Kevin Haskin: Heart of K-State’s football nerve center, Joan Friederich, to be honored at Saturday’s spring game

Administrative assistant worked with six head coaches, watched Wildcats flourish under Snyder

MANHATTAN — The Vanier Family Football Complex is big and beautiful — a structure essential to proving Kansas State can hold its own in the escalation of major college athletics.


However, when the modified, and modernized, home to the football program was completed, the program’s nerve center was disconnected.

Traffic no longer flowed through the office of Joan Friederich, the administrative assistant to the K-State head coach. Not only did she work alongside Bill Snyder, whose phone calls Joan tracked during two different stints, but also five other head coaches spanning a career of 42 years with K-State.

“I tell people I saw the good, the bad, the ugly and the wonderful,’’ Joan said.

After Snyder was hired, someone had to familiarize him with his new workplace. Joan did so naturally, and soon, Snyder was completely at ease with an invaluable staff member who managed the head coach’s office, and most importantly his time, for more than a quarter-century.

“I can’t remember that far back,’’ Snyder said of the connection they formed, “but I’m sure it didn’t take any time at all. She was very helpful. In fact, guided me around, pointed me in the right direction.’’

Joan was glad to. Especially when looking back at the strides the Wildcats made under their Hall of Fame coach.

“He’s a really good man,’’ Joan said. “We’re lucky.’’

She knows, because Joan saw just about everything over time. And more importantly, everyone.

Players, coaches, media, fans, visitors — her office, at least in the old building, was the hub of activity and Joan (pronounced Jo Ann) could direct, discuss and disseminate virtually any detail related to Kansas State football. Publicly and privately.

“She knows what to say, what not to say,’’ said Snyder, “and sometimes knowing what not to say is pretty significant and has a higher priority than anything else and she handled that so very well. Just her nature.’’

Joan did so while keeping a large bowl of Werther’s Originals to sweeten any interaction.

“I put candy in her jar on her desk and I made all the players go in and every day she’d give them a hug and give them a piece of candy,’’ Snyder said.

“They enjoyed that and she enjoyed the daylights out of that and loved it. She just loves being around our players, and she loves the dialogue with other people. I get thousands of calls in here and she’s met, over the phone, probably everybody that I know. She has longer conversations than I do with them.’’

Like so many players Joan consoled over the years as they battled through injuries, she too was sidelined by an unfortunate mishap. A broken hip suffered last fall prompted her to retire.

Joan will return Saturday and love every minute catching up with former players during their pregame reunion prior to the Purple-White scrimmage. Plans also call for her to participate in the coin toss.

What happens after that particular formality shaped Joan’s career for decades. Many times, the outcomes were unkind to K-State. Yet she always found the good in every K-State coach for which she worked and liked them all.

All of them obviously liked her.

“She’s meant a lot,’’ Snyder said. “She’s been here longer than I have. That’s hard to believe. Seen it all.’’

Most K-State games Joan watches now on television. Easier on her and besides, technology vividly captures most any sport.

The season tickets she keeps are passed on to her family, which includes three children, three grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

A few keepsakes she keeps around her home. Among them, a football with a message from coach Snyder, who visits frequently.

A photo she cherishes hangs on the wall and includes her father as a member of a small, but fierce, football team from Leonardville High School. Underneath the picture he inscribed, “Never Defeated.’’ Joan also would go on to graduate from Leonardville before the school became part of the consolidated Riley County district.

Her love for K-State sports, her workplace and the people she came in contact with forged what Snyder called an “amazing impact’’ Joan had on K-State football. And, vice versa.

“She’s going to come up here when she feels like it,’’ he said, “and we’ll put her up where she can visit with players, because she loved that. She’s a people person and she loved visiting with our players.’’

That would be, well, wonderful.

The new K-State complex misses its nerve center and everyone misses Joan. She’s an original and without her, a Werther’s doesn’t taste the same.

Contact Kevin Haskin at and KevinHaskin on Twitter.



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