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Travis Ford is an object of ire, but why doesn’t Mike Holder catch more heat for this mess?

It’s not Travis Ford’s fault he gets paid so much money to be a mediocre coach.



What a mess.

That’s the only thing I could think after yesterday’s embarrassing series of events that culminated with Boone Pickens’ tweet and Mike Holder’s confirmation of Travis Ford as the head basketball coach at Oklahoma State.

The whole thing was viewed from afar by OSU fans with the comfort of a dysfunctional family reunion taking place in the confines of an open bar.

What could go wrong?


You know it’s bad when your rival fans are openly celebrating, chortling that OSU would eventually probably even extend Ford’s contract instead of buy him out.

So imagine my glee as I watched the OU folks I follow on Twitter try to come up with the funniest possible retort to Holder’s final decision.[1. There was no glee.]

I’ve written at the end of each of the past two seasons (2014 | 2013) that OSU should seriously consider letting Travis Ford go.[1. I didn’t this year because I don’t think there’s actually anyone left to convince.] In each of those instances I was unaware of just how dire the Ford contract situation actually was.

As Berry Tramel pointed out this week, it’s incredibly costly for a program that’s in the red to pay one of its employees nearly $10 million to go find another job.

It also seems like there comes a time when you can’t afford not to do it.

I don’t know if we’re there yet, but does anyone think a basketball program that isn’t making as much money as it spends is going to close that gap in tickets and revenue generated from a deep tournament run over the next few years?

Here’s what 2013-14 looked like for OSU’s basketball team from a revenue/expenses standpoint (source: Equity in Athletics Data) :Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 1.46.54 PM

Tacking on money to that “expenses” ledger doesn’t exactly help this thing. And Mike Holder is nothing if he isn’t fiscally self-aware.

So let’s forget about Travis Ford for a second. It’s not his fault that somebody put $20 million in front of him and effectively guaranteed that he would receive the entire thing.

“In retrospect, it wasn’t good for him or us,” said Mike Holder (now infamously) last year.

Let me deviate from this for a minute and say that I’m a big Mike Holder fan.

He’s had his share of screw-ups but when you’re dealing with the situation he is where a single booster is so prominently involved in an athletic program, it would be difficult not to fall on your face a few times.

I think he’s led well, made good coaching hires in several sports and handled the myriad crises OSU has been through in the last few years (plane crash, Smart going into the stands, Sports Illustrated) quite well.

He also once told me that “done the right way, criticism is very important for every successful organization.”

So…here I am.

And here’s the problem. Holder made a big mistake. A huge, egregious mistake by signing Ford to such a long contract with so much guaranteed money.

He knows that. Everybody knows that.

Last fall, Rick Barnes signed a contract extension through 2019 after having gone to 15 of the last 16 tournaments in which his buyout was simply one year’s pay.

Seriously, that was it.[1. Bill Self’s, from what I can tell, is around $5 million in bonuses with a $0 buyout on both sides.]

“If Barnes is fired before April 2015, UT would owe him $1.75 million. That amount drops to $1.5 million before April 2016, to $1 million before April 2017, and to $500,000 before April 2018.”

So not only is the length of Ford’s contract on Holder’s hands but the lack of a clause like this is too. There was just no foresight there.

Understandably, Holder doesn’t want to compound this problem by driving OSU hoops further in the hole which he would do, at least fiscally, by saddling that head coaching spot with an even bigger price tag if he fired Ford and hired somebody else.

So the logical next step, again, if he believes that OSU hoops is simply stagnating and not being driven irreconcilably into oblivion (which I think he does), is to do nothing.

And that, my friends, is the agonizing part.

Holder was right on Tuesday when he said “I am convinced Travis is as dedicated as ever to our university and to the young men who play for him. No one wants to win games, win championships and make deep tournament runs more than our coach.”

I wholeheartedly believe that because nobody doesn’t believe that.

Ford isn’t purposefully sabotaging OSU basketball for his own gain.[1. Obama joke here.] That would be preposterous.

So as OSU meanders around the dry hoops desert of 5th and 6th and 8th place in the Big 12 for the next two or three years, please stop pointing the finger at Ford.

It’s not his fault he can’t be let go because he’s paid too much money.

It’s the fault of the person who signed him up to do it.

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