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Oklahoma State football: Readers respond to Mike Gundy column

by Berry Tramel Published: December 5, 2012

In the Wednesday Oklahoman, I wrote about the Mike Gundy/Mike Holder spat. You can read that column here.

As you might expect, I received a ton of responses. I thought I would share some of them with you.

Patrick: “Dead-on with your assessment of Gundy’s situation in Stillwater. I’m one of 250,000 owners of the Green Bay Packers. Gundy and Holder are starting to sound a hell of a lot like Thompson and Favre. And who lost that? By far it’s been Favre. He could have retired and replaced the late Ray Nitschke as Mr. Packer, but he committed Iconic Legend Suicide with one of the most blindly loyal fanbases in all of professional sports. Gundy is getting very close to doing the same thing. And here’s the thing. OSU might be a more attractive job right now than Wisconsin, from facilities to a weaker BCS conference, one without Urban Meyer in it. And as a big Badger fan, that pains me to say. OSU has a great thing going, but should Gundy depart for any reason, there will be a lot of coaches getting in line for the opportunity to move to Stillwater, words that I don’t think have ever been written, by the way.”

Great analogy about Favre and Ted Thompson, the Packer GM. Excellent stuff. Now, that part about the Big 12 being a weaker BCS conference, that’s just silly. OSU just went 7-5 and got dumped to what my pal Microwave Ubben calls the Zombie Cotton Bowl. Wisconsin went 7-5 and got to play for a Rose Bowl trip, which it won. But right on about Thompson and Favre.

Craig: “OSU will fire him in a couple more years. Heard it here first.”

I heard it here first because I think it’s silly. Unless Gundy just continues to be at odds with Holder, I see no reason to think that will happen. Heck, I think OSU will be picked third in the Big 12 preseason poll next season and could place higher. The future is bright for the Cowboys, if everyone will just get along.

Jim: “If Gundy finds his job distasteful, he does indeed need to move on. Because the taste he has for his job, either good or bad, is totally up to him. The other side is not going to change. If he thinks he is in a poker game, he is sitting at the table all by himself. The people of the inner circle of OSU sports, people who enter Boone’s inner sanctum, could care less if he leaves. And the inner circle has a few more big hitters with influence that just Holder and Boone. The relationship fracture is Gundy’s fault. Not people of the inner circle. Ford, Holliday, Littell, The late Budke, Smith, and all the other coaches are happy and welcome within the inner circle who run OSU sports. What I am telling you is beginning to filter out to the OSU masses, and they are learning that this is a Gundy problem, not a Holder-Boone problem. It is up to Gundy. He needs to do some Mea Culpa’s to people in the inner circle, beginning by apologizing for his disrespect for them and arrogant attitude towards them.”

I hope that’s not true. I also have no idea insight into the other coaches’ relationship with the power base at OSU. Since the Thunder’s arrival, I’ve spent less time around all the non-football sports at OSU and OU. So I can’t speak to that. But I do believe that it’s up to Gundy to mend the fences. And here’s why. You’ve got to get along with your bosses. That’s just the way life works. It’s not your boss’s mission to get along with you.

Mike: “What is the chance that Holder might leave or resign? That would thrill this old cowboy. I have known of Mike Holder since he was a kid in Ardmore. He was obnoxious then as he is now. I had a run in with him at the Karsten golf course that proved he is still as obnoxious now as he was then. Mike Gundy, I believe, should have some influence over his team’s schedule. I am sure that Holder had a lot to say about his golf team’s schedule. Of course I know that scheduling today is influenced a lot by TV and money. But as Barry Switzer used to say, “to win a National Championship you have to schedule it!” I know Holder is not going to change, so what is the possibility of Mike Gundy giving in to him or Holder being gone?”

Well, I don’t think Holder is going anywhere. I don’t know of anyone who thinks Holder is going anywhere. So that’s a longshot. Gundy is going to have to accept things the way they are. Work to change the things he can. Gundy apparently doesn’t like constantly being told no at all kinds of requests. Keep making them, with an explanation for why certain things need to be done. There are some places where a football coach gets whatever he wants. But that’s not most places, and it’s not OSU.

David: “Thanks for the Gundy/Holder article. As an OSU fan I was ready to see Holder go, along with Pickens, but not so sure now!”

That was not my intention. My intention was to paint a fair picture of both sides. Both sides have their points. I imagine Holder is hard to work for. I imagine Gundy is hard to deal with. But they’ve got to find common ground.

Grant: “In making the analogy, was Gundy insinuating that he is Billy Martin and Holder is Steinbrenner? Rhetorical of course, but the analogy seems to be more spot on as each year passes.”

I almost wrote about that very thing. To become a Yankee job, there has to be a Steinbrenner. Of course, you’d prefer it be a Steelers job, so that your boss is Dan Rooney. But there aren’t many Kansas States, where a coach single-handedly was handed sand and found the sea.

