After 12 hours of rumors, sources, furtive meetings and flight tracking, Tuesday ended just how it began.
With Mike Gundy as Oklahoma State’s head coach.
After reportedly interviewing with Tennessee athletic director John Currie in Dallas on Tuesday about the Volunteers’ head-coaching vacancy, Gundy elected to remain in Stillwater as the coach of his alma mater. At 8:28 p.m., he tweeted, “Cowboy For Life!,” a reassuring sentiment after it appeared he engaged in discussions about leaving the school he has been a part of for 27 of the past 32 years.
College football insider Brett McMurphy reported Tennessee offered Gundy a six-year, $42 million contract. Even Volunteers legend Peyton Manning called Gundy to pitch him the job, according to reports by ESPN and McMurphy.
It would have marked a substantial raise over the five-year, $22.25 million contract Gundy and OSU agreed upon this past summer.
The decision sends Tennessee back to the drawing board in what has been a turbulent coaching search.
And it allows OSU fans to rejoice as Gundy, the longest-tenured and winningest coach in school history, has resisted temptation to ply his trade outside of Stillwater.
The fact that the reported offer included an average salary of $7 million per year — which would have ranked behind only Nick Saban, Dabo Swinney and Jim Harbaugh this season— is perhaps a sign Gundy is committed, despite the flirtation with UT.
Over the course of Gundy’s 13 seasons as Oklahoma State’s head coach, the 50-year-old has toyed with leaving for other jobs on multiple occasions.
But he has never made the move. Gundy has been at OSU continuously since 2001. His 113 wins are a school record.
“I’m rooted here,” Gundy told the Tulsa World Saturday after OSU’s win over Kansas. “Knock on wood, if you’re doing good, you get calls. I get calls every year. But my stability here is more than it ever has been.”
The last time the Tennessee job was open, following the 2012 season, Gundy was a strong candidate for it. He was tied to the Arkansas job that offseason as well. But he was close to becoming a Volunteer.
In 2013, after Tennessee hired Butch Jones and Gundy decided to remain with OSU, he told CBS Sports, “At one point that’s where we thought we were going to go.”
But in the last year, it appeared many fences were mended between Gundy and the powers that be at OSU.
Most importantly, Oklahoma State and Gundy reached a resolution on his contract. They announced that sparkly, new five-year deal. Gundy wanted greater compensation for his support staff and coaching staff, and he got it.
And there was the kicker of the contract: It includes automatic rollovers, as well as yearly raises — meaning it was designed to ensure Gundy could coach at Oklahoma State until he retired.
That seemed to be the desire of both the OSU administration and Gundy. That’s what made his discussion with Tennessee on Tuesday surprising.
Back in July, at Big 12 Media Days in Frisco, Texas, Gundy was asked the question matter-of-factly: Was he willing to say he would never coach anywhere but Oklahoma State?
In the underbelly of the Ford Center, the Dallas Cowboys’ practice facility, he seemed confident and comfortable.
“I would think that’s true,” he said. “Never’s a long time. At some point, you may be the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. But I foresee being at Oklahoma State for a long time and finishing certainly my college career at Oklahoma State.”
Those sentiments seemed to stick with Gundy throughout this season. Even when the year started to turn toward disappointment.
A Cowboys team picked by some national pundits to reach the College Football Playoff instead lost three games. But two days after a 62-52 loss to Oklahoma in Boone Pickens Stadium on Nov. 4, Gundy actually seemed upbeat about the direction of the program.
He said two prominent people involved in OSU football called him that Sunday to offer their resources to elevate the program. And T. Boone Pickens — who has butted heads with Gundy throughout the past few seasons — sent him an encouraging note.
“The overall concept of what we, and I say Mr. Pickens, coach (Mike) Holder, myself, and the organization’s been striving for, that’s what we got Saturday,” he said after Bedlam. “Now we’re going to continue to funnel money into this program, we’re going to continue to recruit quality kids, quality people, keep quality coaches here.”
Despite Tuesday’s dalliance — and the anxiety that came with it for nearly a full day — it appears that’s still Gundy’s modus operandi.