Snyder rebuilding Marshall football program right way

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 2, 2008

ASHLAND, Ky. — A few blocks away from the Marshall Coaches Tour stop at Superior Jeep/Dodge is Shawn Walker Architect and Associates.

And while Marshall head coach Mark Snyder will never seek employment there, he’s doing his best imitation of trying to be the architect of the football program.

When the former Marshall All-American defensive back arrived at his alma mater as the new head coach, he found a program that he was told needed some fences mended.

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What he didn’t know was there were areas that actually needed a fence.

Snyder took charge on the last day of spring drills. He didn’t even get to recruit his first class before his first season. But he did begin to institute discipline and accountability among his players.

Marshall was 6-6 the season before Snyder was hired when former coach Bob Pruett decided to retire just before the start of spring practice. The Herd lost 16 of 22 starters and they were facing a probation period that cost the university 16 scholarships.

Snyder began to rebuild a program that had only begun to dig its footer.

Although he won his first game, Snyder has endured more losses than wins in three years. The Herd faithful has been grumbling, but Snyder admits he does not feel any pressure.

In fact, he is very positive and upbeat.

“We just have to show improvement, and I think we have and we’re going to get better,” said Snyder. “I said when I got here it would take three years to build this thing back up.”

Snyder was the defensive coordinator at Ohio State when he left for Marshall. He turned down similar offers for even more pay and perks from Lou Holtz at South Carolina and Les Miles at LSU to take the Marshall job.

The decision to return to the Tri-state area was a decision both Snyder and his wife, the former Beth Molter, also a graduate of Ironton High School, agreed to make.

“We talked about being home. It’s about family. This is home. This is why I came here. I’ve been to a lot of places and all the events are the same, but it wasn’t home. This is fun,” said Snyder.

Last year wasn’t real fun as the Herd went 3-9. There were sparks of hope and Snyder said those sparks should ignite a fire this time.

“We were getting better last year and we got beat up and we didn’t have the numbers. There were a lot of factors. I think we’re heading back up. Our schedule early was hard. I like the way our schedule lays out this year,” said Snyder.

One way to build a program quickly is to bring in junior college transfers. But there are often times when teams don’t get what they want not only in terms of talent but character as well. Snyder wants good students who are good players.

“The people who are in charge know what’s going on. The president (Dr. Stephen J. Kopp) of the university gave me a contract extension for a reason. I still have five years left,” said Snyder.

“We want to try and do this thing the right way. The program was in worse shape than people realized when we got here. We didn’t want to do a quick fix and then start all over again in a couple of years. We want this to be something that will continue for eight or nine years and beyond,” said Snyder.

A grueling non-conference schedule, a season-ending injury during preseason workouts to All-American defensive lineman Albert McClellan, and a flood of additional injuries throughout the season put Marshall behind the 8-ball last year.

Snyder believes all that is about to change and he offers a ray of hope to fans throughout the Thundering Herd nation.

“Come watch us this year. We’ll be better. We’re not where we’d like to be. We’re about a year away from being real good,” said Snyder.