Report: Oklahoma State Offered Underwood $2.2M, But He Wanted More

Written by Kyle Porter

Leave it to Berry Tramel to get the goods in this Brad Underwood story. For those already putting OSU athletic director Mike Holder out to pasture, there is news. Bad news for you.

Tramel wrote about how this all went down for The Oklahoman. Here is the crux of the story.

Last Monday, the day after the Cowboys were assigned to Indianapolis for a first-round NCAA Tournament game against Michigan, Holder and Underwood met. The OSU source said Holder offered $2.2 million per year and would get Underwood to $3 million after five seasons.

The Big 12 average is $2.9 million for a head coach. But Underwood said he wanted $2.9 million now and would prefer $3 million. [NewsOK]

Things are starting to look a little different now for all those just torching Holder, aren’t they?

The “Big 12 average” number is a little disingenuous given that Bill Self makes around $5 million a year.

I believe $3 million would be around third in terms of salaries in the Big 12 right now. Bob Huggins of West Virginia makes a little bit more. This is around what Shaka Smart, Lon Kruger and Jamie Dixon make.

Is Underwood in that class? He just went 20-13 and 9-9 in league play. Those three coaches have all been to Elite Eights. Smart and Kruger have been to Final Fours.

Hilariously (I guess), the Travis Ford contract once again came back to bite Holder as Tramel reported that Underwood’s leverage was that the baseline for OSU coaches should be the $2.4 million Ford was making when he was fired.

So that’s not great. Tramel also said that Underwood skipped out on a meeting on Thursday in Indianapolis with Holder.

“I thought I had a good enough relationship with him that we were going to work it out and ultimately he would be the basketball coach here for a long time,” Holder told The Oklahoman. “I was surprised. Perhaps I didn’t have as good a relationship with him as I thought.”

I do think it’s pretty funny that Holder has been eviscerated today for pretty much not doing the very thing he did with Travis Ford: Paying him too much money and giving him a terrible contract. I do understand the argument that as long as it’s not 10 years, you’re in better shape.

But business decisions were made. Underwood wanted $3 million. Holder said, “We good.” And you move on. That’s just … how things work. That doesn’t necessarily make Underwood a villain just like it doesn’t necessarily make Holder incompetent.

The gaffe, if there was one, is that Holder didn’t seal the deal earlier in the season. But then again … when? In the middle of that six-game losing streak to start Big 12 play? Twenty-four games into his career at OSU?

Holder has already made that mistake before, and he’ll be damned if he’s going to make it again. Was there a better way to go about this? Maybe, but if you don’t think a coach is worth $3 million a year then you don’t think a coach is worth $3 million a year. That’s fair. The only thing you could have done differently is set the buyout higher (it was at $3 million).

The interesting thing here is how this will affect Holder’s next hire. Will he try to lowball another mid-major coach again and pray it works out differently? Or … will he get a guy who will be fine making less money because he’s a lifer?

What are the economics of college basketball in Stillwater, Oklahoma? What is the ceiling for what a coach can make? I have no doubt Holder was spooked by the fallout from the Ford deal. Who wouldn’t be?

Last year, the OSU athletic department generated $93.67 million in revenue. Its expenses were $92.93 million. If you look at men’s basketball only, it generated $11 million in revenue and had expenses totaling $7.48 million. And that was in Travis Ford’s last year. Ticket sales totaled $1.87 million while contributions were $3.72 million.

We won’t know how much that got bumped in 2017 because Underwood’s team sold out GIA multiple times but my guess is that ticket sales were at least double that. OSU averaged 5,857 fans last year. It was close to 8,500 per game this year. A 44 percent increase. In theory, that’s another $800,000 to play around with although I think ticket prices decreased a bit this year so it’s likely less.

Anyway, you can see where both men are coming from. Underwood generated a lot of dough for the program. Holder has an athletic department budget to balance. GIA still needs to be paid off. That budget difference last year was less than $1 million. There is not a ton of money to spare. Underwood thought what could be spared should go to him.

Holder, clearly, did not.

  • John P Stover

    Look at our athletics as a whole.

    Football top 25 team….coached by alumni
    Baseball top 25 team…..coached by alumni
    Wrestling ELITE……coached by alumni
    Golf one of the best
    Even tennis is becoming top 25 teams

    We are a basketball school at heart and that’s the one sport we haven’t been able to fix since eddie.

