John Klein: Beating OU is Mike Gundy's next goal to accomplish
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Friday, December 02, 2011
12/02/11 at 6:59 AM
Get the latest news on Bedlam and look back at stories from this week’s OU-OSU coverage.
Reversal of fortune.
Dave Sittler: Venables, OU defense enter eye of the storm.
Three key games: OSU.
Three key games: OU.
A look at the history of Bedlam football.
Bedlam tips for fans.
OSU notebook: Big-play Sooners.
OU notebook: Sooners concerned with Cowboys’ theft.
View OSU's starting lineups.
View OU's starting lineups.
Go to John Klein's Blog Original Print Headline: Beating OU is Gundy's next goal
MIKE GUNDY was far from the finished product when he was hired to be Oklahoma State's coach.
Sure, he was an alum, loved the school and was a natural fit.
But, other than the confidence of athletic director Mike Holder and super booster T. Boone Pickens, the skeptics far outnumbered those on the Gundy bandwagon.
Gundy made a series of decisions - both on-the-field and in personnel issues - in the early years, that left him open to criticism.
Gundy, like most people, is still evolving in what he has called "his dream job," but there's little question at this point that his hiring has to be considered a home run for Oklahoma State.
Oklahoma State will try to win its first outright Big 12 Conference title, and, in turn, a possible shot at the BCS national championship game, in Saturday's Bedlam game with Oklahoma.
OSU, already guaranteed a share of the Big 12 title, is ranked No. 3 in the BCS standings. The Cowboys have been a fixture in the top 10 all season and reached No. 2 two weeks ago.
O-State won a school-record 11 games last year and has a chance to match or beat that in its next two games.
By just about any standard, these are the golden years of OSU football.
"Our goal was to elevate Oklahoma State to where people want to watch Oklahoma State football," said Gundy on Monday.
Goal accomplished. Now, it is on to bigger things.
Yes, Oklahoma State is successful and certainly fun to watch. The Cowboys, if nothing else, have developed a reputation as must-watch television over the last six years. They score a lot of points and give up a lot of points. You can't take your eyes off it.
Yet, getting to the next level is what is on the line in Bedlam. The Cowboys could win an outright league title and give their fans reasons to argue for a spot in the BCS national championship game.
Gundy certainly had those types of lofty goals in mind when he took his "Yankees job" seven years ago. I'm just not sure many people believed him or thought it possible in such a short time.
However, there is no question that OSU is now on the edge of that elite level in college football. Four consecutive seasons of nine victories or better, while playing in one of the top two conferences in the nation, will put you there.
"We've been right there," said Gundy.
No coach in OSU's history has done more, built a stronger foundation or elevated the level of the program further than Gundy.
Not even in the 1980s, when the Cowboys reached No. 2 in the polls (1984), won a Heisman (Barry Sanders in 1988) and had two future Pro Football Hall of Famers (Sanders and Thurman Thomas), has OSU been in such good shape.
Oklahoma State is at its football zenith since the 1940s, and it would appear it has staying power.
From the first day on the job, Gundy said the goal was to build a program that would consistently have winning seasons and challenge for conference championships.
The Cowboys have reached that level. Oklahoma State will go to its sixth straight bowl this season (nine bowls in the past 10 years).
If the Cowboys can win one of their last two games, it will match that 11-victory plateau. Twelve victories is not out of the question.
It is one thing to do it two or three or four years in a row.
Six years is more than a brief run in the sun. Six years is a trend.
"I don't know if anyone has been as close as us the last three or four years," said Gundy of cracking into that elite list.
The Cowboys have been trending upward because Gundy believed a foundation for winning had to be built.
That took a commitment from the school. Gundy had a willing ally in Holder, who believed football had to be given the tools to be a consistent winner.
That included not only academic and financial support. That included a new commitment to facilities.
Holder's close relationship with Pickens gave the Cowboys an avenue to build perhaps the most luxurious facilities in college football at Boone Pickens Stadium.
That wasn't the only issue for OSU football. But, it was a big one. Lewis Stadium had long ago become outdated.
In addition, with the new OSU athletic center at Gallagher-Iba Arena, the Cowboys had a higher commitment to academics and to making sure OSU athletes did the right things.
All of those fit together.
Once all of that was in place, or on the way, it came down to Gundy.
It hasn't been without some bumps. There were a string of crushing comeback losses to Texas. There were OSU's struggles in Lubbock.
And, not least of which, there have been eight consecutive losses to Oklahoma.
None hurt worse than a year ago when the Cowboys were a victory away from winning the Big 12 South Division. Instead, OU won, grabbed a share of the division title, and earned a spot in the Big 12 title game because of a higher BCS ranking.
Gundy knows there is no easy shortcut to the Big 12 title. And, he knows it includes beating OU.
Just like with a lot of things in OSU football, Gundy would love to see a new Bedlam trend.