’s more ubiquitous than the team colors.
The prickly coach is known for his windbreakers as much as his wins, which include two Big 12 titles and multiple Bowl Game appearances. He’s so famous at K-State that the school named the building after him. And while it’s certainly rare enough to have a stadium named after you, coaching in it is another story.
Snyder led the Wildcats until 2005, when he retired from coaching after two disappointing seasons. The day after Snyder stepped down, the field then known as KSU Stadium was renamed Bill Snyder Family Stadium. But the retirement was brief, as Snyder was lured back to the sidelines in 2009 for a second go-around that has brought even more success to the school.
There’s a reason K-State put his name on the field. Snyder is credited with turning around the program in Manhattan. From 1912 through Snyder’s first season as coach, in 1989, the Wildcats had one Bowl appearance and no double-digit win seasons. Since Snyder took over, they’ve won 10 or more games nine times and have reached 15 bowl games.
How bad was Kansas State before Snyder? SI used to refer to the school as “Futility U,” and the job was seen as a career killer for any coach dumb enough to take over the only program with 500 losses. At that time, K-State was the worst program in college football history by a wide margin -- 50 more defeats than No. 2 Wake Forest.
Snyder took over a Wildcats team on a particularly astounding run of poor performances. From 1985 through the end of 1988, K-State was 3-40, and had just posted back-to-back winless seasons. Nine years later, Snyder was anointed a “miracle worker” in the pages of SI.
Snyder has given K-State fans a reason the cheer the past few decades, and they often choose a very specific way to show their support. TV cameras panning the crowd at Snyder Family Stadium will inevitably show “EMAW” signs -- an acronym for “Every Man A Wildcat,” and a meaningful slogan for fans who feel a deep, personal connection to the school and the team.
While the EMAW is still painted on the chests of fans and used as a rallying hashtag on Twitter, its official usage has fallen out of favor in recent years. Some fans don’t find the slogan inclusive enough for K-States many female fans, and as a result the marching band no longer spells out “EMAW” at halftime.
EMAW or not, K-State football continues its resurgence since Snyder came back from retirement in 2009. Snyder’s steady hand has led to improved results on the field and plenty of donor money. When Snyder retires for good, he will have literally built the stadium in which he has won so many times. With his name on the building, was there ever any doubt?