Sun Devil Summer School: The Coaches - Bruce SnyderPosted: Updated:
To take a program mired in mediocrity and turn it into a winner is a remarkable feat for any head coach. To do it twice is down right amazing.
Bruce Snyder did just that in the Pac-10, but it's what he did in Tempe that made him a legend.
Snyder was born in Santa Monica in 1940, and eventually went on to play fullback for the Oregon Ducks from 1960-1963.
His coaching career began three years later at his alma mater, and he would stay an assistant in Eugene for seven years. After a year on the Utah State staff, he moved to another Pac-8 program, USC, for two seasons.
Snyder then received his first head coaching opportunity, returning to Utah State. He led the Aggies for seven seasons, compiling a 38-37-2 record and winning back-to-back PCAA titles in 1978 and 1979. Following his time there, he moved to the NFL, joining John Robinson's staff on the Los Angeles Rams.
He then returned to the college game as a head coach in 1987, taking over a Cal program largely mired in mediocrity for several decades. By 1990, he took the Bears to just their second bowl game since 1958, and earned the Pac-10 Coach of the Year award as a result. The next year, Cal went 10-2 and reached No. 8 in the polls.
That earned Snyder the job at ASU, but success was not immediate.
ASU went 21-23 in his first four years, never finishing higher than fifth in the Pac-10. But like his time at Cal, he was building his way to something special.
Snyder's Sun Devils opened the 1996 season with a wild 45-42 win over Washington and crushed North Texas before setting up a huge home date against No. 1 Nebraska. ASU then stunned the world with an instant classic 19-0 win over the Cornhuskers.
That set up what many consider the finest season in ASU history. The Sun Devils marched their way to an 11-0 regular season, a Pac-10 title, a No. 4 ranking and a Rose Bowl date with Ohio State. It also garnered Snyder his second Pac-10 Coach of the Year award, as well as the 12 other coach of the year honors.
Despite falling just short of a Rose Bowl title, and likely a national championship, Snyder's season was legendary.
Despite losing several key players, he guided ASU to a 9-3 season and a Sun Bowl in 1997, far exceeding national expectations. His final three years in Tempe failed to meet those lofty standards, finishing just 17-18, and he was fired with one game remaining in the 2000 season.
Snyder then spent one year on the UNLV sidelines, rejoining his friend John Robinson, in 2003.
He was inducted into the ASU Hall of Fame in 2008, and it's easy to see why. He ranks second to Frank Kush in tenure (nine seasons) and wins (58).
In 2008, Snyder was diagnosed with melanoma, and he sadly passed away on April 13, 2009 at the far too young age of 69.