Skip to main content

Former Sun Devil football coach Snyder passes away

April 13, 2009

Snyder led Sun Devils to 1997 Rose Bowl and 18 individual All-America honors

Bruce Snyder, the head football coach at Arizona State University for nine seasons (1992-2000), passed away on Monday after being diagnosed with cancer last June. Snyder, who was 69 at the time of his passing, is survived by wife, three daughters, a son-in-law, two grandchildren, four sisters, two brothers and his beloved dog, Ella. Service arrangements will be private.

A collegiate head coach for 20 years, Snyder (born March 14, 1940) was recently enshrined into the ASU Athletic Hall of Distinction, joining one of his outstanding players, Pat Tillman, in the Class of 2008. Snyder found success at stops with Utah State (1976-82) and fellow Pac-10 program California (1987-91) before landing in Tempe and guiding the Sun Devils to a 58-47-0 (.563) record during his tenure in the Valley of the Sun. A two-time Pac-10 Coach of the Year (1996 with ASU and 1990 with Cal), Snyder ended his coaching career following the 2000 season with an all-time record of 126-106-5 (.542) in 20 seasons.

The highlight of his time in Tempe came in 1996 as he guided the Sun Devils to an unblemished regular season record (11-0), including a stunning 19-0 home upset of two-time defending national champion and top-ranked Nebraska. He also did something for the first time in program history that season as the Maroon and Gold defeated Washington, USC, UCLA and rival Arizona in the same season (he later did it again in 1999, the only two times it has happened). Following the season, the Sun Devils played in their second Rose Bowl, falling to Ohio State (20-17) on a last-minute touchdown and concluded the campaign ranked No. 4 in the national polls.

For his efforts, he was voted as the consensus 1996 National Coach of the Year and won 13 major coach of the year awards, including the Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant Award. His athletes also were honored, including quarterback Jake Plummer, who was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, and offensive lineman Juan Roque, who became the program’s 14th Consensus All-American. That team was led by a host of future NFL players that included Plummer, Roque, Pat Tillman, Lenzie Jackson, Keith Poole, Grey Ruegamer, Steve Bush, Derrick Rodgers, Derek Smith and Jason Simmons.

In 1997, Snyder led ASU to a 9-3 record and a 17-7 victory over Iowa in the Sun Bowl, the Sun Devils’ first bowl win in 10 years. In his final two seasons at ASU (1999 and 2000), he coached ASU to wins over Arizona in the regular season finale to clinch bowl appearances.

• Snyder's 58 wins ranks second on the school’s all-time list.

• Snyder is the second-longest tenured head coach in school history.

• Led the Sun Devils to four appearances in bowl games.

• Had five winning seasons and finished .500 or better in Pacific-10 Conference play seven times during his ASU tenure.

• One of three ASU coaches to lead the Sun Devils to a Pacific-10 Conference title (along with John Cooper in 1986 and Dennis Erickson in 2007).

• More than 40 players who Snyder coached at ASU were drafted into the NFL, including seven first-round draft choices (Shante Carver, Craig Newsome, Erik Flowers, Adam Archuleta, Todd Heap, Levi Jones and Terrell Suggs). In addition, more than 40 other players who played for Snyder at ASU signed rookie free agent contracts.

• Under Snyder, 18 different players earned All-America honors, including offensive tackle Juan Roque, who was a consensus All-American in 1996.

• While at ASU, Snyder's players produced more than 100 All-Pac-10 citations, including one Offensive Player of the Year (Jake Plummer in 1996), two Defensive Players of the Year (Pat Tillman in 1997 and Adam Archuleta in 2000) and one Freshman of the Year (Terrell Suggs in 2000).

• Coached three players who finished their ASU careers with 2,000 or more rushing yards (J.R. Redmond, 3,299 yards, 1996-99; Michael Martin, 2,087 yards, 1993-97; Mario Bates, 2,025 yards, 1991-93).

• Had ASU ranked in the AP Preseason Poll three times (1996, 1998, 1999) and in the AP Final Poll twice (1996, 1997).

• Prior to arriving at ASU, Snyder was the head coach at California, where he guided the Golden Bears to a 29-24-4 record over a five-year stretch.

• Was named the 1990 Pac-10 Coach of the Year after leading Cal to a 7-4-1 record and only its second bowl game since 1958 season.

• In his final year at Cal, Snyder directed the Golden Bears to a 10-2 record, No. 8 national ranking and a win over ACC Champion Clemson in the Citrus Bowl.

• First head coaching job was at Utah State where he led the Aggies to a 39-37-1 record and a pair of conference championships during his seven-year stint as coach (1976-1982).

• Also spent four seasons (1983-1986) as an assistant coach with the National Football League’s Los Angeles Rams.

• Member of the Pat Tillman Foundation Board of Directors.