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Coach Mike Gundy has elevated Oklahoma State's football program

By Brandon Chatmon, Staff Writer, Modified: July 9, 2011 at 4:38 pm •  Published: July 9, 2011

STILLWATER — Nobody deserves more credit for Oklahoma State's rise on the college football landscape than Mike Gundy.

The Cowboys' first-class facilities are an asset, but they mean nothing without success on the field.

“That facility doesn't win any games,” athletic director Mike Holder said. “The weight room can't beat anyone, the locker room can't win any games.”

Said offensive coordinator Todd Monken: “A lot of people have nice facilities. Facilities alone are not a reason for a kid to go there. It's a start, but if you don't do the right things in recruiting, if you don't discipline the team, if you don't play tough, it won't matter.”

The Cowboys back-to-back, nine-win seasons in 2008 and 2009 were a sign Gundy had OSU moving in the right direction but that success could have just been a group of talented upperclassmen, including NFL players Russell Okung, Dez Bryant, Perrish Cox and Zac Robinson, imposing their will to lead OSU to victories.

The 2010 season is an undeniable sign Gundy and his coaching staff is building a quality program, not just one quality team. The Cowboys' 11-2 record was proof OSU has the ability to reload after losing NFL-level talent.

“I can't explain to you how amazing it is to see coach Gundy be the guy to get them in this situation,” former Cowboy offensive lineman Sam Mayes said. “I'm actually shocked they've gotten as far as they have so soon.

“I know what it was like, that first season when Les (Miles) left, you wanted to hang yourself. He took a power offense and turned it into a flag football team. I thought, ‘He's crazy! How's this going to work?'”

Yet it has worked.

And it's happened thanks to Gundy's confidence in his plan and vision of the future for the Cowboy football program.

— — — — —

When Mike Gundy took over at Oklahoma State in 2005, he had a clear-cut plan for how to build a championship contender.

“There's no question in my mind I know how to win a championship at this school,” Gundy said. “I may not know how to do it at Arizona State but I know how to do it here.”

His top priority was change the atmosphere around the program and begin laying a foundation which could withstand the inherent ups-and-downs of college football.

“We had some internal issues that needed to be cleaned up,” Gundy said. ”I don't know that it was anybody's fault in particular but just the way we approached things every day.”

OSU had plenty of success under Les Miles — going 24-14 in his final three seasons including three-straight bowl appearances — yet Gundy didn't hesitate to make changes. He wanted his players to see his commitment to success in Stillwater.

“I didn't know that we had enough morale as a team to keep it going over a period of time,” Gundy said. “I wanted the players to know our coaching staff was fully committed here.”

The former Cowboy quarterback had a vision for his program and was unyielding in his commitment to that vision. Gundy wanted to build a program based on several core principles including structure, discipline, honesty and expectations of maximum effort on the field and in the classroom.

“I wanted to establish and do things the way I was comfortable with, then I wasn't going to worry about it after that,” Gundy said. “There's a particular way I'm comfortable doing things. If it works — which I think it will and it has to this point — good. If it doesn't, I wasn't going to go out doing it somebody else's way.”

With those core principles implemented, the focus turned to securing playmakers that could be the difference between an exciting victory or heart-wrenching loss.

— — — —

After taking over in Stillwater, Gundy immediately took steps to improving OSU's recruiting and the overall talent level on the roster.

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