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Gundy, Stillwater run deep with optimism for OSU football

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  • Gundy, Stillwater run deep with optimism for OSU football

    Feb. 14, 2005
    By Dennis Dodd Senior Writer
    Tell Dennis your opinion!

    STILLWATER, Okla. -- This is what a couple of victories over Oklahoma will get you ...

    Interest from a millionaire donor.
    Interest in your coach.
    Interest in getting better?
    Oklahoma State is in the business of answering that question -- again. It's a common one in Stillwater, where rookie Mike Gundy is the fourth coach since crippling NCAA sanctions tore OSU football apart in 1988.

    QB Donovan Woods will have the spotlight next year. (Getty Images)
    Its perpetual starting point is being the other program in the state, seldom dealing from a position of strength. On its own campus, Eddie Sutton consistently fields a top 10 basketball program. OSU football constantly fights for recruits, attention and victories against that national power 90 minutes down the road.

    Ah, that's where the Cowboys can claim some progress. Quick, name the only school to beat Oklahoma more than once since the beginning of the 2000 season.

    Yep, Oklahoma State, which has won two of the past four meetings and five of the past 10.

    "Our staff, in my honest opinion, does a great job of game-planning them," said Gundy, who ascended from offensive coordinator to replace Les Miles on Jan. 3. "We challenge them. We go after them. Some teams go out there and say, 'Let's get this over with.' Our players go right after them."

    Sooners everywhere have about eight months to let those words soak in. Until then, I-A's youngest coach (Gundy is 37) is brash enough to keep crowing. Miles wasn't shy about the subject while leading the program out of a decade-long malaise before departing for LSU. While his record wasn't spectacular (28-21), his organizational skills and game-planning were outstanding.

    Ask Oklahoma. A going-nowhere Cowboys team beat the No. 4 Sooners in Norman 16-13 in 2001, Miles' first season. They did it again the next year, winning 38-28 against a team ranked No. 3.

    Based largely on those two results, LSU swept in and hired Miles, the only coach to guide Oklahoma State to three consecutive bowls. Also based on those victories, Oklahoma State quickly replaced him with Gundy. Millionaire T. Boone Pickens was already on board, having given a combined $200 million to the school and athletic department.

    Mike Gundy file
    A brief history of Oklahoma State's new coach:
    Birthdate: Aug. 12, 1967 (youngest I-A coach)
    Wife: Kristen
    Children: Gavin, Gunnar, Gage
    School: Oklahoma State
    Playing experience: Four-year starter at quarterback, 1986-89; still holds school career passing record (7,997 yards)
    Coaching experience: assistant Oklahoma State, 1990-1995; Baylor, 1996; Maryland, 1997-2000; Oklahoma State, 2001-2004; head coach, Oklahoma State, 2005-
    It's hard to imagine a time when Oklahoma State has been more committed to football. It's also hard to imagine a school in a more difficult (and unique) situation.

    It's recruiting against a national power/bitter rival in its own state. All while competing against that bitter rival in arguably the toughest division (Big 12 South).

    Texas will most likely start the 2005 season in the top five. Texas A&M has rebounded nicely under Dennis Franchione and recently landed a top 10 recruiting class. Texas Tech has gone to five consecutive bowls under Mike Leach.

    "There's not a stronger division than the one we're in," Gundy said.

    For 10 days in January, Gundy had one assistant on the road during the heart of recruiting season.

    "Send me some compadres," Gundy said, recalling special teams coach Joe DeForest's pleas over the phone. "I'm bombed out here."

    Gundy rallied in hiring a staff, but the recruiting class was solid, not great.

    LSU had moved quickly to replace Nick Saban, snatching up Miles, whose potential was better than his record. Coaching with the equivalent of one arm tied behind his back, Miles pulled off two of the biggest upsets of the decade.

    Last year's Oklahoma loss came within a missed field goal of going into overtime.

    "Les did a great job of establishing an attitude that we're not going to take a back seat to anyone," Gundy said. "I think they've accepted it in the last couple of years. They've looked at us as a quality opponent."

