PHOENIX — Bill Snyder has coached Kansas State for 26 seasons, returning once from retirement to coach at the stadium that bears his name. Tuesday night’s Cactus Bowl against UCLA could be his grand finale.
Snyder has a contract that automatically rolls over every season, but the 78-year-old coach hasn’t decided if he wants to work a 27th season or retire.
“I’ve had some dialogue and I need to have some more dialogue with my family, and more dialogue with our administration,” Snyder said. “Just needing to be more thorough with it. Because you know for me, it’s a big decision.”
Snyder helped turn Kansas State’s struggling team into a nationally prominent program when he took over in 1989. He retired in 2005, the program went into decline and Snyder returned to coaching in 2008.
Snyder has led Kansas State to eight straight bowl appearances and 19 overall, including three trips to the Fiesta Bowl in Arizona.
The Wildcats (7-5) got their 2017 season off to a slow start, losing three of their first four Big 12 games. Kansas State closed strong, its only loss in the final five games to No. 23 West Virginia by five.
UCLA (6-6) had a shaky start as well, costing coach Jim Mora his job one game before the season ended. The Bruins closed the regular season with a 30-27 victory over California under interim coach Jedd Fisch to become bowl eligible after missing the postseason a year ago.
UCLA hired former Oregon and Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly last month, but Fisch will lead the Bruins against Kansas State.
“I’ve known Chip for a while,” Fisch said, “and he just said, ‘You take this team until the bowl game is over, and then at that point in time I’ll resume or I’ll assume the duties of being the head coach.’ So that’s kind of how we’ve made this thing work.”
A few more things to look for in the Cactus Bowl:
A big question heading into the game is whether UCLA star quarterback Josh Rosen will play. He has lingering concussion issues and injured his shoulder in the final game against Cal, missing the second half. Rosen has said he wants to play, though there have been reports he won’t.
Whether he plays or not, it could be the end of the prolific quarterback’s college career. He’s expected to leave for the NFL after his junior season and could be the No. 1 pick in the draft.
Kansas State redshirt freshman Skylar Thompson began the season as the third-string quarterback but became the No. 1 QB against Kansas on Oct. 28. Thompson has proved to be an adept passer and can hurt teams with his legs, on designed runs or broken plays.
In the final three games, he threw for 515 yards and four touchdowns on 38-of-60 passing, adding 158 rushing yards and two more scores.
Kansas State and UCLA can both put up points in a hurry and neither is particularly good at stopping opponents from scoring. UCLA averages 33.8 points a game and gives up 36.8, which is 117th in the FBS. Kansas State is averaging 32.1 while allowing 25.8.
Yeah, there could be points on the board Tuesday night.
Byron Pringle of Kansas State has made the most of his 28 receptions. He finished the regular season first nationally with 25.1 yards a catch. Pringle has 705 yards and six touchdowns receiving.
Because of renovations at Arizona State’s Sun Devil Stadium, the Cactus Bowl will be held at Chase Field for the third straight year. Chase Field is home of baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks and the field is set up with one end zone along the first-base line and the other in left and center field.
The Cactus Bowl will return to Sun Devil Stadium next year.