STILLWATER — On Nov. 30, 1985, as a visiting recruit from Midwest City High School, Mike Gundy was at Oklahoma State’s Lewis Field to watch a Bedlam football game matching the then-17th-ranked Cowboys and then-third-ranked Oklahoma.
Because of a fierce winter storm that slammed Stillwater, the Cowboys and Sooners clashed on artificial turf that was frozen solid. In a game that became known as the Ice Bowl, OU prevailed 13-0 on its way to capturing the national title.
“I was surprised they played it,” Gundy recalled this week, “because nobody could stand up, for the most part.”
Thirty years ago, Gundy was a Bedlam spectator. Today, he is a fixture within the rivalry.
OSU and OU recruited Gundy. He signed with Oklahoma State, started at quarterback for four seasons, finished as the Big Eight’s career passing leader and followed by launching his coaching career as a Cowboy assistant.
At the age of 48, Gundy has achieved the distinction as having been a participant in more Bedlam games — 25, as of Saturday — than any other figure on either side of the rivalry. Specific to playing and coaching in the series, no one else has more Bedlam experience.
A Cowboy QB for four seasons and a Cowboy assistant for 10 seasons (1990-95, 2001-04), Gundy is nearing the end of his 11th season as the OSU head man.
“The uniqueness of it is that Mike is an Oklahoman native and has been involved in this game as a player, as an assistant coach and as a head coach,” said Pat Jones, who coached Gundy in 1986-89 and hired him to coach receivers in 1990. “Mike Gundy is an Oklahoman, and in recruiting it boiled down to Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. If there’s anyone else who is as synonymous with (Bedlam), I don’t know who it would be.”
Jones was involved in 16 Bedlam games (five as an assistant and 11 as the Oklahoma State head coach).
When the 10-1 Cowboys host the 10-1 Sooners on Saturday, OU’s Bob Stoops coaches in his 17th Bedlam contest.
Bud Wilkinson was a veteran of 18 Bedlam games (one as an assistant and 17 as the Sooners’ head coach).
Gomer Jones coached in 19 Bedlam games (17 as a Wilkinson assistant and two as OU’s head coach).
Gary Gibbs had 23 Bedlam games (three as a Sooner linebacker, three as a graduate assistant, 11 as an assistant coach and six as OU’s head coach).
Barry Switzer was on the sideline for 22 Bedlam battles (six as an assistant coach and 16 as OU’s head coach).
Cale Gundy, Mike’s younger brother, will be a Bedlam participant for the 22nd time on Saturday. Cale Gundy was a Sooner quarterback for four seasons, an OU student assistant for one and a Stoops staff member since 1999.
Switzer was the OU coach when the Sooners recruited Mike Gundy, who led Midwest City to the 1985 Class 5A state title. The championship game — Midwest City 40, Muskogee 36 — was played on OSU’s home field.
“I really liked (Gundy) as a player and his family are good people,” Switzer says. “I wanted him to come in at mid-semester and (play) quarterback for me. He did the best thing for him.”
As a quarterback, Jones says, Gundy was “remarkably similar” to current Sooner QB Baker Mayfield.
“Mayfield has a thicker build, but if you look at the ability to scramble and buy more time on pass plays, or to run and get a first down — Mayfield and Mike Gundy are a lot alike. It’s uncanny,” Jones said. “Mayfield is a baller, no question. Mike Gundy was a baller. Both really, really good quarterbacks on really good teams.”
With Gundy as the head coach, the Cowboy program has recorded at least 10 wins in four seasons. Before he became the head coach, there were only three such seasons at OSU. Gundy quarterbacked two of those teams.
“Mike Gundy is getting good players from Texas — ones that Texas and Texas A&M and some of the other Texas schools aren’t getting but probably wish they had,” Switzer said. “With the 85-scholarship limit in college football, it gave everyone a chance. If you can evaluate and recruit, you’ve got a chance.”
Overall, Gundy’s Bedlam record is 5-18-1. As the Oklahoma State head coach, his Bedlam mark is 2-8. With a home conquest of the Sooners, the 2011 Cowboys captured the Big 12 championship. Last year, OSU ended a five-game losing streak by prevailing 38-35 in overtime at Norman. That was the first victory in what would become a 12-game win streak for the Cowboys.
“There’s no question that for us finding a way to win (the 2014 Bedlam) game and then the bowl game — it jump-started this university in general and our team,” Gundy said. “Every (Bedlam game) is important, and it would be really good for us to find a way to win this one. It would be good for our organization and open up a lot of doors (for a possible berth in a major bowl).”
When Gundy was a freshman in 1986, his third start was against OU. There was a famous exchange between Gundy and Sooner linebacker Brian Bosworth, who attempted to bully Gundy and, apparently, spat on the Cowboy quarterback.
Last year, Gundy remembered his response as having been, “You can do whatever you want, but you are not going to spit in my face.”
The rivalry remains fierce, but it has changed. This year, several OSU and OU players — including Cowboy quarterback Mason Rudolph and Mayfield — shared a house in Florida during spring break.
“The public and people outside make (the Bedlam rivalry) more than it really is for the players. They have a respect among themselves,” Gundy said this week. “There was a group of 30 of them at spring break. Unfortunately, I’ve seen some pictures and video of them together. It’s just a different generation.
“This rivalry is something that is fun for everybody, but we have to compete and get ready to play in this game. There will be a lot of excitement, but the players have respect for each other and they play the game.”
Because of Oklahoma State’s lack of a productive run game, Jones says it is “miraculous” that Gundy has squeezed a 10-1 record from the 2015 Cowboys.
“I think it’s the best coaching job that Mike has done,” Jones said. “A marvelous job.”