On Thursday, 75 year-old Bill Snyder, the legendary Kansas State football coach who took the school’s once moribund program from laughing stock to perennial powerhouse, endorsed incumbent 78-year old Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) in the state’s hotly contested U.S. Senate contest.
Polls show the race is a tossup.
The announcement came in a 30-second television ad titled “Coach,” paid for by the Roberts campaign, that began a statewide run on Thursday and is expected to continue through election day. Later on Thursday, Roberts’ primary opponent, Tea Party-backed Dr. Milton Wolf, also endorsed him.
Snyder, who in 1989 took over a Kansas State football team that had no wins, 26 losses, and 1 tie over the previous two-and-a-half years, has a lifetime record of 184-91-1. Since 1993, Kansas State has finished the year in the Top 20 twelve times. Snyder’s Wildcat teams have a 7-8 record in 15 bowl games.
This year, Kansas State is 6-1, currently leads the Big 12 standings, and is ranked #9 in the recently announced College Football Playoff rankings.
In the ad, the narrator asks, “Who is Coach Bill Snyder supporting for the U.S. Senate?”
“I’m certainly going to vote for my friend Pat,” Snyder concludes. “He genuinely cares about the people in the state of Kansas.”
Some pundits downplayed the significance of Snyder’s endorsement.
Bob Beatty, a professor of political science at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, told the Associated Press the ad can “get people to pay attention at the end of a long campaign.” The Roberts campaign, he said, is “trying to get a different dynamic in an ad just to get people to watch the ad.”
But in Kansas, Snyder is probably the most popular man in the state, not just on Saturdays when the Wildcats take to the field, but every day of the week. The Roberts campaign is betting that this Tuesday some of that popularity will rub off on their candidate.
None of the oddsmakers in Las Vegas are betting against that likelihood.