John Klein: Les Miles set OSU on BCS path
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Sunday, January 08, 2012
1/08/12 at 7:08 AM
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Original Print Headline: Like it or not, Les Miles set OSU on BCS path
Les Miles set Oklahoma State on the path toward national prominence, a journey that Mike Gundy finished in a BCS bowl last week.
It would be a mistake to underestimate what Miles did to change the mindset and to upgrade football at OSU.
Gundy deserves the bulk of the credit for what has happened to the Cowboys the past seven years but no one should forget that Miles put them in the right direction.
Miles, who seems underappreciated by many Oklahoma State fans because of the way he left OSU, will try to win his second national title with LSU on Monday night.
The Tigers face Alabama in the BCS national championship game. Oklahoma State won a school-record 12th game with the dramatic overtime victory over Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl last week.
Miles came to OSU in 2001 and immediately set about putting a new face on OSU football. No more little brother. No more scared to challenge the powers.
His blunt style seemed to irritate a number of coaches, especially Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops.
But, Miles was not afraid to challenge the powers in the Big 12 and instilled in OSU a new toughness.
"Our players bought into that and it kind of got the ball rolling for Oklahoma State football," said Gundy.
The Cowboys, who won just 13 games in the three previous seasons combined before Miles arrived, went through some growing pains. The Cowboys won just three games heading into the final game of Miles' first year - a date at Oklahoma with the national championship game on the line for the Sooners.
But, Miles made believers of his Cowboys, oozing confidence in a true freshman quarterback named Josh Fields. The Cowboys stunned OU, 16-13.
The next season, OSU again beat Oklahoma and reached a bowl. In back-to-back seasons, Miles knocked off the Sooners when OU was ranked No. 4 and No. 3.
A major corner had been turned in the future of OSU football.
"Coach Miles has great work habits and he gets up early and he's willing to work all day and he is willing to stay and work late at night and do whatever it takes to have success," said Gundy. "There is a toughness that he instilled in us as assistant coaches and a toughness that he instills in his players. He has a unique way about going about things that draws a lot of attention at times."
For instance, his occasional jabs at Stoops. And, the two victories over OU in his first two years at OSU.
"Ultimately, he is a very smart person," said Gundy. "He is a very smart football coach.
"I don't think anybody can question the success that he's had."
Miles used that season-closing victory in 2001 over Oklahoma to put the Cowboys on the path toward the BCS. Yes, it took another decade before OSU was ready to take that final step up to a BCS game.
However, it all got set in motion by Miles, who believed that OSU could win in football. His job was to make the Cowboys believe, too.
"I know once he was gone and I was on my own, my early years as being a head coach, you go sit in the office and you think what now," said Gundy. "And, you are on your own.
"I have kind of reflected back on some of the plans, some of the thoughts that he had as a head coach. It has helped me tremendously."
OSU has taken off from that victory over OU in 2001. The Cowboys have gone to nine bowls in the 10 years since the stunning upset of Oklahoma.
Miles turned that upset into a nice climb over his next three years as OSU coach. The Cowboys went from the Houston Bowl, to the Cotton Bowl and eventually the Alamo Bowl. The memories of that Alamo Bowl, a 33-7 loss to Ohio State, is the game that leaves some OSU fans unhappy with Miles.
Miles was secretly negotiating with LSU during the week leading up to the Alamo Bowl. There has been some speculation that Miles shortchanged the Cowboys by not coaching and preparing OSU for that final game.
Miles ultimately took off for LSU, some believe at the urging of OSU super booster Boone Pickens, who preferred Gundy.
"Even though we changed our style of offense, we still pride ourselves on being physical in certain aspects of the game even though we are spread out," said Gundy. "That's kind of what he started when we came with him back in 2001."
Miles, who led LSU to the 2008 national title, has the Tigers unbeaten and ranked No. 1 heading into Monday's championship game.
If you look close enough, and listen, you'll see and hear the same guy that told the Cowboys it could be done.
LSU head coach Les Miles watches his team during media day for the BCS championship NCAA college football game at the Superdome in New Orleans. DAVE MARTIN/AP Photo