Coaching Highs And Coaching Lows

In the Roman Catholic Church, the process of canonization – the means by which a person is made a Saint – requires evidence that two miracles had to have been performed in his/her name after his/her death. To be sure, there are other steps in that process, but that one is a large part of the process. It is the part about “after death” that means Bill Snyder’s time as head football coach at Kansas State is not going to count here because Snyder is still very much alive.

Snyder has performed two “Miracles in Manhattan” wherein he took a moribund football program that elicited no interest outside the student body/the alums and reincarnated that program into something people all over the country took note of. Basically, he brought Kansas State football back from the dead and made it alive again – twice. Snyder first appeared at Kansas State in the late 1980s and here is what the program had accomplished prior to his arrival:

    From 1935 until Snyder’s arrival in 1989, Kansas State had only 5 winning seasons in football.

    At the time of Snyder’s arrival, Kansas State had lost 27 consecutive games.

I do not think I would get much of an argument by labeling any program with that overlay as moribund, comatose, or even “dead as a stone.” Two years later, Kansas State had a 7-4 record; by 1993, Kansas State won a bowl game; by the mid-90s, Kansas State was a regular in the Top 10 of the AP Poll. That qualifies as “breathing life back into the dead”. Snyder stayed on for 17 years and averaged 8 wins a season. In 2005, at the age of 66, Bill Snyder retired from his position.

Kansas State football did not go all the way back to its primordial state of awfulness in his absence, but suffice it to say that the “Ron Prince Era” in Manhattan, KS is unlikely to be celebrated anytime in the future. Then in 2009 – at the age of 70 – Bill Snyder returned to the sidelines. Since his return, K-State has had records of 6-6, 7-6 and 10-2. This year, K-State is 4-0 and last week they went to Norman, OK and beat Oklahoma on their home field. Folks, that was not a “fluky win” either; Kansas State ran the ball for 217 yards on a strong Oklahoma defense. OU coach, Bob Stoops – once an assistant coach under Snyder by the way – had a home field record of 78-3 going into that game.

Bill Snyder will be 73 years old in 10 days; he has resurrected Kansas State football for the second time.

Now, in order to keep the universe in balance, there has to be a “failure story” to balance out every “success story”. I have one of those for you today and to give it perspective I need to set the stage. I have two folks that I always use as examples of coaching futility:

    Roy Rubin: He had been the coach at Long Island University when the 76ers hired him to coach their team in the Fall of 1972. Rubin lasted 51 games; when he left, the team had a record of 4-47; the team would go on to lose 73 games for the year.

    Rick Venturi: In three years at Northwestern, his record was 1-31-1. Twice he was an interim head coach in the NFL (Indy and New Orleans) and his record in those positions was 2-17. I will do the math for you; his combined head coaching record in college and pro football is 3-48-1.

Today I want to add the name of Trudi Lacey, who was canned by the Washington Mystics (WNBA) earlier this week, to my list. Ms. Lacey took over the job of head coach/GM of the Mystics in 2011; the team had posted the best record in the WNBA Eastern Conference in 2010. Let me be polite and say that the Mystics did not thrive under Trudi Lacey’s leadership. In 2011, the team went 6-28; unbelievably, the team actually got worse in 2012 finishing with a record of 5-29. Recall that Ms. Lacey was also the GM for the Mystics over the past two seasons, In her role as GM for two years, she signed and/or traded for 10 players who are no longer on the roster. The team she inherited – the one with the best record in the Eastern conference – now has only two players still on the roster.

The Mystics – not surprisingly – have the most ping-pong balls in the hopper for the WNBA Draft Lottery where Brittney Griner is sure to be the first overall pick if she can avoid a fatal accident between now and the draft. The legacy of the Trudy Lacey Era in Washington is a stack of ping-pong balls…

There are reports that the NFL and the NFLRA have reached an agreement in their negotiations for a new CBA and that the regular referees will be back on the field starting tonight. According to reports, here are the highlights of the deal:

    The current pension plan will remain until 2016 when it will be replaced by something akin to a 401(k) plan with a defined contribution from the NFL plus matching contributions.

    Average salary for officials will increase from $149K last year to just over $200K at the end of the deal in 2019. [Aside: For part-time work, that is not chump change.]

    The NFL has the right to begin to hire full-time officials starting next year.

    The NFL has the right to hire more officials than it will use in a weekend or a season for “training and developmental purposes”.

Contain your euphoria over the disappearance of the replacement refs for just a moment; you may resume your exultations in about one minute. Look at that list of terms in the new CBA and ask yourself what it is on that list that could not have been done back in July as NFL training camps opened. Neither side can look at this deal as one that deals a deathblow to the other side; this is a reasonable end-point for negotiations over those kinds of issues. Remember to assign blame to everyone who sat in on even a moment of these negotiations for making NFL fans have to put up with replacement refs. They all deserve your scorn.

Finally, here is commentary from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World Herald regarding the replacement refs:

“There was a bizarre ending to the Monday Night Football game between Seattle and Green Bay. It’s gotten to the point that when a replacement ref makes the correct call, the contest is stopped for a brief fireworks show and the game ball is then sent to the Hall of Fame.

“After a Hail Mary pass in the end zone at the end of Monday Night Football, one referee signaled touchdown and another signaled interception. What made it worse is when the replacement refs broke the stalemate with rock, paper, scissors.

“ESPN analyst Jon Gruden called it “tragic”. If you’re doing some early Christmas shopping for Gruden, you can’t go wrong with a dictionary and a newspaper subscription.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

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  • tenacious P  On September 27, 2012 at 8:30 am

    Congratulations to Roger Goodell. Finally, he has moved up in my eyes–from used-car salesman to furniture salesman. Now, let’s get back to blaming the refs for everything, including burning my toast in the morning.

    • The Sports Curmudgeon  On September 27, 2012 at 2:02 pm


      The “Real Refs” will have a honeymoon period. They too will blow a call here and there as they always have but at least it will be the “Real Refs” making the mistakes infrequently instead of the “Replacement Refs” making the mistakes just about every other play.

      If you hold that opinion of Roger Goodell, what would you call the negotiation team for the NFLRA that cost its members almost 20% of their pay this year fighting to keep the pension plan as it is and fighting to keep the NFL from hiring full-time and extra officials? Looks to me as if those points made it into the new CBA.

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