Connect with us


OSU Will Never Do Better Than Mike Gundy



I heard a semi-cheesy sermon one time about how material goods are only as valuable as the people who handle them. That is, a basketball is not inherently valuable. It’s not worth much. The physical value of a basketball — the rubber and air and leather is worth $5. Maybe $10. If I personally hold a basketball in my hands, it doesn’t really mean anything.

But give it to LeBron James or Russell Westbrook, and all of a sudden you have something of value. You have a marriage of two entities (a talented person and a sphere of air worth little more than the substances used to create it) that is worth millions and millions of dollars. But without the union of both sides coming together, neither is as potent on its own. The end product is of far greater value than the sum of its parts.

In a roundabout way that’s how I feel about Mike Gundy and Oklahoma State.

When Mike Gundy inherited the Oklahoma State job in 2005, Oklahoma State was coming off a somewhat unprecedented stretch in its history in which it won 57 percent of its football games under Les Miles. This was tantamount to multiple national titles for a base of fans coming off the Simmons Family Era (RIP Nathan Simmons up the middle for two yards).

Boone Pickens gave his gift of $165 million at the end of the calendar year of Gundy’s first season and Oklahoma State has not had a losing season since then. It has won games at just under a 70 percent clip. Even if you include the first (and worst) season of the Gundy Era, it has been a golden age for Oklahoma State football. Better than Notre Dame and Michigan. Miami and UCLA.

With Boone Pickens’ recent comments, the question of whether he or Gundy is more responsible for OSU’s success — two ideas that will be inextricably linked for the rest of time — has been unearthed and some shade has been directed at Gundy from various OSU fans after a 2-2 start in 2016.

Maybe I just experience more trolls on Twitter than most people, but it seems there is at least a faction of OSU’s fan base a little irritated (or a lot dissatisfied) with Gundy’s reign in Stillwater.

I will say this clearly, slowly and italicize it to highlight its importance.

We will never.

Have anything better.

Than what we have.

Right now.

Mike Gundy has his warts. Nobody doesn’t think that. He’s more conservative than Ted Cruz at a NRA rally against inferior opponents. He doesn’t destroy bad teams sometimes. His clock management gives his predecessor’s a run for his money at times. The 2014 season was a disaster. He’s not the greatest recruiter. He almost left for Tennessee. He almost left for Arkansas. His string of pros who have taken a nose dive personally post-OSU has been, uh, not great!

You know what else? He’s played in the de facto Big 12 conference championship game in four of the last six seasons. He’s been to a Fiesta Bowl, a Sugar Bowl and is literally one play from having taken on LSU for the national championship. Are you seeing that? One play from getting LSU for the national championship.

From its genesis through 2004, OSU averaged 4.8 wins a year. Gundy has averaged 8.5. He owns a quarter of the seasons in which OSU has won 65 percent of its games or more in its entire history even though he’s only been the coach for 10 percent of the time. He has six of its 13 nine-win seasons and four of its seven 10-win seasons.

Beyond that, this is about sustained success to me. Could you go find a coach in a lesser conference who is better than Mike Gundy? Probably. Can you get a Tom Herman lusting for a launching pad every now and then? Sure. But he’s not a program builder. People like Herman are job chasers, and OSU isn’t an end game. It’s a three-year internship for Bama or LSU or Florida. Maybe it always will be.

Then what? You suck for a couple of years and re-build the thing? Heck, you might even get one of those Hermans to stay a while with the sparkling facilities and big paycheck now. But is that a risk you’re willing to take when the guy you have averages 8.5 dubs a year?

You can keep those turnstiles churning with prodigious hired guns if you want, but I prefer the product Gundy had procured which is a clean, strong program with 8-10 wins almost every single year.

The point is not that Mike Gundy is the best coach in the country. Or even in the top 10. I don’t think anyone thinks that. The point is that Mike Gundy is the best coach for OSU. The perfect person to run a program in Stillwater. His ability as a coach exceeds OSU’s national placement as a program, but because he went here and because he’s Stillwater’s favorite son (and because Mike Holder has paid him a lot of money), he has stayed.

He is OSU football. OSU football is him. He is on the Mt. Rushmore of OSU coaches. The two are bound together forever no matter what, and no coach in the country (who would feasibly come and stay for a decade in Stillwater <—- this is important) is better than Mike Gundy.

Look, you don’t become Bama overnight. You don’t out-croot OU overnight. Winning in college football is difficult. Incredibly difficult. And Gundy has done it an historic clip for more than decade. Gundy has won the same number of games or more games than he did in the previous season in nine of his 11 seasons in Stillwater. That is what program building looks like, people.

Some people think you should continue progressing to the point that you go 13-0 every season (or 14-0 now, I guess). That isn’t how this works. You have read about the Juggernaut Theory, yes? It takes decades to overturn the establishment of college football powerhouses, and it is a trajectory that Oklahoma State is currently on. But it’s tough. It’s tough to recruit to Stillwater. It’s tough to convince 5-star kids that OSU is a better place than Texas or Florida State or Ohio State.

“We win 10, 12 games, and we can get in on these [five-star] guys. We would get in a little bit, but we didn’t finish,” Gundy told ESPN last year. “So right, wrong or indifferent, we’ve gone right back to know your area, find out who’s out there, this is what we’re looking for to fit our system. Do they like to play football? Do they have respect for themselves, which gives them a chance to be successful? Do they fit what we’re looking for? Do we believe in them? If so, we’re going to go for them.”

I get that fans want OSU to have a better run game or start recruiting better talent or win more conference championships. I want all of those things, too. But let’s not forget where we came from and why that matters. When you’re a program builder, it takes a long, long time to properly build a tremendous well-oiled machine. You can be Baylor, I suppose, but where does that get you after a few years?

Or you can be OSU and plod along slowly but surely, picking off 10-win seasons where you can and nabbing leftover recruits where they’re available and sneakily playing for four conference crowns in the last six years. I mean, where are we at in society? Part of me wonder if we might look at this differently if Justin Gilbert hangs on to that interception in 2013. Two conference championships in the last five seasons? What then? Nobody is upset then, right?

So if your argument is anti-Gundy, you have to be OK with saying, “because a top 10 NFL draft pick dropped an INT in 0 degree weather, I think Gundy is not right for the job or not getting it done” or whatever the argument you anti-Gundy-ers have actually is.

Some people want to credit Boone Pickens with Mike Gundy’s success. I get that. Pickens has done so much for OSU. But like I said at the top of the post, crediting Boone Pickens with Mike Gundy’s success is like crediting the bank that loaned Sam Walton his first $10,000. Those facilities Pickens built? The stadium? They’re worth little more than the land they’re on with Gundy building the engine and making it run.

Gundy has delivered in every way imaginable on that initial investment.

Carson said this on our podcast on Wednesday, but you have to look no further than Texas or USC to see that tall buildings and shiny toys aren’t everything. Expectations are high now after two big boy bowls and a conference crown. I understand that. They should be. Gundy himself admitted that last year to ESPN.

“There was a time I felt underappreciated,” Gundy said. “When you start to feel sorry for yourself, you think back and think, ‘Really? I’ve done this, I’ve done that, we’ve done this.’ Then you realize it doesn’t matter anyway. The reason that happens is because of what we build up. There’s going to be a time when people are pressing and demand a lot from us.

“We have created this monster. Now we have to feed it.”

The monster is here, and it is demanding dinner. Just remember. Oklahoma State will never do better than Mike Gundy as its head coach. So let’s not let it pass us by without enjoying it.

Most Read

Copyright © 2011- 2023 White Maple Media