NORMAN — Bill Snyder said he returned to Kansas State four years ago to “calm the waters.”
Instead, he stirred up college football.
The 73-year-old coach, refreshed and rejuvenated after a brief retirement, has once again raised a downtrodden program to national prominence. The seventh-ranked Wildcats won only their second Big 12 title and the third conference championship in their 117-year history, and will play Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl next month.
His star quarterback, Collin Klein, is among three Heisman Trophy finalists, and several other players on a team whose only loss came at Baylor late in the season have futures in the NFL.
It’s no surprise that Snyder was the unanimous choice as AP’s Big 12 coach of the year.
“There’s a lot of people who invest a lot of emotion, a lot of spirit, and probably who as much as anything genuinely care,” Snyder said. “Certainly that embraces all of our players and all our staff and all the support people that we have in our program.”
Snyder joined Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops as the only three-time winners of the award on Tuesday. He also won it last season, when he guided the Wildcats to the Cotton Bowl, and in 1998, when Kansas State came up just short of playing for a national championship.
The award was voted on by 18 reporters who regularly cover the conference. The players of the year and All-Big 12 teams will be announced Wednesday.
Kansas State (11-1, 8-1) was predicted to finish this season in the middle of the Big 12, a league that suddenly featured three returning conference champions in Oklahoma, West Virginia and TCU.
Things started slowly, too, with the Wildcats struggling early in a win over Missouri State.
Then they began to pick up momentum.
They ran roughshod over Miami, a team that tied for its division title in the ACC. And after an easy win over North Texas, Kansas State beat then-No. 6 Oklahoma on the road.