Q&A with OSU athletic director Mike Holder
BY KELLY HINES World Sports Writer
Sunday, September 16, 2012
9/16/12 at 9:17 AM
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On Sept. 16, 2005, Mike Holder was promoted to Oklahoma State athletic director after 32 years as his alma mater's golf coach. The most powerful figure in the Cowboy athletic department reflects on his seven years at the helm and looks ahead to the future.
What accomplishments are you most proud of over the past seven years?
I really don't look at it so much that way. I look at what I could have done or should have done. Just like when I was coaching golf, it was always the ones we should have won instead of the ones we did win.
What would you like to have done?
I would have liked to have that whole athletic village finished by now. ... But things happen. Maybe in the long run it will be a good thing that we had that economic reversal in 2008 and had to slow down. Right now I don't see that. I think really our indoor (facility) may have turned out better because of that. It's more practical. ... It's nice to see we're starting on the indoor facility for tennis. Track will be under construction probably by the spring, with a new track. That still leaves soccer and baseball and equestrian that we have to do something about. But I'm still undaunted. I'm convinced we'll get all of that done; it's just a matter of time.
In addition to those things, what do you envision for the next seven years?
You'd like to finish the athletic village and be better in every sport. That's the goal - you want every sport to have the chance to win national championships. Then the next step when you have the resources to win is actually doing it. We've never won a national championship in a women's sport that actually counted. We've won in equestrian, but those are unofficial. So I'd like to see that happen. I'm a big believer in women's athletics, so I'd like to have more success on the female side. We've got 50 national championships and haven't won in women's athletics yet.
Did you ever imagine how much the culture would change with football in the past few years?
That was pretty gratifying against Savannah State to see 55,000 people in orange at the opening game. And not to belittle Savannah State - we were lucky to get the game - but they're not going to be the biggest draw on your schedule. Historically we had a hard time drawing a crowd like that for Texas or Oklahoma, so we've come a long way in season-ticket sales. We've come a long way in the environment and atmosphere around our stadium. There's a lot more enthusiasm on campus and among our fanbase for football. I think our gameday experience has come light years, but we still have a long way to go. I hope to be around to see some more progress.
Do you see yourself in this position in seven years?
I hope so, as long as I feel like I'm productive and doing a good job, absolutely.
Has there been anything with this job that has surprised you?
It's forced me to get out of my comfort zone in a lot of ways and do things I never would have done before. That's been gratifying, and I think I've had to grow some as a person. ... It's still not something I was trained for. I really spent my whole life as an athlete getting ready to be a coach, unofficially. You learn a lot of the skills necessary to coach, I think, by playing the sport. And then I was trained on the job for 32 years. By that time, it's second nature to you. Stepping into this role was very challenging for me.
I'm really kind of different. I'm an oddball in the athletic-director world. Most athletic directors are looking to move up and either get a better paycheck or more responsibility or work at a better school or have a better chance to win in football or basketball, your premier sports. I don't want to be athletic director at any other place. My focus is solely on Oklahoma State and making us better across the board.
Has hiring coaches been harder than you expected?
You're really not going to hire a coach off a resume or just a win-loss record. It's those intangibles that really make a difference. ... I think with a great coach, the most important thing to him other than his family is the players. He treats those players just like his family. I think that's the foundation for everything.
Is there a lot of stress involved with this job?
I guess I'm probably one of the luckiest men in the whole world, because the job I have most people would consider that a retirement plan or a vacation. It's something they do in their spare time or on the weekends, come to football games, basketball games, baseball games, you name it.
You don't even stress over financial problems?
I figure at the end of the day, we've got Boone Pickens and a lot of other generous supporters who have a passion for OSU. We'll get the money worked out. It's not always clear-cut how it's going to happen, but as long as I don't get too aggressive and spend money we don't have, I think we'll be in a good place financially.
Can you imagine what the last seven years would have been like without Boone Pickens?
No, I think it would have been a repeat of the last three or four decades. ... I was fortunate enough to have him as good friend and fortunate enough that I got to spend enough time with him that some of my frustration rubbed off on him and he decided to see if we could do something about winning in football. That starts with that facility. That facility says a lot of how committed you are, and what we had before said we weren't very committed.
Does the decline in basketball attendance concern you?
Certainly it does, and I think attendance will rebound in basketball when we start winning. But our fans expect to contend for conference championships. They expect to go to the NCAA Tournament. I don't disagree with them. Travis Ford wouldn't, either. When we start meeting those expectations or exceed them, fans will start showing up.
Was last year's plane crash the toughest moment in the past seven years?
That was definitely the low point. ... Things like that shouldn't happen, and they definitely shouldn't happen twice at the same place. That's a heartbreaker.
Original Print Headline: OSU's progress pleases AD
Kelly Hines 918-581-8452
Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder was elevated to athletic director seven years ago. Tulsa World file
Former OSU golf coach Mike Holder (left) coached many future stars, including Hunter Mahan (right). Tulsa World file