Head Coach of the Oklahoma State Cowboys Mike Gundy looks across the stadium after the game against the Southeastern Louisiana Lions September 3, 2016 at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The Cowboys defeated the Lions 61-7. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)

Cedric Golden

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Golden: Oklahoma State’s Gundy has survived so long in the Big 12 for a reason

Posted July 17th, 2018

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Story highlights
  • Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy enters his 14th season in Stillwater, the longest-tenured coach in the Big 12.
  • The Cowboys went 10-3 last season but lost QB Mason Rudolph and WR James Washington the NFL draft.
  • Gundy has 114 wins in 13 seasons and has gone 8-4 in bowl games.

FRISCO — Mike Gundy wins.

Doesn’t matter the year, the competition, or the temperature in Stillwater. The wins come with regularity at Oklahoma State.

So do the storms, but he survives them and moves on through his coaching life. The skin was tan and the mullet was finely coiffed on Tuesday’s close of Big 12 media days and Gundy, as usual, was in fine form.

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The offseason wasn’t without controversy, though. Entering his 14th consecutive season at Oklahoma State, which is the most among active Big 12 coaches — the legendary Bill Snyder is in his second tour at Kansas State — Gundy, who had a well-documented tiff with longtime OSU benefactor T. Boone Pickens, was asked about comments his boss made about him earlier this summer.

Oklahoma State head football coach Mike Gundy responds to questions during Big 12 media days, Monday, July 18, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder appeared on the Pistols Firing podcast last month and complimented Gundy the coach, but lobbed a mini-grenade when asked about recruiting.

“I would approach recruiting a little differently than he does,” Holder said, as transcribed by The Oklahoman. “I’d want to finish higher in those recruiting rankings than we consistently do. I think that ultimately puts a ceiling on what you’re able to achieve.”

Holder later expressed regret for his comments. When asked about it Tuesday, Gundy, in what is a teaching tool for every employee in America, did the smart thing and avoided a gas can aimed at his boss.

“I would much rather talk about football,” Gundy said. “I would hate to waste today talking about something off the subject.”

You don’t make it this long without growing thick skin, and Gundy has shown a survival instinct that has led to one of the least appreciated tenures in all of college football. He has 12 straight winning seasons, an 8-4 bowl record, a Big 12 championship, six New Year’s 6 bowl appearances since 2010 and double-digit wins in six of his last eight seasons.

“It’s not an easy thing to do,” Snyder said. “Mike has certainly done a wonderful job at Oklahoma State, and I think he does has it the right way. I don’t think you see any issues with the program or how he manages the program. I’m confident he continue to do a great job. It’s not a short-term thing at all.”

The Cowboys enter the season as one of the league’s biggest question marks. Quarterback Mason Rudolph rewrote the school’s passing record book but is now Ben Roethlisberger’s heir apparent with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He also reunited with OSU career catches leader James Washington in the Steel City.

Meanwhile, the Survivor has to figure out a way to replace those big numbers in one of the most prolific offensive conferences in the country. As usual, the question will be if the Cowboys can get stops when they need them.

Texas wide receiver Lorenzo Joe (14) and Oklahoma State cornerback A.J. Green (4) collide during overtime of an NCAA college football game in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. Oklahoma State defeated Texas 13-10. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The Cowboys will win because it’s what they have done year in and year out. Gundy calls it culture and while his boss believes he could do better than an average of 34th nationally in recruiting over the last 10 years, the fact he has placed six players in the NFL draft’s first round during his tenure speaks to his ability to find and develop players.

He understands that the recruiting game has changed since he was a quarterback at OSU in the late 1980s and that the administration knew it had to step it up to compete with the bigger budgets employed by schools like Texas and Oklahoma. Seventeen- and 18-year-olds are ” fascinated by colors and bright lights and things that move fast,” he said.

Things move fast for the competition as well and Gundy, 10 years north of 40, continues to evolve with the times.

Like yours truly, Gundy loves Prince’s music and just like Gundy, the late Purple One was a picture of consistency in the music industry. Gundy, who wakes up to Prince’s “Raspberry Beret” as an alarm tone every morning, has been the same type of consistency in the Big 12, having held his own against the likes of Bob Stoops, Mack Brown and Snyder.

That kind of long-term production can be overlooked and fan bases can make the mistake of believing, “This is who we are” without appreciating the work that went into making a program successful.

“I think that we live in that world, not just college football but everywhere in society where people want instant success, they want continued success,” he said. “The one thing that has changed college football considerably over the last 10 years is the money. In any profession, when there are large sums of money involved, people want instant results and they want it all the time.”

Gundy signed a five-year contract extension last summer that now pays him $4.3 million annually. He’s worth every penny and will have ample chance to prove it once again this fall.

It’s what he does.

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