    Being the youngest head coach in I-A is a relative term. Gundy is younger than Pat Jones, who was only 36 when he replaced Jimmy Johnson in 1984. In a 15-year career, Gundy has been at three schools. That's more experience than Barry Switzer or Bob Stoops had when they took over at Oklahoma.

    He is confident enough to be more like Bobby Bowden, an elderly caretaker, than a young buck.

    "I don't want to get into the play-calling because I don't think I can spend enough time in that meeting to do a good job of it," he said. "I want to be able to coach the attitude of the team, motivate."

    When Miles took the LSU job on a Saturday, there was no question who would replace him. The first thing Miles did was drive over to the house of his assistant head coach with the news. Gundy was contacted by administration later in the day and was hired two days later.

    The stark scenery is no surprise to the new coach. Gundy was born in the Oklahoma City suburb of Midwest City. There are a handful of Division I-A college towns that wouldn't challenge a distance runner. Pullman, Wash., Manhattan, Kan., Auburn, Ala. You could run a lap around each without breaking a sweat.

    Stillwater is in the club. Try the calf fry in April and zucchini festival in June.

    Over the years, the school has become Tailback U. Barry Sanders, Thurman Thomas, Earnest Anderson and Terry Miller played here. Gundy just lost his hoss -- tailback Vernand Morency -- who departed early for the draft.

    Even with Morency, Gundy was going to be a gambler, pass more. Because of a defense that blew a two-touchdown lead to the Sooners and a 28-point lead at Texas, that's the way things might have to be.

    He was one-third of The Triplets in 1988. Gundy, Sanders and Hart Lee Dykes combined to form one of the most potent offenses of the past 20 years. The Cowboys averaged 43.5 points and 515 yards per game that year and won 10. Sanders won the Heisman. Gundy is still is the school's career passing leader.

    And even at his tender coaching age, Gundy is far less a candidate to use Oklahoma State as a steppingstone job. He is the first alum to coach the football team in 66 years. Miles became the first coach in the school's history to get to three consecutive bowl games. Gundy watched while Miles helped wipe the second-class citizen label from the players' minds.

    "Our players in the last couple of years here have developed an attitude where they think they can win every game they play," Gundy said. "The last 25-30 years, OSU has been a roller coaster. Three, four good years, three, four bad years. We want to stay consistent."

    That's where Pickens comes in. Pickens, 76, is the founder of the largest independent oil and natural gas producer in the country. In the twilight of his years, he has decided to keep Oklahoma State competitive with his checkbook.

    That has translated to a $70 million gift to the athletic department. Formerly decrepit Lewis Field has been updated, renovated and renamed -- Boone Pickens Stadium.

    "We're lucky now we've got a guy like Boone Pickens," Gundy said. "We're getting ready to take the next step."

    That's code for money. When the stadium improvements are done, Pickens Stadium is going to be a classy, throwback crib with club seats, suites and a capacity of 60,000, or about 20,000 more seats than people in Stillwater.

    Gundy successfully lobbied for multiyear contracts (three years) for his assistants. That's almost unheard of in college football, where most assistants are on one-year deals.

    "In our game you're only a few games, a few injuries away from getting fired," he said. "It's always the head coach with the multiyear deal. If he was fired, they had to write him a check for a couple of million dollars. What about the guys who have six months left at $25,000?"

    Miles came in four years ago and donated a portion of his $700,000 salary to his assistants. Gundy, a veteran assistant by now, was inspired. He has been on two staffs that have been fired -- Maryland and Baylor.

    "My wife wasn't too fired up about this profession," Gundy said after the Baylor staff was blown out after the 1996 season. "I just moved down there, changed her female doctor, made her have the baby down there, built a new house and told her, 'Guess what, we don't have a job.'"

    Eight years later Gundy has his dream job. Thanks to patience, planning and Pickens.

Related Topics


  • DJRamFan
    Schnellenberger building a fourth power in Florida
    by DJRamFan
    Sept. 23, 2004
    By Dennis Dodd Senior Writer

    Why not flip a coin to pick a starting quarterback?

