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After five years, Mike Holder has OSU athletics in a much better place

by Jenni Carlson Modified: September 16, 2010 at 9:20 am •  Published: September 15, 2010

Exactly five years ago today, Mike Holder climbed into the athletic director's saddle at Oklahoma State.

The ride hasn't always been smooth.

He hasn't made every Cowboy fan happy — heck, he has made some of them livid and irate — but OSU athletics is in a better place than it was five years ago.

A much better place.

The reason is Holder. He has made several tough decisions, choices that he knew would be unpopular, changes that he suspected would ruffle some feathers. But he always did what he thought best for the entire athletic department, even if it meant facing the wrath of the orange-clad masses.

At the top of the list: increasing ticket prices.

"I learned very quick if you're trying to win a popularity poll, you're not going to raise ticket prices," Holder said.

He raised an eyebrow.

"And I did that."

Holder hadn't even been on the job a full day when he first mentioned the notion. The topic came up during his introductory press conference and sent OSU fans into a frenzy.

When he formally announced the increases the next spring — the brochure sent to season ticket holders was titled, "Cowboy Up" — there was a serious outcry.

"Maybe that's why we didn't raise them for two or three decades," Holder said of ticket prices.

He admits it was a tough decision.

"But I know what inexpensive tickets will get you," he said. "All I have to do is look in the rearview mirror."

When he does, he sees subpar football teams, unsold tickets and a stadium in serious need of updating.

Holder took a build-it-and-they-will-come approach with football. Some teams get good, then build a fancy stadium. But with the help of Boone Pickens' gifts and the other donations the billionaire spurred, OSU spruced up the stadium in hopes of one day having a program worthy of the digs.

The gamble paid off.

"We're having much bigger crowds now than when the tickets were much less expensive," Holder said of an average attendance that has increased from less than 45,000 when he took over to nearly 54,000 a season ago. "It all has to do with the product on the field."

Mike Holder: ‘Boone Pickens will be back’

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by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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