In one corner, there’s Alex Delton and Bill Snyder.
In the other? Skylar Thompson and the assistant coaches.
While quarterback controversies are more known for splitting fanbases, the drama and divides in the ranks of the Kansas State Wildcats staff spilled into public view on Tuesday with a report from The Wichita Eagle that painted a picture of a power struggle between Snyder and his offensive assistants.
According to the report, it’s been brewing for a while, as new offensive coordinator Andre Coleman and quarterbacks coach Collin Klein combined with other assistants to push Snyder towards starting Skylar Thompson at quarterback to begin the season.
When Thompson audibled out of a quarterback sneak on 4th and 1 against West Virginia i the blowout loss last weekend, calling an option play instead, it was a disastrous decision that infuriated Snyder during the game and after.
“I can’t coach a team that can’t get six inches on a play,” Snyder said after the game.
Snyder’s response was immediate and made without telling Coleman or Klein — the legendary head coach simply went over to Delton and inserted him into the game. Thompson said he was “blindsided” by the decision. Following the blowout loss, Snyder praised Delton and criticized Thompson before replays forced him to moderate his appraisal of the former starter.
Not exactly a sign of emotional stability for the 78-year-old coach — most head coaches decline to offer such critiques until watching the film, even if it’s just a deflection.
Now Delton will be the starter against Texas as Snyder tired of making decisions at the most important position on the field based on the wishes of his assistants, including Coleman, who took over the offensive coordinator role after Dana Dimel left to become the head coach at UTEP.
The decision carries with it some risks and some advantages. Delton is the better runner of the two and can boast of his success against Texas last season, when he entered the game in replacement of injured starter Jesse Ertz and ran for 75 yards and two touchdowns to keep Kansas State in the game. The risks include the reality that he’s completing less than 50 percent of his passes this season and has thrown two interceptions in only 31 attempts. He’s also taken eight sacks behind an offensive line that has hemorrhaged negative plays.
Regardless of whether Delton actually gives the Wildcats a better chance of winning the game against the Longhorns on Saturday, Snyder’s behavior and disagreements with his assistants could be an indication that Snyder is losing his touch.
His defensive coordinator, Tom Hayes, retired after last season after coaching at Kansas State since 2011. Dimel played at Kansas State and moved from his graduate assistant role to coaching the offensive line when Snyder first took over in Manhattan in 1989. After spending eight seasons under Snyder, he moved on, but returned for another stint as a graduate assistant in 2005 and coached Snyder’s offense from 2009 to 2017 when Snyder returned to coaching.
In other words, Snyder relied heavily on continuity on his coaching staff, as well as finding under-recruited prospects, walk ons, and junior college recruits to bridge the talent gap between the Wildcats and nearly every other program in the conference. As the program struggles to replace several top contributors on both sides of the ball, the defense has suffered and the offense is embroiled in a quarterback controversy between Snyder and his assistants.
Going with Delton as the starter could galvanize the team combined with a bunker mentality produced by two blowout losses and a narrow home win over an FCS opponent in the first four games.
Or the intra-staff disagreements and Snyder’s public displays of anger could be a sign that an aging coach is losing his grip on a program with little margin for error.