Kurt Budke: Tragedy strikes OSU again
I’m sitting in a hotel room in Kansas City, Mo., waiting to take off for the drive to Ames, Iowa, and what was supposed to be a rousing college football game, Oklahoma State vs. Iowa State, ESPN Friday night, one last hurdle for the Cowboys before they go to Bedlam undefeated.
Suddenly, football doesn’t seem so important anymore.
In the last 30 minutes, I’ve gotten a phone call and an email. The former said there’s a rumor that OSU women’s basketball coach Kurt Budke died in a plane crash. The latter confirmed it.
And tragedy, the ultimate tragedy, strikes again at a school that has had more than its share. Ten years and ten months after the plane crash that claimed the lives of 10 members of OSU’s men’s basketball traveling party, another plane crash, this time Thursday night in the Arkansas hills, killed Budke and Cowgirl assistant coach Miranda Serna.
And a university returns to mourning, an emotion it knows too well. These are times of great joy in Stillwater. A football team fulfilling the decades-long dreams of loyal fans. But now they are times of great sorrow. The same outpouring of grief over the loss of Bill Teegins and Will Hancock and Nate Fleming and Daniel Lawson and Pat Noyse and Jared Weiberg and Brian Luinstra and Kendall Durfey and Denver Mills and Bjorn Fahlstrom, now will be spent on Kurt Budke and Miranda Serna.
Stillwater is a tight-knit place. The OSU campus even moreso. This will hit hard the people of OSU and Stillwater. Budke was good people. Unassuming, personable. Just solid.
You would think OSU would be spared this kind of tragedy again. But that’s not the way the world works. A school and community that binded together 10 years ago will have to do so again. It won’t be easy. Budke had ingrained himself into Stillwater. He elevated Cowgirl basketball, a downtrodden program to the NCAA Tournament in 2008 and 2010, making the Sweet 16 in ’08. I covered his NCAA games in Tempe, Ariz., in 2010; he genuinely thanked me for coming. He had a heck of a ballteam; why wouldn’t I cover it?
Harry Birdwell hired away Budke from Louisiana Tech in March 2005, and it was an excellent decision. Within what seemed like no time, Budke appeared to have been a Cowboy forever.
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