Popular Kansas State University football coach Bill Snyder has found himself in the middle of a nasty late-in-the-game political pileup after he was filmed praising incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Roberts and the video was used in a campaign ad that Snyder says he did not authorize.
Often sporting a Wildcat purple tie, Roberts, a KSU alumnus and devout fan of the team and its coach, is locked in a close re-election battle with independent challenger Greg Orman. How better to score a late campaign edge than to seize on Snyder, who is credited with turning one of the nation's worst major college football programs in 1989 into a powerhouse, compiling a record of 184-91-1 over more than two decades, including last week's victory over the University of Texas.
His Wildcats are ranked No. 11 in the nation by the Associated Press poll, and Snyder is so revered that both the stadium where the team plays and the highway leading into Manhattan from Interstate 70 are named after him.
In the ad, Snyder is asked who he would vote for: "My good friend Pat Roberts of course," he says, adding that Roberts has worked hard for the state.
But the coach's unusual foray into politics raised eyebrows at the university.
University President Kirk Schulz reminded school employees not to endorse political candidates and instructed staff to contact the Roberts campaign to take down the ad, according to an email given to The Associated Press and other news outlets.
"We haven't been contacted by the University," Roberts campaign spokesman Corry Bliss said.
University officials in Schulz's office and the athletic department did not immediately reply to messages left by The Associated Press.
Schulz followed the advisory to Faculty Senate presidents with a statement in Kansas State's student paper Friday. "Kansas State University does not endorse political candidates, and employees do not speak for the university when they endorse candidates. Employees should also avoid using their university-affiliation in any endorsements or statements."
In the email to faculty Senate presidents, Schulz described Snyder as "unaware it was going to be used in such a fashion and was apologetic for the resulting issues."
Snyder, as is his custom, steered clear of the media as his team prepared to take on Oklahoma State at his namesake stadium on Saturday evening.
Ross Jensby, a senior at Kansas State, said he does not fault Snyder for the statement supporting Roberts.
"He can do what he wants," the 23-year-old Wildcat fan said in Manhattan Saturday. "I don't think he was trying to do anything wrong."
Kathy Johnston, a 57-year-old Wichita resident and Kansas State football fan, said she was surprised by Snyder's endorsement. But she said it would not sway her vote, which will go to Orman.
Orman blamed Roberts for the flap.
"That's just once again another demonstration of how the Roberts campaign is willing to distort the record and ultimately use people as they have with coach Snyder," Orman told The Associated Press Saturday.
© Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.