    Howard Schnellenberger had done wackier things in his career. Twenty years ago it seemed like he was throwing that career away. Miami had won the national championship in 1983 and Schnellenberger, the celebrated architect of Hurricanes football, bolted -- try not to laugh -- to the USFL.

    Needless to say, that didn't work out. There was an inspiring stop at Louisville and a disappointing one at Oklahoma but, really, his career arc was never the same again.

    "In my opinion, he might have as many championships as anybody, ever (if he stayed at Miami)," Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said. "It's crossed my mind many times."

    So why not flip that coin three years ago? How is that more outrageous than creating a football program at an unknown campus in Boca Raton, Fla.? A place where the burrowing owls on campus were the inspiration for the school's nickname?

    Or agreeing to go door-to-door soliciting community leaders for the mere $15 million needed to go from germ of an idea to kickoff?

    Really, it wasn't weird at all for the 70-year old who, well, let's just say he still has extreme confidence in his abilities. So, yeah, it really was Schnellenberger who suggested in 2001 that freshman quarterbacks Jared Allen and Garrett Jahn flip a coin to start the first game in Florida Atlantic's history.

    "They were too close for a human being to call so God called it," Schnellenberger said this week, considering his latest construction project. "Certainly I would do that. Why wouldn't I?"

    Ridiculous is sublime again in Schnellenberger's world. Amid this season's talking points -- hurricanes, instant replay, kickers who can't kick -- is the job Schnellie has done at that owl-laden commuter campus of 13,000 students in Palm Beach County.

    Three victories, all on the road, all against I-A competition in Florida Atlantic's final season before joining the big time, which in this case is the Sun Belt Conference in 2005. Next year, this college football IPO will be eligible for -- please stifle your laughter again -- a bowl.

    All of it after playing organized college football for all of four years. All of it according to plan.

    "He was basically semi-retired in Miami selling municipal bonds," said Dr. Anthony Catanese, the man who hired Schnellenberger at Florida Atlantic in 1998. "I said, 'That's not the place for Howard Schnellenberger.'

    "He told me in five years he'd have this program nationally recognized. He did it in three."

    Almost all of it has been done with kids from the state of Florida who couldn't go to one of the Big Three -- Miami, Florida or Florida State....
    -09-23-2004, 01:14 PM
  • DJRamFan
    Penn State has Coke-bottle glasses about JoePa
    by DJRamFan
    Oct. 27, 2004
    By Dennis Dodd Senior Writer
    Tell Dennis your opinion!

    National feature | Notebook
    At least Florida had the power to fire its coach.

    Penn State has no such option. The only person who can determine the future employment of Joe Paterno is Joe Paterno. And at last check the 77-year-old was armed with a four-year extension as a foundation for an increasingly obvious stubborn streak. odds
    Florida coaching candidates
    Coach, School Odds
    Steve Spurrier EVEN
    Bobby Petrino, Louisville 2-1
    Butch Davis, Browns (NFL) 3-1
    Urban Meyer, Utah 10-1
    Jeff Tedford, Cal 100-1
    Rick Neuheisel, H.S. $11,000-1
    Bob Stoops, Oklahoma 1 million-1
    The silly season kicked off early Monday with the firing of Ron Zook at Florida. The 2004-05 round of coaching changes apparently won't include the departure of Paterno. What was merely uncomfortable the past couple of seasons could get flat-out embarrassing in Happy Valley.

    Those Coke bottles might help JoePa focus on his world, but they're still blocking his view. Saturday's 6-4 loss to Iowa proved that -- or rather reinforced it. The Nittany Lions have few Big Ten-quality athletes, even fewer playmakers.

    They are 2-5 this season and 5-14 over the past two seasons. In the last four-plus seasons, Penn State has lost 31 games. That's not a blip on the radar, friends, that's a trend. The school lost a total of 22 games in the 1970s, 28 in the 1980s and 26 in the 1990s.

    What little Big Ten talent Paterno does have, he doesn't seem to know what to do with. The coach lashed out at reporters last week after calling quarterback/receiver Michael Robinson "one of the best football players I have ever coached."

    Steve Spurrier is getting in some golf in Florida before a widely anticipated return.(AP)
    "Don't question me," Paterno added.

