STILLWATER — Picture Mike Gundy calling the hogs — woo pig sooie! — leading Arkansas into SEC battles with LSU and Alabama and Georgia.
Could have happened.
And who could argue the Razorbacks wouldn't be better for it?
Alas, the dominoes fell another way.
Oklahoma State's way.
Gundy scrambled for work in March of 1996. And again in 2000. Each time, he was fired as part of complete staff washouts.
That's how the coaching profession rolls. One domino tumbles, then another, and soon what seems like a random chain of events crashes at the front door, delivering disappointment.
Gundy experienced it all in the early winter of 2000, before eventually finding his way back to OSU; and ultimately here, tied with Pat Jones for the most coaching wins in program history at 62. Gundy could stand alone at the top as soon as Saturday, with Iowa State heading to Stillwater for Homecoming.
In truth, it was never inevitable.
Remember, Dirk Koetter stood as OSU's coach for about 24 hours in December of 2000, the first choice to replace Bob Simmons. The introductory press conference was being organized. Suddenly, however, Koetter reconsidered, balking at the move and clearing the way for Les Miles to be hired, with one condition — Gundy would be his offensive coordinator.
What if Koetter hadn't cut out on his commitment to the Cowboys?
“Well, I would have gone to Arkansas and worked for (Houston) Nutt, because that's where I was going,” Gundy said this week.
And like he did with Miles, Gundy might have succeeded Nutt and charmed the folks of Fayetteville and slayed the beasts of the BCS.
“You never know what will happen,” Gundy said.
What did happen, Gundy joined Miles at OSU — after being a candidate for the head coaching job himself in 2000 — helped pave a rebuild, then ascended to his New York Yankees job as the natural replacement when Miles bolted for LSU.
Since then, Gundy has won like no one before him, not even Jones, with record regular-season win totals and a Big 12 championship and a BCS bowl win.
He's had help, with Boone Pickens' massive gift used to transform facilities and perceptions and aid recruiting, leading to better players and bigger win totals.
But it's taken Gundy's touch, too.
By emphasizing the player experience in every way — from shorter practices, to limited hitting, to a fun offense, to bigger beds and better food to his “do the Gundy” dance moves — Gundy is attracting higher-profile players.
And he and his staff are coaching them up.
“Make it where kids want to be a part of the program and be around, not make it such a grind,” said OSU offensive coordinator Todd Monken, who coached with Gundy on Miles' staff and returned a year ago.
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OSU's top coaches
Mike Gundy is 62-32 as the OSU head coach, which matches Pat Jones' Cowboy wins record. Outside of Gundy, the top five OSU coaches in wins:
1. Pat Jones, 1984-94, 62-60-3: The most wins, the most losses and tied for the most seasons (11) in OSU history.
2. Jim Lookabaugh, 1939-49, 58-41-6: Coached OSU to its only major bowl trips before the Fiesta Bowl last season.
3. Cliff Speegle, 1955-62, 36-42-3: Coached OSU to 1958 Delta Bowl, only postseason game for the Cowboys between 1949 and 1974.
4. Jim Stanley, 1973-78, 35-31-2: 1976 Big Eight tri-championship was OSU's only league title before 2011.
5. Pappy Waldorf, 1929-33, 34-10-7: Big-time winner at Kansas State (1934 Big Eight title), Northwestern and California who got his head-coaching start at OSU.
By Berry Tramel