Snyder nixed Leavitt plan

November 17, 2017 GMT

A plan to hire Jim Leavitt as Kansas State’s head coach-in-waiting during the 2017 season and promote him to the top spot next year was rejected during the past offseason by Bill Snyder, The Mercury learned Thursday.

Snyder’s nixing of that idea came because he did not want to commit to a timetable for his own retirement, The Mercury learned.

At the time the plan was being discussed, Leavitt was Colorado’s defensive coordinator. As this newspaper has previously reported, John Currie met with Leavitt in Colorado to discuss the matter last year. Currie at that time was K-State’s athletics director. It had not been clear where those discussions led, although when Leavitt left Colorado for a job at Oregon, he negotiated a clause in his contract that allowed him to leave there without penalty if he were to get the head coaching position at K-State.

Neither Currie nor Snyder could be reached for comment Thursday. University President Richard Myers also could not be reached.

K-State’s athletics department issued a one-sentence statement when asked for comment: “As has been the case and stated many times, Coach Snyder is our football coach and will remain coach until he decides otherwise.”

Reached by GoPowercat.com on Thursday, Leavitt said in a text message he “had no desire” of being a head coach-in-waiting anywhere.

He coached from 1990 to 1995 under Snyder as a defensive assistant.

“I always have been and always will be Coach Snyder’s No. 1 fan,” Leavitt wrote. “If Coach ever retires, which may not be for some time, I would want whatever is best for KSU and the people of Kansas. Hopefully sometime soon I will have the opportunity to be a head coach again. For now my only concern is to help build our defense at Oregon.”

Leavitt has previous experience as a head coach, building South Florida’s program from scratch. Hired in December 1995, Leavitt spent a full year getting the infrastructure and logistics of fielding a football team arranged, signing his first class in 1996 before the Bulls played their first game in 1997. Leavitt led the Bulls for 13 years, compiling a 97-57 overall record, but his tenure ended in controversy in 2010, when he was fired after an investigation by university officials concluded he had struck a player during halftime of a game the previous fall. Leavitt got back into coaching in time for the 2011 NFL season, as he was hired by Jim Harbaugh to tutor San Francisco’s linebackers.

The subject of the proposed deal with Leavitt and Snyder’s nixing of it surfaced Thursday after it was reported by former ESPN reporter Brett McMurphy, quoting unnamed sources.

McMurphy wrote on social media that his source told him Snyder nixed the arrangement because he wanted his son Sean to succeed him. The Mercury could not confirm that; the newspaper learned that Snyder indicated he wasn’t ready to commit to a timetable for his own retirement.

Snyder has publicly stated many times that he thinks Sean — the Wildcats’ associate head coach and special teams coordinator — should be the next head coach. Snyder has also said he intends to keep coaching unless bad health prevents him. He made it through throat cancer treatment this past offseason.

Snyder, 78, is in his 26th season leading the Wildcats, time which has been spread over two separate head coaching stints. At the time he was first hired in 1988, K-State was arguably the worst football program in major college football. Snyder turned the Wildcats into a winner, capturing a Big 12 championship in 2003 and playing for two more (1998 and 2000) before retiring in 2005.

He then returned in 2009, leading the Wildcats to another conference title in 2012.

This season, however, has been a struggle. K-State enters Saturday’s game at No. 13 Oklahoma State at 5-5 overall, needing a victory in one of its last two regular-season games to earn a bowl bid.

— Publisher Ned Seaton contributed to this report.