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McFeely: FWIW, Bison fans, future of Kansas State football coach will be decided this week

North Dakota State University athletic director Gene Taylor, right, listens as Chris Klieman talks about his selection as the next head coach of the North Dakota State University Bison football team Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013, at the Fargodome. Dave Wallis / Forum News Service

FARGO - For what it's worth, and it might not be much, Bill Snyder's future as the Kansas State football coach will be decided this week. It's a story North Dakota State followers should at least keep one eye on because Bison head coach Chris Klieman's name will likely surface as a candidate.

How real the possibility that Klieman could go from the Football Championship Subdivision to a successful major-conference Football Bowl Subdivision team like Kansas State of the Big 12 is debatable. But given the coach's record and relationship with Wildcats athletic director Gene Taylor, the former AD at NDSU, it will at least be discussed.

We will know soon, according to a story in the Wichita Eagle. Kansas State beat writer Kellis Robinett reports that Taylor wants to find out if the 79-year-old Snyder wants to return or retire soon. The two will meet Wednesday to discuss what the legendary coach wants to do.

"I would expect something this week, one way or the other," Taylor told the Eagle. "The sooner the better."

Snyder has coached the Wildcats for a total of 27 years in two stints, interrupted by a three-year retirement. He's won 215 games at the Manhattan, Kan., school, turning a once-moribund program into a consistent winner. The Wildcats' stadium is named after him.

But Kansas State has struggled the past few years, including this season's 5-7 record. The Wildcats missed a bowl game for the first time since 2009, have only eight recruits committed for next year and have struggled to retain recent recruiting classes. There has been heavy speculation Snyder would retire after this season - or that Taylor might force out the coach.

Taylor told the Wichita newspaper he is leaving the decision to Snyder.

"He deserves a lot of leeway in this decision, based on what he has done and what he means to the program," Taylor told the Eagle. "At the end of the day, it is myself and President (Richard) Myers (making the decision). We need to decide what is best for our football program. If it is him staying, then great. If it's not, then we will have to work through that. But he gets a lot of leeway. I think people lose sight of that and forget all he does. Right, wrong or indifferent, even if people disagree with it, I think he deserves a lot of leeway in this process."

If Snyder doesn't return, Klieman's name will be in the discussion as a possible replacement because of his success at NDSU and his relationship with Taylor. Klieman is 65-6 in five seasons with the Bison and has won three national championships. NDSU is 11-0 and the top seed in the current FCS playoffs. The Bison open the postseason Saturday against Montana State at the Fargodome.

Taylor hired Klieman in 2013 to replace Craig Bohl, who left for Wyoming. Klieman was Bohl's defensive coordinator.

Taylor said he's had a list of possible replacements for Snyder prepared since last year. He didn't share any names with the Wichita newspaper.

“I always knew, from the day I got here, how long Coach was going to coach was part of the process,” Taylor said. “It’s a big part of the job. . . .. Last year, I had my list (of potential replacements). I wasn’t sure how Coach would make it through the year with his health concerns and sure enough some of those guys got taken. So you scratch their names off your list, then you add some new ones on.”

“In your mind, you walk yourself through the process. How am I going to handle it? How fast am I going to react? Who is going to be involved? Who am I going to reach out to? How quickly am I going to get out on the road? And am I going to go somewhere and talk to people? I have a really solid plan in my mind. It’s not on the forefront all the time, but it is always in the back of your mind.”

There are other, much more high-profile names than Klieman that could replace Snyder. Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables is near the top of the list, as is former Wisconsin and Arkansas head coach Brett Bielema.

And it might be highly likely they'd get the job, despite Klieman's resume and relationship with Taylor. This year has provided evidence, again, that even ultra-successful FCS coaches aren't often seriously considered for even mildly attractive FBS power-conference jobs. One needs only to look at historically so-so North Carolina of the Atlantic Coast Conference, which fired Larry Fedora and quickly replaced him with 68-year-old Mack Brown, a very successful former coach who won a national title at Texas. Brown has been a broadcaster for five years since leaving the Longhorns, yet he was immediately given the Tar Heels job.

Even aging former coaches who've been out of the game for years have better chances than younger, super-successful FCS coaches.

Notably not very high up the list of possible candidates was James Madison coach Mike Houston, who has the Dukes challenging the Bison for FCS supremacy. Boosters and administrators in Harrisonburg, Va., were concerned they might lose Houston if the UNC job opened but it was apparently never a real issue.

Will the same come of the Klieman-to-Manhattan possibilities? We'll find out soon enough.

Mike McFeely
Mike McFeely is a WDAY (970 AM) radio host and a columnist for The Forum. You can respond to Mike's columns by listening to AM-970 from 8:30-11 a.m. weekdays.
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