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Five Thoughts on Mike Gundy’s 15th Season at Oklahoma State

On the past and the future of OSU football.



Mike Gundy is entering his 15th season as head coach of Oklahoma State. A sentence in and of itself that is difficult to wrap your mind around (more on that in a minute). A few weeks ago, Gundy gave an interesting interview to Bill Haisten and Berry Tramel. It’s something I’ve already touched on a little bit but which also led me down a rabbit hole of my own thoughts on Gundy, a decade and a half at the helm and the never-ending intrigue of his relationship with his alma mater.

Here are five thoughts I have on all of it.

1. Surprised by 60? You shouldn’t be. The big news out of the Gundy-Haisten-Tramel teleconference is that Gundy is extending his own retirement timeline to age 60. Well … yeah. When you’re being paid $5 million a year and have a rolling five-year contract that doesn’t end (!), you don’t give that up to go sit on a backhoe.

But Bob Stoops!

Sure, yeah. And guess who’s back coaching in the XFL. The crux of this point is that Gundy is in a (relatively) low-stress spot as a coach. If OU is a 10 of 10 in Pacemaker Points, OSU is probably a little over half that. The Dallas team Stoops is coaching in the XFL honestly might be a better equivalent.

2. Longest tenured: I’ve made this point before, but I still think it’s pretty wild that Gundy trails only Gary Patterson and Kirk Ferentz in terms of longest-tenured coaches at the same school. And it sounds like Gundy is intent on usurping both of them given that Patterson is 59 and Farentz is 63.

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3. A more exciting year? I wonder if we’ll look back on 2018 in the future as being a lot more weird than we looked at it while it was happening. Gundy did some strange stuff last year including the implementation of what was effectively a ban on asking Jalen McCleskey questions at one point. The Corndog situation, while it turned out good, was an odd sub-narrative for much of the year. Justice Hill didn’t play the last quarter of the season. And Gundy hollered about player empowerment every other week for months.

Contrast all of that with this quote by Gundy to Haisten and Tramel …

“My brain’s turning and I am excited. I’m energized by a seven-win season, energized by new coaches, new (offensive) coordinator (and) different things.” [Tulsa World]

Gundy seems genuinely excited about 2019. Does that mean he knows something about Spencer Sanders that we don’t? Maybe. Does it mean he’s going to start recruiting at a level that’s acceptable for a top-15 program? Probably not. Does it mean OSU is guaranteed to win eight or nine games? Nope. But an excited Gundy makes me excited because an excited Gundy in June normally means eye-opening things come October.

4. Young coordinators, old(er) position coaches: One trend I’ve noticed with Gundy is that he (mostly) likes his coordinators (especially on offense) to be young and maybe a little inexperienced, but he wants his position coaches to be old. The reasoning for this doubles as what I’m dubbing the Henson-Dickey Theorem of Coaching. Gundy wants position coaches who stay in their lanes, and he’ll trade almost anything to get it. Look at this Dickey-Henson dance of a quote.

“Coach Dickey wants to coach the offensive line. I think he’s 56 years old, maybe. He’s a veteran of many years. No ego. Loves what he’s doing: ‘You take care of me. I’ll take care of you, and I’m going to coach my guys up.'” [Tulsa World]


In a lot of ways it makes sense. If I want a website that produces a good podcast, I don’t want to hire somebody who’s 23 and going to be running ESPN in a few years. I want somebody who only cares about podcasts — creating them, building them and making them great. That’s Dickey. No illusions of being a head coach or anything like that someday. He just wants to watch his guys, make pancakes and holler at them about stunts and techniques.

But Gundy likes his coordinators young because he knows big, risk-averse programs like Michigan and LSU don’t want to take a chance on a 34-year-old, at least until he’s proven it for several years. I have no idea if this theory checks out, but I picked up on it as I’ve been reading through and thinking about some of that stuff.

[Notre Dame hires Sean Gleeson in December 2019] Never mind!

5. Apropos of nothing: This little riff on the passage of time from Tramel lit me up pretty good. I was trying to explain it to Mrs. Pistols, and I couldn’t do it justice. For some reason, coming from Berry, the way he set it up and laid it out, it hit me with a “life is short” arrow in the center of my heart.

Gundy is young and old. Lionized by 10-win seasons and energized by seven-win seasons. Intrigued by the NFL and turned off by the NFL. An institution in Stillwater, who many of us have known since he was a boy, who says he plans to coach the Cowboys until he’s 60. [NewsOK]

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