Snyder’s plan slowly working

Published 1:12 am Monday, November 16, 2009

It’s not what the fans want. It’s not what the boosters want. It isn’t what the players want. It certainly isn’t what Mark Snyder and the Marshall football coaching staff want.

But it is getting there. Slowly, but it is coming.

Snyder came to Marshall five years ago from Ohio State just as spring football had ended.

Email newsletter signup

Snyder came in with no recruiting class, a handful of leftover talent, and a team that lost 16 of its 22 starters from a 6-6 team. Not only was the cupboard almost bare, Marshall was jumping from the Mid-American Conference into Conference USA, a league much tougher from top to bottom and had lost 16 scholarships due to NCAA probation created by the previous coach.

But Snyder had a plan to rebuild the program the right way so that it would last and not be a one- or two-year flash. Marshall President Stephen J. Kopp and the Board of Regents concurred.

Tough losses the past two weeks at Central Florida and to Southern Mississippi have left fans and certain media members grumbling. There are those in the media who seem to be on a mission to get Snyder fired.

But firing Snyder isn’t the answer. It would only add to the problem. And if you fire Snyder, what’s the solution? Who will you hire.

First of all, Marshall has the lowest-paid coaching staff in C-USA. Getting quality coaches and keeping them will always be a problem.

And while Huntington, W.Va., is a nice town and a great university, it isn’t the Mecca of college football. Heck, it’s not even the Mecca of West Virginia.

Marshall will always fight for fans. Marshall’s fan base in West Virginia is south of Charleston and it even shares that with West Virginia University. When Marshall played WVU earlier this season, students wore WVU shirts across campus. How many WVU students do you think wore a Marshall shirt that week?

None, or at least none that are still living.

On one side of Marshall is Ohio and those fans love Ohio State. On the other side is Kentucky and they bleed Big Blue. Marshall sits among three major universities and can only hope for their leftovers.

Bringing talent to Marshall is a tough sell, yet Snyder has done that. West Virginia doesn’t have a lot of Division I caliber talent and when there are quality players, they are usually going to choose WVU.

Marshall is in a situation like other C-USA schools such as Memphis who just fired Tommy West. There’s not that much talent in Tennessee and the best goes to the Vols or Alabama or Georgia.

There is good talent on the Herd football field. And while Snyder and his staff have made some mistakes as all coaches will from a rookie to Joe Paterno, winning and losing ultimately lies with the players.

Ironton High School head football coach Bob Lutz, the winningest coach in state history, once said, “Coaches get too much credit for winning and too much blame for losing. The players have to make the plays.”

All a coach can do is prepare his team and put his players in a position to make plays and give them a chance to win the game.

Marshall’s coaches have done that this year. The coaches didn’t fumble the ball trying to run out the clock. The coaches didn’t drop touchdown passes and interceptions. The players were in position to makes plays and didn’t.

But that’s coming. That’s the next step in Snyder’s plan.

The cupboard is getting some quality talent. The players are going to class and graduating. The Herd is competing. The players’ attitudes have changed this season from being happy with moral victories of playing well to being disappointed when they lose and knowing they should have won.

Once the players take the next step and make the big plays in key situations that win games, the program will take off.

Patience is a virtue. There’s the joke about the person praying, “Dear God. I pray for patience and I want it right now.”

It’s tough to be patient. But in a market like Marshall, it takes more than a year or two, especially when you take over a program in such disarray.

So President Kopp, take note. Firing Snyder isn’t the answer. Keeping him and letting his plan work is.

—— Sinatra ——

Jim Walker is sports editor of The Ironton Tribune.