Marshall University's football program welcomed home one of its own when Mark Snyder was introduced as Marshall's 28th head football coach on April 14, 2005. Snyder, one of the top young coaches in the collegiate ranks, was a standout player from nearby Ironton High School that went on to star at Marshall in 1987.
His record-setting play in 1987 helped Marshall lay the foundation for what has become one of the nation's top college football programs. Snyder then went on to a remarkably successful coaching career that has taken him to the highest levels of success in the collegiate football world. Now, his career has come full circle as oversees the Thundering Herd program.
During his tenure as head coach, Marshall has seen single game attendance records set twice and season ticket and average attendance records fall. His program has produced 29 all-conference selections, including 2006 C-USA Defensive Player of the Year Albert McClellan. In addition, two of his players - Jeff Mullins in 2005 and Ian O'Connor in 2006 - have been honored with prestigious Conference USA Post-Graduate Scholarships for academic excellence.
Mark Snyder has also brought a strong commitment to giving back to the community. Under his leadership, Marshall Football student-athletes have contributed nearly 1,000 hours of community service to worthy causes throughout the region. Marshall Players have volunteered their time in activities ranging from the Special Olympics and elementary school reading programs to youth football camps and Habitat for Humanity projects throughout Southern West Virginia, Eastern Kentucky and Southern Ohio.
The former Marshall standout led one of the youngest Thundering Herd teams on record, one that lost 25 seniors from the previous year and had only six returning starters, to a 4-7 overall and 3-5 conference mark in his first season - Marshall's first in the highly competitive Conference USA. Marshall had only three returning starters on offense and had to replace its entire defensive front seven in 2005. Adding to the challenge was the fact that Snyder did not take over the program until the end of spring practice. The first year head coach participated in only one spring practice and did not have an opportunity to install his system or get to know his personnel until August. Despite this, the Thundering Herd managed to be competitive in nearly every contest. In fact, the Thundering Herd was only a couple of breaks away from a seven win season and a bowl berth with three of the squad's losses coming by a mere five points or less.
Snyder's first season had plenty of highlights as well. It marked the emergence of sophomore running back Ahmad Bradshaw, who finished the season with 997 yards rushing (tops among underclassmen in Conference USA) en route to earning second-team All-C-USA honors. Thanks to the Herd's membership in Conference USA and the league's multi-year agreements with ESPN and CSTV, Marshall gained a record amount of exposure by appearing on national television a record eight times in 2005. In addition, the Thundering Herd set a school single-game attendance record with a crowd of 36,914 for the Kansas State contest on September 10 and in the spring of 2006 set a Green & White Game record with 17,346 fans.
The 2006 season saw Snyder lead an impressive turnaround that put the Thundering Herd into bowl contention until the final week. Facing a strong non-conference slate, Marshall opened the year at 1-5 only to finish 4-2 down the stretch. The play of junior running back Ahmad Bradshaw and sophomore defensive end Albert McClellan highlighted the campaign. Bradshaw rushed for a C-USA high 1,523 yards and 19 touchdowns and finished second in the nation in scoring with 120 points. McClellan was named C-USA Defensive Player of the Year by league media members after leading C-USA with 19 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks.
The 2007 season brought yet another strong schedule and new challenges. Ahmad Bradshaw declared early for the NFL Draft, forgoing his senior year, and preseason C-USA Defensive Player of the Year Albert McClellan suffered a preseason injury that would sideline him for the entire season. The injuries did not stop there; Marshall was forced to start 46 different players in 2007 due to injuries and only had eight seniors who saw significant playing time. Despite this, Marshall competed well, falling short by a touchdown or less in for contest and winning three of its last five games. The 2007 season also saw a home attendance record set with a record 40,383 fans at Joan C. Edwards Stadium for the WVU game and a record season average of 30,020 fans per game.
The 2008 season saw Marshall make continued strides, falling just short of a breakthrough season. The Herd finished 4-8, however MU lost three tightly contested games by three points or less - one of those losses was a 19-16 loss at eventual C-USA Champion East Carolina in overtime and another was a 38-35 near miss against C-USA West Division Champion Tulsa. Marshall boasted a 1,000-yard rusher in all-conference sophomore Darius Marshall and a first-team all-conference defensive end in Albert McClellan who made a successful return from knee surgery that sidelined him the year before.
Snyder came to Marshall after four years as an assistant coach under Jim Tressel at Ohio State University and was coming off of his first season as the Buckeyes' defensive coordinator. In Snyder's four years at Ohio State, the Buckeyes posted a 40-11 overall record and tallied a 3-1 record in bowl games, including victories in the 2003 and 2004 Tostitos Fiesta Bowls.
Snyder helped develop a number of outstanding players at Ohio State, including All-Americans Matt Wilhelm, Cie Grant, and A.J. Hawk. Both Wilhelm and Grant played key roles in Ohio State's 2002 national championship before going on to become NFL draft picks. Hawk led OSU with 141 tackles en route to becoming the No. 5 overall pick by the Green Bay Packers in the 2006 NFL Draft.
Snyder came to Ohio State from the University of Minnesota, where he spent four years coaching the Golden Gophers' defensive ends. Prior to Minnesota, he also coached at Marshall, Central Florida and Youngstown State.
The South Point, Ohio, native was an all-state selection at Ironton High School and played collegiate football at Marshall.
In 1987, Snyder led the Southern Conference with 10 interceptions and was second on the team with 124 tackles his senior year at Marshall and helped lead the Herd to a landmark come from behind win at Louisville and a berth in Marshall's first-ever national championship game. He captured honorable mention All-America honors and first-team All-Southern Conference honors that season as the Thundering Herd posted a 10-5 overall record and finished as national runners-up to Northeast Louisiana (43-42) in the 1987 Division 1-AA National Championship game. Snyder's 10 interceptions in 1987 still stand as the Marshall and Southern Conference single-season record.
Snyder graduated from Marshall in the spring of 1988 and started his coaching career the following fall as a student assistant for the Herd. He went to Central Florida the following year and spent two seasons at UCF, the first as a graduate assistant and the second as a part-time coach working with the linebackers.
In 1991, Snyder joined Tressel's Youngstown State staff as the outside linebackers coach. Snyder was given the added responsibility of special teams coordinator and inside linebackers coach in 1994 and was promoted to defensive coordinator and secondary coach in 1996. During his tenure at Youngstown State, the Penguins won three NCAA Division 1-AA national championships and played in four consecutive national championship games, facing Marshall in three of those contests (1991, 1992, and 1993).
Following the 1996 season, Snyder went on to spend four years as the defensive ends coach under Glen Mason at Minnesota. While he was with the Golden Gophers, Minnesota's defense twice set school records for single-season sacks and averaged 40.7 sacks during a three-year span. While at Minnesota, Snyder helped develop Lamanzer Williams, who led the nation in sacks in 1997, and Karon Riley, the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2000.
Mark and his wife Beth, who is a native of Ironton and a graduate of the University of Kentucky, have three daughters: Chelsea, Lindsay, and Shaylee.