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Numerous Academic Awards Validate Mike Gundy’s Emphasis on Culture

Football *mostly* comes down to wins and losses.

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Mike Gundy’s team did not live up to expectations on the field in 2018, there’s no other way to slice it.

Going 6-6 in the regular season after averaging 9.6 wins the previous decade is nothing short of a letdown. Sitting within one Liberty Bowl defeat of your first losing season since Year 1 is borderline disastrous.

But, as he is quick to lean on, the man with the unrefined hairstyle has captained a program that has been mostly above reproach and steeped in civility during his tenure.

Working hard. Doing the right things. Showing up for class and staying off of lists. These are all punchlines on a made-up bingo card, but they also characterize the “Cowboy Culture” that Gundy uses as a calling card. We may joke about these things and how much or little they translate to on-field success, but OSU’s CEO has at least put his money where his mouth is when it comes to the off-field achievements of his players.

On Friday, he gained another talking point when it was announced that Oklahoma State was one of five schools honored with the American Football Coaches Association’s Academic Achievement Award.

The AFCA gives the honor to the football program with the highest APR rating (academic progress rate as defined here) for the previous school year. This is the first time OSU has received this award. The announcement was welcomed, but it was merely a formality. For the 2016-17 season, OSU recorded a perfect 1,000 APR, along with Kansas State, Clemson, Nevada and Pittsburgh also receiving the honor.

Gundy, who will be presented with the honor on January 7 during the AFCA Convention, talked about the accomplishment earlier this year when the APR scores were released.

“Getting a perfect score in the APR means a lot to our program because there is so much hard work that goes into it,” said Gundy. “It’s a great accomplishment to score 1,000 on the APR with essentially the same group of players that won 10 games for three straight years.”

But it doesn’t stop there. Justice Hill, who is finished contributing for the Cowboys on the field, earned the Big 12’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year for 2018, another first for Oklahoma State.

He and senior Cowboy Back Britton Abbott also each earned his second consecutive CoSIDA Academic All-America honor. Add in Brad Lundblade from last year, and OSU leads the nation with five CoSIDA Academic All-Americans in the last two years.

“Seeing our players succeed both on the field and in the classroom at this kind of level serves to validate the strength of the Cowboy Culture we have in place,” Gundy said. “We’re so grateful for the team over in academics for the time and effort they put into helping our players have success.”

Sometimes it’s hard to not separate the student from the athlete for us outsiders looking in, but it’s important to remember that these things do matter too. And Mike Gundy, for all of his quirks, has held up his end of the bargain when it comes to the student side of things.

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