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Popular Kansas State football coach lands in political pileup over support for Sen. Roberts

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MANHATTAN, Kansas — Popular Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder 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.

Roberts, a Kansas State 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 around one of the nation's worst major college football programs? 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 replies, adding that Roberts has worked hard for the state.

But the coach's unusual foray into politics raised eyebrows at the university.

Kansas State 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.

Schulz also described Snyder in an email as "unaware it was going to be used in such a fashion and was apologetic for the resulting issues."

Roberts campaign spokesman Corry Bliss said Saturday that "we haven't been contacted by the university." And Snyder said after the No. 11 Wildcats' 48-14 victory over Oklahoma State on Saturday night that he would prefer that the advertisement no longer run.

PHOTO: In this image from his television ad provided by the Roberts campaign, Republican Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, right, talks with Kansas State University football coach Bill Snyder. Roberts' campaign launched a statewide spot Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014 with Snyder endorsing the three-term incumbent just five days before the election, which has Roberts locked in a tough contest with independent candidate Greg Orman. (AP Photo/Pat Roberts Campaign)
In this image from his television ad provided by the Roberts campaign, Republican Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, right, talks with Kansas State University football coach Bill Snyder. Roberts' campaign launched a statewide spot Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014 with Snyder endorsing the three-term incumbent just five days before the election, which has Roberts locked in a tough contest with independent candidate Greg Orman. (AP Photo/Pat Roberts Campaign)

"I made a mistake," Snyder said, when questioned about the endorsement by The Associated Press. "I'm not going to delve into it, how exactly everything happened. I made a mistake. I embarrassed the university. That's my responsibility. That's my error."

Fans of the program quickly came to Snyder's defense Saturday.

Ross Jensby, a 23-year-old senior at Kansas State, said he does not fault Snyder for the statement supporting Roberts when approached in Manhattan on Saturday.

"He can do what he wants," Jensby said. "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.

Meanwhile, 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 said.


Beaumont reported from Shawnee, Kansas Associated Press writers Heather Hollingsworth in Kansas City, Missouri, and Dave Skretta in Manhattan, Kansas, contributed to this report.

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