STILLWATER — James Wadley came to Oklahoma State University as the tennis coach in 1972. Floyd Gass was the football coach. Mike Gundy was 5 years old. Sam Aubrey was basketball coach. Travis Ford was 2. Tommy Chesbro was wrestling coach. John Smith was 7. Wadley remains on the job he took in the first Nixon administration. The grand old man of OSU athletics has begun his 38th year coaching Cowboy tennis. How much of an institution is Wadley? He’s been on the job longer than was the very definition of OSU institutions, Henry Iba, who coached Cowboy hoops for 36 seasons. "He’s older than Methuselah,” said OSU athletic director Mike Holder, who better not cast too many stones, since he’s been employed by the department, either as golf coach or AD, for 37 seasons. Wadley took a pay cut from what he was making at Duncan High School to come to OSU. Took a pay cut and a part-time job working at an apartment complex’s laundry, along with a young couple named Mike and Robbie Holder, to coach Big Eight tennis. Wadley coached it well, winning 12 Big Eight titles, and he has made OSU a consistent Big 12 force. "He’s very competitive,” said Yevgen Bondarchuk, who played for Wadley and now is his assistant coach. "He wants to win. He hates losing. He’s mad when we play bad and he’s happy when we play good.” Doesn’t sound like the recipe for a guy about to call it a career. "My wife thinks I’m retired already,” Wadley said. "I wear shorts to work and have a lot of time off in the summer.” If Holder ever wants to be the grand old man of OSU athletics, he might have to fire the competition. "Who’s going to win?” Holder asked of the marathon he’s running with Wadley. "I don’t know. I’m trying to fight off Father Time. "He’s changed with the times. When he started in the ’70s, it was a different kind of student-athlete. Not many things are real similar.” True enough. The players are better today, the competition stiffer. The recruiting is international, because the best American athletes aren’t playing tennis, and with men’s tennis scholarships reduced to 4 1/2, you can’t make a mistake on a recruit or wait for a prospect to blossom. But one thing hasn’t changed: OSU’s facilities. Wadley still doesn’t have his own courts, indoor or outdoor. Still doesn’t have so much as a bathroom for his players during practice. "By far the worst facilities in the Big 12 Conference,” Holder said. "He’s done a lot with very little.” Wadley has taken his team to 17 NCAA Championships since 1977. Current Cowboy senior Oleksandr Nedovyesov is a two-time Big 12 player of the year and ranked No. 1 in the NCAA. OSU has beaten OU 20 straight times and Tulsa eight of the last nine, even though both the Sooners and Hurricane have opened glittering new tennis facilities while Wadley’s team still plays on university-owned courts when the weather’s nice and in Tulsa or Oklahoma City when it’s not. "Keeps you on your toes,” Wadley said of the facility discrepancy. Of course, it helps that Wadley now recruits players not from Enid and Broken Arrow, but from Ukraine and Belarus. "Get guys from Ukraine, they think we have pretty good facilities,” Wadley said. Plus, the tennis courts are next to the university pool. At the right time of the year, the school sells itself. Still, Wadley’s best strategy is to rush recruits past the courts and hope they don’t visit anywhere else. Last year, it looked like Wadley had hung on long enough to be rewarded. A new tennis complex was included in the plans for OSU’s Athletic Village. Then the economy went bust, and Boone Pickens’ hedge fund went splat, and OSU’s grand plans went into hibernation. "At least we had people here who had dreams,” Wadley said. "Before that, we didn’t even have dreams.” So Wadley is content to coach tennis and chat with the players who continually lounge in his office and drive to Tulsa six days a week in the winter and teach tennis to his five grandkids and bet the horses and hunt and fish and try to stay a year ahead of Mike Holder. By Wadley’s count, OSU has hired 51 head coaches since Gass brought him on board in 1972. Don’t count on that number stopping there. Berry Tramel: 405-760-8080; Berry Tramel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.