STILLWATER - On the job less than one year but part of Oklahoma State’s athletic department for 40 years, athletic director Mike Holder tackles a subject that’s taboo for some Cowboy fans.
Sooner football. OSU is coming off a 4-7 season. Even though the Cowboys won only one conference game, prices for premium football season tickets increased 50 percent. Holder’s explanation speaks volumes. “This is just my opinion, but I believe Oklahoma has had the No. 1 football program in America the last 40 years,” Holder said. “People don’t mind paying more for a ticket in their stadium because they feel the product justifies it. It’s supply and demand. What we need to do is win. If we win, people will fill the seats.” Holder hinted a price hike was coming the day he was hired. In September, he thanked the Sooners - that’s right, he complimented his arch-rival - for setting the bar high. Holder said all OSU fans would have to jump on board and pay more for tickets if the Cowboys wanted to compete. “We wouldn’t be building around here like we are unless we intend to go to that next level,” said Holder, who won eight NCAA titles in 25 years as golf coach. “We’ve talked about competing (in football) since I was at school here in 1966. But all it’s been has been lip service. Now we’re doing something about it. “We will have spent $102 million on our football stadium when we kick off our first game this year. And we intend to spend maybe double that (an estimated $180 million) in the west end zone. We’re going to change the paradigm as it applies to football at Oklahoma State University.” Holder and coach Mike Gundy believe a state-of-the-art stadium will assist recruiting. But to fill 61,000 seats, the Cowboys must win consistently in one of the toughest divisions of all college football - the Big 12 South. “Texas is competitive in every sport,” Holder said. “If you want to compete in the Big 12 South you better get ready to do what we’re doing with facilities. But that’s the case everywhere. Everyone in the Big 12 South has made a commitment (to football) other than Baylor. “Texas Tech has spent a lot of money on their stadium. Texas A&M is talking about doing their south end zone to bring capacity up to 120,000. Texas is renovating the north end of their stadium to seat more than 90,000. They’re spending more than $100 million. Oklahoma just spent a lot of money. Bit if you compete in the Big 12 South that means you can compete nationally.” So when does Holder feel it’s realistic for OSU to compete with more established Big South football programs? “I’m confident (Gundy) knows what it takes to win football games at this level,” Holder said. “He’s put together a good staff. They’ve obviously done a good job recruiting. We still have some challenges with personnel. We don’t have the depth a lot of other teams have... I’m hoping to see improvement this year.” Gundy doesn’t have a timetable for when it’s realistic to compete for a Big 12 South title. Gundy also said pressure is part of the job. “We would have pressure in our profession every day whether we had the stadium (project) or not,” Gundy said.