    Robinson promptly went out and threw two interceptions and fumbled on plays that ended Penn State's final three possessions. Most troubling, and usually a sure sign a coach is in trouble, is thousands of empty seats at Beaver Stadium.

    Apparently, not at Penn State where the school would be firing one of its biggest donors who has ties to bigger donors. That the final score was the same as the first college football game played in 1869, between Rutgers and Princeton, taints those first noble football warriors.

    Back then, didn't each "touchdown" count for a point?

    Considering the issues, jobs, coaches and schools this could be on the most interesting offseasons in recent history. Now that Florida has broken the seal, here the top potential openings in the country ...

    He's coming...
    -10-27-2004, 11:14 AM
  • DJRamFan
    by DJRamFan
    Aug. 1, 2005
    By Dennis Dodd
    CBS Senior Writer
    Tell Dennis your opinion!

    CHICAGO -- Ron Zook knows his place in college football history. One of the most famous URLs in college football history is still only a couple of keystrokes away.

    Ron Zook brings a .621 winning percentage to Illinois after guiding the Gators to 7-4 in his final season. (Getty Images)

    "I took off from New Orleans, and before I landed in Gainesville, they had that," Zook said reminiscing (sort of) Monday at the Big Ten preseason media days. "(Pittsburgh Steelers coach) Bill Cowher told me, 'Man, you screwed this game up. Now everybody has 'Fire Bill Cowher.'

    "I said that's my legacy to coaching."

    Pretty much. For now. The infamous website now exists only to proclaim "VICTORY" in huge headline type through a doctored front page. Dwight Eisenhower is smiling out from a picture on A1, as if to suggest a battle of World War II proportions had been won.

    The going-out-of business-sale for gear ($9.99 for the thong panties, who knew?) is supposedly concluded. The site, in case you're wondering, supports the hiring of Urban Meyer and proclaims Saturdays are worth waking up for again, "with a Bloody Mary, of course."

    Coaches have been fired, run out of town and disgraced, but seldom all three, and practically never with a .621 winning percentage.

    Just so you know where this column is heading.

    What could have been called debuted Monday -- Zook, the new Illinois coach, taking some not-so-veiled shots at his old employers. Which was great. It's about time. The guy who delivered more filibusters than big victories at Florida isn't a boob or a fool. He's merely the latest guy-to-follow-the-guy, that unfortunate cradle of coaches that counts Bill Guthridge, Gary Gibbs and Gene Bartow among its exclusive group.

    In order, those three followed legends Dean Smith, Barry Switzer and John Wooden. Zook followed The OBC (Ol' Ball Coach), the Florida icon who won six SEC titles and a national championship. No, he wasn't athletic director Jeremy Foley's first choice. No, he had no head coaching experience. And yes, was literally fired up and running before he left the New Orleans Saints to touch down in Gainesville.

    But ...

    "What did you want me to do, tell them no?" Zook said.

    Exactly. What would you do if a super-rich major-college power dumped its football program in your lap? Delivered you from life of assistant coach servitude? Gave you that one chance that 99 percent of coaches never get?

    "People say, 'Why would you follow Steve Spurrier?'" Zook said....
    -08-02-2005, 01:31 PM
  • DJRamFan
    Price tags for top coaches reaching stratosphere
    by DJRamFan
    Jan. 25, 2005
    By Dennis Dodd Senior Writer
    Tell Dennis your opinion!

    Good news for all of us mere mortals worried about next month's mortgage payment ...

    The $3 million per year threshold for top college football coaches is about to be crossed. Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione admitted at the Orange Bowl that Bob Stoops would have almost reached that mark had the Sooners won the national championship.

    Bob Stoops isn't having much trouble feeding his family. (Getty Images)
    Stoops would have made approximately $2.66 million with the addition of incentive bonuses with an Oklahoma win. The Sooners got blown out, but the point is that $3 million per year isn't far away. Currently, there are at least nine I-A coaches making more than $2 million per year. An estimated 35 make at least $1 million.

    Nick Saban left LSU making an average of $2.6 million per year. Either Texas' Mack Brown (new 10-year, $26 million contract) or Stoops is believed to be the game's highest-paid coach. Stoops made approximately $2.51 million in 2004 after incentives.

