John Klein: Opening at Cowboys Classic can help OSU
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Friday, December 21, 2012
12/21/12 at 7:07 AM
Go to John Klein's Blog Original Print Headline: Opening at Cowboys Classic can help OSU
STILLWATER - Oklahoma State will join the likes of Alabama, LSU, Oregon and Michigan when it opens the season in the 2014 Cowboys Classic at Cowboys Stadium.
Regardless of how one feels about losing a home game from the schedule, or the merits or demerits of playing a nationally-significant team, OSU's appearance in the premier opening game of the 2014 college football season should be a plus for the Cowboys.
Don't tell me how elite programs wouldn't lose a home game to play a neutral site game. Alabama, LSU, Oregon and Michigan opened their seasons the past two years in the Cowboys Classic.
Whether Oklahoma State should follow a similar path to some nationally-recognized powers, playing at least one important inter-sectional game, is up for debate.
Some believe the best approach is to follow the lead of Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, who believes the nonconference schedule should be three easy home victories.
There are positives on both sides of the debate.
OSU coach Mike Gundy said again on Thursday that it is all about losing a home game in his opinion. So, he's against it and has let just about everyone know.
"I'd rather play a home game," said Gundy. "We play pretty good at home."
No one knows the OSU football program better than Gundy.
However, the decision of OSU athletic director Mike Holder to open the next two seasons with neutral-site games against nationally-significant football programs has benefits, too.
Holder has signed up OSU for season-opening games in Houston to face Mississippi State next fall and in Dallas against Florida State in 2014.
The benefits of those games would seem to be more than a virtually-guaranteed victory at home over an outmanned opponent. However, no one should ever diminish any victory. In 20 years, they'll probably be talking about your overall record not some individual game from a season.
Still, in this scenario, OSU's season openers the next two years will be talked about on national television and radio sports talk shows for months leading up to the seasons.
The significance of those games will bring an abundance of publicity to OSU football, something it can dearly use in everything from recruiting to fundraising.
However, as Gundy said on Thursday, nothing beats "bringing in recruits for a home game".
Yet, both of those neutral site games should be huge financial windfalls for the OSU athletic department.
Football pays the bills for everything in a college athletic department.
The guy signing the checks and trying to fund new facilities for all sports is Holder.
Holder catches a lot of the heat for Gundy's apparent unhappiness the past two years in contract negotiations and scheduling.
Gundy deserved a bigger salary after he led OSU to the Big 12 title in 2011. He deserved to be among the nation's top 15 coaches in salary. And, now he is.
In retrospect, it was very much in Oklahoma State's interest for Holder to determine how much OSU could afford to pay a football coach. O-State does not have a limitless amount of money to pay coaches, despite what some fans believe.
Holder had to determine what the school could afford and what was fair for Gundy. In the end, the contract is fair to both. Gundy deserved his pay bump into the elite level of coaches. OSU needed to make sure it made financial sense in any athletic department spread thin by massive facilities needs.
Gundy's latest conflict over Holder is a fair debate that probably should have stayed behind closed doors. There's no question Gundy's flirting with other jobs, just one year after his demands for a new contract, hurt Gundy's perception among OSU fans.
Yes, Gundy is held in high regard by Oklahoma State fans for everything he has done at the school.
No, they didn't jump on Gundy's bandwagon when Gundy's camp let it go public that he was once again flirting with other schools.
Gundy has been trying for weeks to tamp down the rumors of the rift with Holder. It is certainly in Gundy's best interest to portray the relationship as much improved.
Certainly, the scheduling issue won't go away.
Gundy said again on Thursday "you know how I feel". Yes, we do. He wants to play home games. He has a great stadium, great team facilities and is soon to have a state-of-the-art indoor facility to sell to recruits.
The idea of scheduling three home victories, instead of playing at least one nationally-significant game, has worked for dozens of schools around the country. It gives Gundy additional weekends to sell to recruits and fill OSU's deluxe stadium.
But playing big games in an era in which fewer teams are doing it also works in OSU's favor. It keeps them in the national spotlight and gains positive publicity.
Yes, there is a huge risk. You lose, as OSU did this season at Arizona, and it can be devastating when you start talking about bowls and the future playoffs.
However, OSU's 2014 game with Florida State will kick off the first season of the new BCS four-team playoff. Sure, a loss would hurt. But a victory would put the Cowboys squarely in the hunt for one of those four playoff spots.
Yes, there is a risk. But, the reward in 2014 could be a spot in the first-ever four-team playoff.
We certainly understand Gundy's position on the issue and he should have the loudest vote in any decisions. He's the coach. He has to live with those decisions. It is his job on the line.
Still, is it worth the risk? We think so.
Oklahoma State players take the field during a football game against Texas Tech in Stillwater. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World