    Would love to have Doug but he needs some experience. Gundy was a coach here but also left for Baylor and Maryland before becoming coach.

  • David Einstein

    I’ll give Holder the benefit of the doubt…if he hires an alum.

  • Scott

    The clear omission from this comparison to Ford is their respective history. Ford did not have near the previous success as Underwood. Hence, underwood at 3MM is a much wiser investment.

    • zachattachone

      What previous success? Underwood did well at SFA but was still unproven. Ford won a Tournament game in his first year. The state of the program feels different under Underwood, but the results were not far apart at all.

      • OSU Student

        Underwood went to the sweet sixteen with a group of kids that couldn’t get letters from Power 5 schools… Way more impressive than Travis winning one game with Eddies seniors.

        • Guest

          Underwood never went to a sweet 16.

          • OSU Student

            Good call. Still though, it was still a tremendous job by BU with that team.

        • Darryl

          Sean’s seniors.

          • OSU Student

            Eddies last year was ’06. Ford’s first year was ’08. Eddie’s seniors. Eddie’s classes were still around with Ford.

  • Kevin

    Holder messed up. He failed to nurture a relationship with a valuable asset. You don’t pull a stunt like this unless you have no respect for your boss. That’s on holder.

  • Guest

    It’s not mutually exclusive to say that Underwood is a snake and Holder messed up. Both sides are to blame.

    If the Tramel story is true, then Holder made the right call. Top 10 money for Underwood is insanity. It will be interesting to see how he does in the Big 10 without a Jawun Evans type talent.

    • David Einstein

      That’s where I’m at.

      • Daflyonthewall

        That’s the thing..Isn’t it? U of I is ponying up Underwood’s buyout and 3 mil a year for six years.. So now Brad has to deliver in the Big 10 (who are no pushovers, either) to give them a return on this investment – he has to, already scooted out the door and dynamited the bridge on the way out here at OSU – first major conference head coach job.

        He went from like what? $300k a year at SFA to 1 million a year at OSU, demanded much more, and the Illini paid up to get him.

        So yeah, he has to deliver for them. And if he doesn’t, if he gets his ass handed to him next season, then let’s see how his new university and it’s fans react then.

        Did the Illini AD make a Travis Ford level contract mistake? Maybe, maybe not. If Underwood does get his ass handed to him in the Big 10, it will be Karma and the Pokes getting the last laugh, IMO.

        • David Einstein

          Not worth it to take the same risk at all. Still doesn’t mean Holder is innocent though…it’s his job to make sure he keeps guys around.

          • Daflyonthewall

            Oh, I agree, Holder is certainly not innocent in this. The way Undewood left, though, his method, the bombshell he dropped on us and his team – the kids being the most important thing here – sticks in my craw.

            But yeah, now he has to deliver for U of I, and he may be wildly successful for them, or he may fall on his face completely. It’s not like Southland Conference was any kind of competition, and he did one year stint in the big 12.

            So, if he crashes and burns, I admit i will enjoy trolling them mercilessly on social media.

            Holder though, the Holder situation needs to be addressed, and soon.

    • Jon

      Illinois has a top 15 recruiting class coming in

      • Guest

        And Underwood had Jawun Evans and Jeffrey Carroll returning. Already proven commodities and easily first team all-conference in the preseason.

        He had a lot of good talent. It’s 100% about the money. That’s fine. I think he’s a snake and extremely unlikeable (but a good coach).

  • Saucy Takes

    Holder should be gone because of Ford deal still paying for his sins

  • Sonny

    The good news is that Holder now has $3M more than he had yesterday. No need to try to find a coach willing to except 3 times less his worth.

  • Paul S

    Why are Holder and Underwood discussing contracts when OSU should be preparing for the tourney? Holder had every right to hold out on an offer until the season was complete. Underwood making demands prior to OSU’s NCAA tourney game, and then skipping the Thursday meeting with Holder, are pretty indicative of his character.

    I guess Underwood knew he wouldn’t get OSU far in the tourney or else he would have held off on his demands.

    • Riley Sutton

      Yeah this is how I feel. He was so incredibly quick to jump ship, I think if he had been patient he would have gotten a deal closer to what he wanted. Negotiations take time, Underwood didn’t wait a day and he skipped a meeting last week. I think he was already talking to Illinois.

  • Cowboydroid

    “I was surprised. Perhaps I didn’t have as good a relationship with him as I thought.”

    I guess not, idiot!