    This at a time when NCAA president Myles Brand is preaching financial restraint. The problem is any talk of financial reform is hit by double roadblocks. The NCAA is limited legally by what it can do to curb spending. Second, more and more athletic departments have become separate "corporations" responsible for their own budget and profit.

    Try telling any corporation it has to limit salaries and expenditures in a competitive market. The hamster long ago hit the treadmill. You've got to win to keep producing revenue. In order to win, you've got to pay top dollar to coaches.

    "The economic model for college athletics has to be one of the worst on record ..." said Castiglione. "None of us like it but it's part of the (landscape). Let's face it, we are the NCAA. If we don't like it, we're the ones responsible for coming up with a different plan. We have to quit complaining about this model and give ourselves a chance to survive."

    That comes from an administrator at the top of his game. Castiglione helped lead a $100 million capital campaign that improved Oklahoma's facilities. But a lot of that money came from the momentum generated by the 2000 national championship and subsequent Big 12 titles and championship games.

    Even then, there's always another school around the corner willing to do more.

    "Because of the antitrust laws, the NCAA is very constrained in the way it can actually limit the way of expenditures," said Robert Hemenway, the Kansas chancellor and chairman of the NCAA board of directors.

    It has only been 10 years since Florida's Steve Spurrier was the first to break the $1 million (per season) barrier. It was 23...
    -01-27-2005, 01:23 PM
  • DJRamFan
    SEC preview: Miles' task at LSU simple: Win 'em all
    by DJRamFan
    By Dennis Dodd
    CBS Senior Writer
    Tell Dennis your opinion!

    No pressure or anything, Les Miles, but it would be nice if you'd deliver an SEC title in your first season at LSU.

    OK, a national championship wouldn't hurt either.

    Predicted Finish
    1. Tennessee
    2. Florida
    3. Georgia
    4. South Carolina
    5. Kentucky
    6. Vanderbilt
    1. LSU
    2. Auburn
    3. Alabama
    4. Arkansas
    5. Mississippi
    6. Mississippi State
    Off. player of year:
    Chris Leak, Florida
    Def. player of year:
    Jesse Mahelona, Tennessee
    Coach of the year:
    Urban Meyer, Florida
    Like any coach jumping up a level, Miles wanted the fame, money and power that goes with coaching an SEC power. Now comes the reality. Nick Saban left Miles a load of talent.

    And Miles cannot screw it up. No pressure or anything, Les, but the expectations are through the roof.

    "I think I spoke on (a) Wednesday night and I got in the car," said the Tigers' new coach. "(A) guy talked about nine wins and then at the podium somebody mentioned 10 or 11, then a guy said, 'Well, you know 12 victories is probably just what we'd like, coach.'"

    Yeah, no pressure.

    Miles enters the House That Nick Built with the burden of Tiger Nation upon him. Being the first coach to lead Oklahoma State to three consecutive bowl games is one thing. Keeping Tiger Stadium rocking at an earthquake level is another.

    Saban wasn't the most media-friendly guy in the world, but he did deliver two SEC titles and a national championship. That will earn him a lifetime spot in LSU hearts.

    Saban recruited so well that the Tigers have averaged 10 victories the past four seasons. Seemingly the only way they can be dragged down this year is a still-questionable quarterback situation.

    Les Miles hits Baton Rouge after leading Oklahoma State to back-to-back upsets of then-No. 1 Oklahoma. (AP)
    Sophomore JaMarcus Russell has been slow to develop, but that doesn't mean he can't be this year's Jason Campbell. Besides, the Tigers are so loaded at defensive line, running back and receiver that it might not matter.

    Right now, it certainly doesn't matter to LSU fans. LSU was an overwhelming pick to win the SEC West by the media. Six players were picked on the preseason all-conference teams. The run started by Saban is unprecedented in LSU history. It's up to Miles (28-21 at Oklahoma State) not to screw it up.

    "The program is in great shape," he said. "There's arguably maybe no finer football program in the country being run."

    -08-24-2005, 07:00 PM