By Mike Bachini, CBS Connecticut
Connecticut (CBS) – When you think of Oklahoma State head football coach Mike Gundy, what comes to mind? Is it the epic post game rant from 10 years ago? Is it the various hairstyles he has, including his now famous mullet? Or is it the fact that he’s been one of the most consistent head coaches in all of college football over the course of his tenure? For most, all three come to mind, and that’s what makes Gundy so great.
On September 22nd, 2007, Gundy held up an article from The Oklahoman with the headline “QB Change: All about Attitude” after a week 4 win over conference rival Texas Tech. The article focused on Gundy’s decision to switch starting quarterbacks from Bobby Reid to Zac Robinson, emphasizing Reid’s attitude as a main reason for the switch. Gundy disputed the facts of the article, in what is now known as one of the greatest rants in all of sports history, telling the reporter who wrote the article to “Come after me, I’m a man! I’m 40”.
Gundy caught some heat from a few journalists who didn’t like how one of their own was treated and singled out. Some thought he should face a fine, or even a suspension for his actions. Reid, eventually transferred and said that the rant “basically ended his life“. Although it is worth noting that Reid and Gundy eventually smoothed things over when Gundy brought Reid back into the program to work in the quality control department from 2013-2015.
That rant came 4 games into Gundy’s 3rd season as head coach. At that time it was easy to be skeptical of what Gundy’s future may hold. The Cowboys finished the 2007 season with a win over Indiana in the Insight Bowl to get to 7-6 for the 2nd consecutive year. But it’s almost as if that famous 2007 season was a turning point for the program.
The next season, the Cowboys went 9-4 and were lead by one of the most dynamic WR’s in all of college football, Dez Bryant. A lot was expected of the Cowboys in 2009, but Bryant only played 3 games his Junior year after being suspended by the NCAA for lying during an investigation. The Cowboys again finished 9-4. Then came the Brandon Weeden/James Blackmon/Kendall Hunter years that turned Oklahoma State from a pretty good program to a great one. The pinnacle being when Gundy’s Cowboys defeated Andrew Luck and the Stanford Cardinal in the 2011 Fiesta Bowl and finished 3rd overall in the final rankings.
Mike Gundy is entering his 13th year as the head football coach at Oklahoma State University. In that time his teams have compiled a record of 104-50. The Cowboys have been to 11 straight bowl games including some of the best college football has to offer like the Sugar Bowl, Cotton Bowl and the aforementioned Fiesta Bowl. In those 11 bowl games his record is 7-4. But this year Stillwater is thinking playoffs.
That’s due in large part to what occurred on December 27th of last year. That’s the day that both QB Mason Rudolph and WR James Washington announced they would skip the upcoming NFL draft and return to school for the 2017 season. Both are electric talents who some sites project will be drafted in the first two rounds of the 2018 draft.
There are other contributing factors to the rise in expectations this season. The Cowboys have a favorable conference schedule this upcoming season. They play Oklahoma, Kansas State, Baylor and TCU all at home. And while their out of conference schedule isn’t easy by any stretch, the Cowboys will be favored in all 3 (Tulsa, @ South Alabama and @ Pitt).
On top of that, Oklahoma and Texas are going into the season with new head coaches. Bob Stoops unexpectedly retired as Oklahoma head coach on June 7th and was replaced by offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley. Gundy was 2-10 verses Bob Stoops’ Sooner teams. Texas fired head coach Charlie Strong on November 26th and eventually named Houston head coach Tom Herman his replacement. Gundy has fared better against Texas, going 5-7, having won 5 of the last 7 meetings with the Longhorns.
Oklahoma State has the experience, the talent and the schedule to really make a run and represent the Big 12 in the playoff. One big question is how the team is handling that expectation heading into the season?
“We have a chance to be pretty good this season, and we have a team that embraces that,” said Oklahoma State Assistant Athletic Director Gavin Lang who is entering his 11th season with the football program. Lang attributes much of that to the kind of culture that Gundy has established at Oklahoma State.
“His dedication to establishing and maintaining a culture,” Lang said when asked what makes Gundy so consistent year to year. “He sees the big picture and places great value and importance on the kind of people he brings into the program. Having the right people in place – both players and coaches/staff – makes it much more enjoyable for him. He often says how the program is now at the point where it can run itself without him and how much joy he takes in watching practice, as opposed to micromanaging everything that is going on. This is a testament to the people and culture he has implemented and carried on.”
Gundy is not like most head coaches. Along with the personality comes more off-field attention, but that seems to be embraced, and a breath of fresh air among the stale aura surrounding college football at times.
“It’s all part of his nature and points to the bigger concept that he’s comfortable in his own skin,” Lang added. “He doesn’t do this stuff as a publicity stunt. I think it’s refreshing to see someone of his stature stay true to himself and his own sensibilities, rather than act how others think he should.”
Gundy’s personality is not lost on his players. When the leader is relaxed and comfortable in his own skin, the players can be too.
“He’s true to himself and them,” said Lang. “He’s built something they can believe in and that they can buy in to. He’s very focused on developing them, first as a person, and second as a player.”
Gundy’s teams have always been entertaining to watch. But this upcoming season should provide more than just high scoring games with future NFL talent. It should be the season Oklahoma State takes the next step from consistently good, to elite. With Gundy, don’t be surprised if elite becomes consistent moving forward as well.
This past Saturday Gundy turned 50. It’s hard to believe that the famous post game rant is almost 10 years old. Will we be seeing any “I’m an old man! I’m 50!” post game rants this upcoming season? I wouldn’t bet on it. One thing I would bet on is that this upcoming Oklahoma State season is going to be a lot of fun. Whether that’s because of Gundy off the field, or Gundy and his team on the field. It’s what makes Gundy such a darn good football coach.
Follow Mike Bachini on Twitter this upcoming college football season @MikeBachini