    You put him on the back burner and we got burned. You should have been making him feel welcome a long time ago. It should have never got to this point.

    Total incompetence.

    • DataAddict


      Back-burning a guy who demanded $3 million yearly for an **OK, BARELY SALVAGED** season is what stung oSu.

      No, it wasn’t.

      And at what point exactly should Holder have started coddling Underwood? After Brad FINALLY tweaked the defence into a sagging man so as to FINALLY break that SIX GAME SKID?

      No, that would’ve been ALMOST as asinine as your comment.

      • Cowboydroid

        There’s a difference between “coddling” and maintaining open lines of communication with your coach to make sure he’s feeling welcome and getting the information he needs.

        Underwood turned this program around in less than a year. He sold out GIA four times. He brought stability and good PR, which this program desperately needed and which it now sorely lacks.

        No need to be hostile with another fan for expressing his opinion. Holder has his reputation for a reason. Nobody likes working for him.

  • Shane Hand

    Not a villain just a snake.

  • Stephen J

    Not surprised to see Porter stumping for holder and refusing to see that he is a jerk to work for and refuses to foster relationships with people. Holder is the definition of golf snobbery. But great we can hire only alumni for every job we have because hey we can pay them whatever we want and treat them like crap because “this their yankee job!” This is a complete joke and wait until Gundy actually leaves for Arkansas here in a year or two when his kids are older. It’ll be great that we have a baseball stadium that we didn’t pay most of our assistant coaches for and not too many people are stoked about.

    • John

      You mean a man in charge of almost a hundred million dollars each year is a jerk? It’s not his job to make nice with everyone. It’s his job to fund athletics and get results. Go demand twice your salary from your boss on Monday and see how nice he is.

      • Stephen J

        If I was making the one of lowest salaries in the company and asked for what the avg employee was making and my boss didn’t want to give that to me, then yes he would be a jerk. And his responsibility is to manage people as well as his other tasks. He clearly can’t do that. Gives people a reason to jump ship.

  • oSuJones

    I bashed Holder in the beginning for this, but let’s think for a second here. Underwood has a new contract the day after the tourney without anyone at OSU being aware? I believe Underwood was talking to Illinois behind the scenes long before todays events unfolded. He’s been scamming us for a bit…what a prick. Karma man…it will catch up to him.

    • Saucy Takes

      I think Illinois was ready to go because the word was holder wasn’t nurturing a very strong relationship with him.. Sounds like gundy and holder too. Holder not being able to harvest good relationships is an issue

  • Robert Curfman

    Sorry but none of these “facts” looks good for Holder. He gave Travis Ford a 10 year contract extension, he didn’t hire Gottleib, he’s ruined the relationship with Gundy, and now screwed the deal with Underwood. He’s got to go. And underwood is no better than Les Miles or Dirk Koetter. Money grubbing asshole. I hope he chokes on his “loyalty” and no one is around to give him the hiemlich.

  • Philo Farnsworth

    The fact is Holder was obviously trying to work something out with Underwood… What is shocking is that, with Underwood skipping the meeting, he obviously knew what was going to happen, and still said all those things about, “this team” and the “future”… What a POS… He less than 24 hrs later faced Evans, and Carroll and had to say he was selling them out after a year,,,JESUS F’N CHRIST!!! This POS conned us all…

  • FreeDrop

    Knowing now what we know about Underwood — he was planning this for awhile — we wouldn’t want him in Stillwater anyway. Good riddance. Good luck.

    Let’s hire an alum.

    Make another run at Self; if he can’t be talked home, then go offer it to Barry Hinson. Hinson, by the way, is who Henry Iba would hire…

    • Riley Sutton

      I thought he was the perfect fit personality wise for Stillwater, but apparently that was all false. Good riddance, we don’t need people like that. Say what you will about Ford, I thought he was a terrible coach, but I think he was a guy with integrity.

  • OSU Student

    Maybe in this particular situation I agree to a degree, but I still whole heartedly believe holder doesn’t have much of a clue what he’s doing most of the time. The biggest glaring factor is Gundy. Gundy would marry this town if he could, he absolutely loves it here. And Holder seems to try to do everything he possibly can to run Gundy out. He may not be the most successful coach we’ve had across all sports, but I’d argue to say he’s the most important one we’ve ever had. In the biggest earning sport. And Holder has handled numerous situations with him awfully. Brad is being greedy and he definitely should get a little bit of the blame, but he definitely was worth more than 30% less than the league average. Holder messed up monumentally with the money he tossed at ford, and wanted to squeeze pennies with Brad because of his past mistakes. That’s not Brad’s fault, it’s his and his alone. From his “I’m only going to allow season ticket holders in football games because I crave money, but then talk about how we can’t sell out football games” mentality to having broken relationships with our two biggest sports coaches, he needs to reevaluate himself and figure some stuff out or the football/basketball programs will never grow elite.

