Gauging Mike Gundy's OSU coaching tenure
BY BILL HAISTEN World Sports Writer
Thursday, August 26, 2010
8/26/10 at 10:43 AM
Related stories: Mike Gundy Rewind.
Practice Report: Oklahoma State.
STILLWATER - Mike Gundy coached the Oklahoma State program to consecutive nine-win seasons. He has a long-term contract and collects nearly $2 million this year. His team has been bolstered by a dynamic new offensive coordinator (Dana Holgorsen) and an apparently excellent group of freshmen, and the 2011 recruiting class has a chance to be the best in school history.
After five years as OSU's head football coach, Gundy's report card includes an unprecedented run of four bowl appearances. Because he fielded competitive, compelling teams at a time when the university executed a $283 million renovation and expansion of Boone Pickens Stadium, the business of Cowboy football has never been better. Last season, OSU set school records for attendance, season-ticket sales and student season-ticket sales.
Gundy has never seemed more comfortable in his role as the head man. He has never seemed more relaxed during the countdown to the start of any season, and perhaps it's because of a belief in the OSU camp that the Cowboys will be better - and perhaps a lot better - than expected.
In a big-picture sense, it's good to be Gundy - and yet someone out there views him as having job-security issues.
Last week's issue of the Sporting News included this prediction:
Oklahoma State will finish last in the (Big 12) South, and coach Mike Gundy will be forced out. Next in line in Stillwater: former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach.
At 40, Gundy was the star of one of the more spectacular news-conference rants in recent sports history. At 43, he seems to manage stress much more effectively, and he doesn't seem the least bit bothered by a national publication's prediction of his demise.
"Anyone can express an opinion or write what they want to write," Gundy said. "Everyone is free to predict whatever they want. That's what makes the world go around, you know.
"Being a coach is one of the few professions where it's OK for people to question your job security. People can speculate if they want, but what is it based on? I've never worried about that. I'm going to coach for a long time, and when I'm done, I'll go do something else. I don't have a problem with getting up at 5:30 and going to work."
Is Gundy on a hot seat? If he doesn't make another bowl appearance - in a rebuilding season - should he expect rampant speculation about his employment status?
His boss, athletic director Mike Holder, says there is no hot seat.
Holder purchases season tickets each year, and he watches Gundy's performance from a 40-yard line seat at Boone Pickens Stadium.
"Coach Gundy has run a clean program. No NCAA issues. That's very, very important," Holder said. "We've made progress toward our ultimate goal - to compete for championships. But nobody gets an A until we win championships. Make no mistake about it - Oklahoma State is about winning championships. Football is about the only men's sport around here that hasn't achieved at a consistently high level. In most of the men's sports, we've won a national championship.
"We just haven't won at that level in football, and I think the reason for that was the lack of a commitment to football here. You'd have to be a fool to look around here now and say we're not committed to football. We're on our way. But until we're winning championships, we're still a work in progress."
Kevin Klintworth, OSU's associate athletic director in charge of media relations, has worked closely with Gundy since 2006. Referring to any perception that Gundy might be on a hot seat, Klintworth said, "Five years is a pretty good snapshot of a football program and a coach. To go from four wins (in 2005) to consecutive nine-win seasons and from one conference win (in 2005) to six (in 2009) and to make four straight bowl appearances for the first time ever is an awfully nice trajectory.
"Mike started out 11-13, and OSU has gone 19-8 over the last 27 games. That's some solid black-and-white evidence of which way you're headed. That's the kind of resume athletic directors are usually looking for when hiring a coach."
In December 2008, during a brief and direct negotiation with Holder, Gundy negotiated for himself a seven-year, $15.7 million contract. It was done without the assistance of an agent. Gundy says he has never retained the services of an agent. This year, Gundy makes $1.925 million.
Of the seven-year commitment, Holder says, "I just felt like we were headed in the right direction, and he needed more time to get to the promised land."
Gundy offers this assessment of his first five seasons:
"We're recruiting very well. We've won bowls and been ranked in the top 10 in the country," he said. "We have a system in place. ... The foundation for this program is pretty strong. You can ask around the country, and I think you'll find that there is more respect for Oklahoma State football than they ever had before."
"I'm really happy and satisfied with where we are as a program now, but we all want more," he added. "I want to win the Big 12 South. We all want that."
Joe DeForest, OSU's associate head coach and special-teams coordinator, has been an assistant for four first-time head coaches (including former Cowboy coach Les Miles in 2001 and Gundy in 2005).
"I just think Mike has grown more quickly than any of the three previous ones," DeForest said. "He lets his coaches do their jobs, and I think the players like him. We take care of our players here, and I think that's always how coach Gundy approached it."
Reflecting on 2005, when Gundy dismissed eight players from the program, DeForest said, "It's a learn-as-you-go process for anybody in any sport. The first thing Mike did was clean house of the kids who didn't follow the rules. He let go of some really good players. It was the right thing to do, but it was a hard thing to do because he got rid of several players who could have helped us that first year."
A member of Gundy's first recruiting class in 2005, former linebacker Andre Sexton completed his career last season with the most starts in school history (51).
"When coach Gundy first got the job, he was a disciplinarian," said Sexton, who now resides in Austin and works as a sales representative for the Dell information technology corporation. "He set the tone and said, 'I'm not going to put up with certain things.' When he got the program in the shape he wanted, he relaxed more.
"Our last two years there, he was a totally different coach. Those last two years, football was fun. I would definitely say that coach Gundy is a players' coach, and I think it's obvious that he's doing a good job."
As the most prolific passer in Big Eight history, Gundy quarterbacked OSU to a 10-2 record in 1987 and again in 1988. The 10-win plateau must have seemed a million miles away in 2005, when his head-coaching career was launched with OSU's 1-7 Big 12 record and last-place finish in the South.
The OSU upturn began a year later.
"The 2006 season was a lot of fun," Gundy said. "We played a tough schedule, but we turned things around and won some games. (In 2008), we lost to three teams (Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech) that were ranked in the top five in the country. Give me a break. We were pretty good that year. If we had been in a different conference that year, we might have ended the season in a BCS bowl and ranked in the top five.
"Last year was gratifying because we had so many situations (the Dez Bryant suspension and several key injuries), and we just kept working and playing hard. To get nine wins from that team - and to get the most conference wins (six) in the history of the school - was very gratifying."
Gundy says his first five years as the head coach went by "really quickly." If the first five were a blur, how much longer does he envision coaching?
"I want to do it as long as I enjoy it," he said. "There are situations that can be a pain in the butt, but as long as you handle them correctly, this is still a fun job."
Said DeForest: "Occasionally, maybe during a game, Mike and I will look at each other and say, 'Wow, we've come a long way.' It's Mike Gundy's program. I've been fortunate enough to tag along, and it's been a great experience."
Vs. Washington State
6 p.m. Sept. 4
Radio: KFAQ am1170, KRVT am1270
Mike Holder has been the Oklahoma State athletic director for five years. He discusses his time on the job and tough decisions he’s faced.
Original Print Headline: Gauging Gundy
Bill Haisten 581-8397
Tulsa World file
Tulsa World file
Bowl: Independence, beat Alabama 34-31
Tulsa World file
Bowl: Insight, beat Indiana 49-33
Tulsa World file
Bowl: Holiday, lost to Oregon 42-31
Tulsa World file
Bowl: Cotton, lost to Ole Miss 21-7
Tulsa World file