William “Bill” Schnebel loved coaching football, loved working with young people and loved Alva and Northwestern Oklahoma State University.
So it is fitting that his family decided to honor the memory of the long-time coach and school administrator through $25,000 gift to Northwestern for its Vision for Victory Campaign for athletics. Northwestern will recognize the Schnebel’s gift by naming the athletic training room in its new football locker room in his honor.
“We take a lot of pride in Bill’s accomplishments,” said his wife Elaine. “The teachers and parents liked him and people enjoyed working with him.
She said it was one of the couple’s sons, Brock, who moved the family to support the Vision for Victory campaign.
“I wanted to do something to help, but Brock was the motivator,” said Elaine.
The Schnebel family developed a long connection with Northwestern after Bill was named head football coach in 1965.
Elaine received her master’s degree from the school in 1972 and two of the couple’s sons – Mark and Brock – also received the degrees from the school. Mark is a chemist in Enid and Brock is an orthopedic surgeon in Oklahoma City.
Mark’s wife, Jana (Rust) also graduated from Northwestern, as did their daughter, Ferran Weese. Their son, Jason, also attended for a short while.
Brock’s wife, Kelli (Harrison) earned her bachelor’s degree at Northwestern as well.
The Schnebel’s oldest son, Joe, attended the University of Kansas and is a retired teacher living in Whitefish, Mont.
Bill Schnebel graduated from Fremont (Neb.) High School in 1942 and attended hometown Midland Lutheran College for a year before his induction into the Army Air Force. Schnebel trained to pilot a P-38 Lightning and was assigned to patrol the Panama Canal until 1946. He returned to Midland and earned his degree in 1949.
He immediately enrolled at the University of Kansas to begin work on a master’s degree, which he earned in 1950. While at KU, one of his classmates was Dean Smith, who would later become of college basketball’s most successful coaches. One of Schnebel’s and Smith’s teachers was the legendary KU coach Phog Allen.
“This was a really fun time in our lives,” said Elaine. “We made a lot of friends whom we became very close with.”
After leaving KU, Schnebel coached at Curtis Junior High School in Topeka for a year before becoming the offensive line coach at Topeka High School.
In 1955, the opportunity to coach at the college level came and Schnebel became an assistant at the College of Emporia (Kan.).
A year later, Schnebel became the head coach and began a nine-year run that saw him compile a 62-23-1 record and lead Emporia to a period of football greatness.
Three of his teams won the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference championship and competed in the postseason, including NAIA playoff appearances in 1962 and 1963, and a Mineral Water Bowl victory in 1959.
Personally, Schnebel was named the Knute Rockne Little All-American Coach of the Year in 1959 and 1962.
“In 1959, the presented Bill with his award at the same time they gave Vince Lombardi his NFL coach of the year award,” said Elaine.
Schnebel also was twice named NAIA District Coach of the Year.
On to Alva
In May of 1965, Schnebel accepted the position of head coach at Northwestern. He quickly turned around the program’s fortunes, leading the Rangers to a 6-3-1 record in 1966, Northwestern’s first winning season since 1960. He also coached Northwestern’s first NFL draft pick, Chip Myers.
“Coaching at Northwestern was a challenge but we enjoyed it,” said Elaine. “I know our coaches need support to be successful and that’s one of the reasons we wanted to help.”
In 1967, Schnebel began his career in administration by stepping down as football coach and becoming athletic director. Four years later Schnebel joined the Alva Public Schools as assistant superintendent.
He stayed with the Alva schools for 16 years, the last nine as superintendent until his retirement in 1983.
Schnebel passed away in December 2002.