    • OSU Student

      I’d like to add that I’m not defending Underwood in anyway, what he did was low. Just also believe Holder is a bad AD.

  • casemac0000

    He’s not worth $3M. Who cares if we can score 91 when we give up 92. We got beat the same way every game, couldn’t defend. If anyone else thinks he’s a top 10 coach in the entire country, you’re crazy.

  • Lisa Hefner

    Underwood did not take us any further than Ford did. OSU never won the 1st game in the tournament 3 times with him. And he won more conference games too.

    • Riley Sutton

      Actually Ford did take us out of the first round, once in his first year at OSU. However, that was a team full of Sean Sutton’s experienced upper classmen and James Anderson. James Anderson is probably the best pure scorer this school has ever had.

  • Lisa Hefner

    Praying for the players through this time. I have no respect when it is about the money….no honor in men today. I as a fan am here for the team, the young men that went to practice everyday, that gave their all on the court and took us all on a wonderful adventure this year. Thank you OState players, I will be back to see what you have in store for me next year.

  • Nathan

    No need to get bummed out by this. It worked out. We’re in better shape than we were a year ago at this time and so is Underwood. People calling Holder and Underwood names need to get a grip. Both people played the card that they should be playing. Holder didn’t agree to pay a coach $3 million, when he didn’t believe he warranted it. That’s a good decision considering the implications it has on all of our coaches contracts and considering that Underwood was wanting to triple his salary after year 1 and wasn’t satisfied with an offer that more than doubled it. Underwood on the other hand is now allegedly making approx. $5 million more over the next 6 years than he would’ve made at OSU. That may not be that significant if he’s already made $10 million over the last 10 years, but for a guy his age who hasn’t been making big boy money, the salary difference is a significant thing that changes his kids and grandkids lives. I would’ve probably done the same in his shoes. Move on..

    • davids

      Agree! Move on! I don’t know how this might impact our next hire. Next hire should be our mind set. Anyway, I told everyone we wouldn’t lose Underwood to K-State!

  • Zach Mauch

    The problem with Ford was not the annual money in the contract. It was the lack of a buyout and the length. We were trapped with him when he failed to perform and that was Holders mistake. You could easily pay Underwood and not make that mistake.

  • Diane Way

    Many ways to compute “average”…mean is skewed by “outliers” like Self’s or Underwood’s…in this case, median is likely a better gauge, and I suspect that lies somewhere less than the $3 million he will be getting now. If the offer reported is accurate, it seems more than fair to me… $2.2 million will go farther in Stillwater, OK than $3 million It will anywhere in Illinois, but what do I know, I am just a math teaching parent of OSU alums and students…

  • Renee Fitzpatrick Smith

    All things happen for a reason. Could be that all parties will be better off after things shake out! My best to both. As an OSU alum however, go get a good one Holder and Go Pokes!! Take care of those young men that put their faith in OSU first and foremost!!

  • Don Wayne Schooler

    Lets go for Kyle Keller, he is an alumni of OSU and his coaching statistics are very impressive.. He served as an assistant under Leonard Hamilton and Eddie Sutton at OSU, an assistant for Bill Self at Kansas, an assistant at Texas A&M and is currently the head coach at SFA. He was an assistant at OSU when we had that horrible plane crash in which we lost all those players and others connected with the program. He had the coaching experience that Doug does not have.

  • Johnny Dalpaos

    Maybe underwood was a glorified cheerleader. Do we need someone to tell us to show up at Games.if we fill GIA our coaching problem will solve itself?I have spoken

  • Riley Sutton

    I hate that Underwood spent time talking to Eddie Sutton, probably telling him how he was going to return the program to greatness. He lied to Eddie’s face, and Eddie even made the trip from Tulsa to a few games. That’s a lot of effort for a guy with his health and age. Good riddance to Underwood.

  • Shane

    Underwood has been RENTING in my neighborhood for the last year. Probably not uncommon for a first year coach, but also might show he was dating us when we thought we were married.