Coach Dave Snyder’s resume as both a player and a coach runs deep. What the highlights don’t tell you is what an amazing man he was. He was much beloved by his teammates and his players, as evidenced by how many of these men traveled far and wide to get to his side when the end was drawing near last month. He was listening and telling stories right up to the end with his boys and they were all able to say good-bye to one another and express the love and admiration they held for each other for decades. Coach Snyder was most definitely given a beautiful send off to the great tennis court in the sky by his family, friends, and players. He passed away peacefully on November 5th at 88 years old.
Dave graduated from Winfield Kansas High School where he played basketball and tennis and won two state tennis championships. He reached the quarterfinals of the 1952 National Junior Championships and was offered a tennis scholarship by University of Texas tennis coach Dr. D.A. Penick. Rumor has it (I was told by one of his former players) that he walked and hitchhiked from Kansas to Texas to accept his scholarship, which only adds to his legend and showed his determination and grit. He played on three Southwest Conference Championship teams and, as Team Captain, won the conference doubles title in 1956 with US Davis Cupper Sammy Giamalva. In 1955, the Texas Tennis Team finished second at the NCAAs.
After college he joined the men’s tennis circuit and, at one point in his career, he was ranked as high as 22 in the U.S. in singles, and number 10 in the U.S. in doubles. He also had a win over the World Number 1 player, Neale Fraser, during his career. When Dave’s playing career came to an end, he began his coaching career in his hometown and took a coaching job in San Angelo, Texas, the following year. In 1958, on the recommendation of Dr. Penick and Wilmer Allison, Snyder was named the Men’s Tennis Coach at the University of Arizona for over a decade and had eight top ten NCAA teams.
In 1972, when Wilmer Allison retired as the Men’s Tennis Coach at UT, he encouraged Athletic Director Darrel Royal to hire Snyder as the third tennis coach in UT’s history. In addition to his coaching duties, he was also an Associate Professor of Kinesiology at UT from 1972-2000, having earned his Ph.D., from Ohio State. Dave coached 17 All-Americans, two NCAA Champions (Kevin Curren in 1970 and Steve Bryan in 1990). Coach also had five NCAA doubles teams reach the finals. Kevin Curren reached the finals at Wimbledon and along with fellow Longhorn Steve Denton reached the finals of the Australia Open doubles twice. Together they won the U.S. Open doubles. During Snyder’s term, Texas won six Southwest Conference titles and the first three Big 12 Titles and reached the NCAA team semi-finals. He retired with 697 team victories at Arizona and Texas—the winningest active Division One NCAA tennis coach at retirement and second all-time. He was Coach of the Year and was inducted into six different Hall of Fames.
While at UT as a student, he met his future wife Nancy Bitter and they were married in 1957. They had two children, Doug and Allison. Their son, Doug Snyder, was a state tennis champion at Westlake High School and played for Dave at Texas. Doug, a letterwinner at UT, said of his dad, “From his arrival at the University of Texas as a student-athlete in 1952, throughout his long coaching tenure, and until his death, he was a Longhorn. He greatly enjoyed the friendships and fellowship he shared with his former players and was so proud of their accomplishments, both while at UT and throughout their lives. He believed in the Texas Cowboy motto, ‘Give the best you have to Texas and the best will come back to you.’ He did just that and felt blessed in the resulting outcome.”
On a personal note, it was only within weeks when Coach dropped by one of my practices after I was named Head Women’s Coach at UT. He strolled in with his best “Howdy” smile and welcoming demeanor. He made me feel right at home and part of the Longhorn family right from the jump. He will be sorely missed on the Forty Acres by all. He leaves behind a circle of friends and extended family members who were touched by his warmth, kindness, integrity, faith and wit.
Special thanks to UT Athletics, Doug Snyder, and to the UT Tennis community. If you would like to listen to Coach Snyder’s former player, Gary Plock, and his podcasts and discussions with Coach Snyder and many other great tennis players and coaches, you can click on the our Digital Library page.