Todd: “Long-time OSU fan and season ticket holder here. I agree with you that fan patience has its limits, but my patience is running out with Holder! He couldn’t get along with the Suttons … and now Gundy? I know Holder is the connection to Pickens’ wallet, but Mr. Pickens and Holder will be making a huge mistake if they run off Gundy and turn OSU back into a stepping stone job! Not only would they be taking the product on the field backwards, but ticket sales as well. If Gundy goes, Mr. Holder can have the five season tickets I have purchased for the last 10 years back! I believe more OSU fans have lost patience with Holder than Gundy.”

It’s an excellent question. Holder has been a lightning-rod AD since taking over. I don’t know how the loyalties will be divided. But it’s a good point about the Suttons. It’s also a good point that both Suttons fired themselves.

Nolan: “So how much did Holder fork over for that article?”

Not even a round of golf at Karsten, can you believe it?

John: “Thank you again for your excellent article regarding Gundy and Holder. As a life long OSU fan, I think you accurately captured how many in the Cowboy family feel about this situation – it’s all about large egos. I have known Holder for some time and he is not your typical person in such an important and influential position. I completely respect what he has done for OSU, but he is generally despised almost universally by those that know and work with him. As for Gundy, he is very fortunate to have the support that Mr. Pickens and coach Holder have provided throughout the program. I also appreciate and respect what he has accomplished, but he still has a way to go to become a truly elite coach.”

It is about egos. I think Gundy has a big ego. I think Boone Pickens has a big ego. I actually don’t think Holder has much of an ego, though he’s got an iron spirit that can stare down the biggest of egos.

Ed: “Enjoyed your column this am and I think you’re right. I bleed orange and think Gundy is doing a great job, but even though I can’t fault him for checking out other schools, he better watch himself! Holder definitely has the better hand and may be a better poker player.”

I actually do blame Gundy for checking out other schools, if he’s trying to gain some leverage. The leverage ploy is always a bad play. If Gundy is truly interested in Arkansas or Tennessee, fine. If so, I think he’s nuts, but fine. Using those schools as some kind of threat or bluff? That’s not cool.

Michael: “I think you should counter today’s article with a ‘Can’t we all just get along’ attitude from Holder. We all know Holder is immovable, but dog-gone it, he needs to work harder to keep his head football coach happy. I don’t blame Gundy for looking around; life’s too short to put up with jerks (like Holder can be). But there needs to be some concession from Holder’s side. As long as Boone has Holder’s back he can be the jackass. But Boone is no spring chicken and once his 50-yard-line suite is empty, Holder may find his fan base dwindling. I think Holder and Gundy need to go to marriage counseling and try to get along.”

Excellent point, that Holder’s power base isn’t eternal. There will come a day when Holder no longer is AD. But that day is not this day. This day, the hierarchy at OSU is traditional. The coach is not king. Gundy has to learn that, accept that or move on.

Joel: “A wild prediction: if Gundy stays at OSU, he’ll be at the top of the list of candidates to replace Mack Brown (which could happen at the end of next year). This is especially likely if OSU has a solid year next year (they were better than five losses this year, but another five-loss year, regardless of circumstances, might lessen his value). Leaving for a lesser program (Ark/Tenn-type jobs) doesn’t make sense to me.”

Me, either, for a guy who loves OSU. Texas, that’s a different animal. I don’t know if Texas would shoot for Gundy, but you never know.

Scott: “Why isn’t anyone saying that maybe Holder has worn out his welcome? Maybe HE needs to be the one to listen to the winningest coach in history at OSU. Maybe Holder needs to be the one that is careful with Gundy’s SEC flirtation. Maybe the fan base needs to put a water hose blast on Holder! I will take Savannah State and Gundy over holder and Mississippi State any day of the week. I want a winning program! I would rather have a win over Troy than a loss to Georgia or Arizona. I want OSU to have their version of a Wilkinson, Royal and Rockne. Gundy is the face of OSU football to fans, players and recruits, not Holder. With a million thank you’s to T Boone, I don’t see our Taj Majal stadium being taken back or demolished. I know our success was built by those three men, but if I had to pick and choose, I choose Gundy.”

It’s a great point, except that nonsense about taking Savannah State over Mississippi State. That’s a loser mentality if ever I saw one. But here’s where you’re off, Scott. The fans don’t have a water hose. Boone and Holder have the power. That’s where the discussion has to start.

Steve: “Thank you for your commentary on the Mike Gundy fiasco. I am a third generation Cowboy and as happy and indulgent in our recent football rise as anyone. I am proud Coach Gundy is a Cowboy family member. He has been a good coach, bordering on very good. But he’s not a great coach. Might be one day, but not yet. Coach Holder is not the most pleasant man, but he’s good at his job. And as long as Boone is around, Holder needs to and will be the boss. I was quite pleased to read your mention of the hollow Miami threat from a few years ago. My former boss was on the OSU Board of Regents and had privately relayed that story when it happened. Even though I think we ultimately overpaid, I understand and accept the hollow A&M threat last year. However this year’s circus with Arkansas and Tennessee was the last straw with me. Gundy has lost all credibility and he either wins at a level justifying his current salary or he should get pushed out the door. And five losses is not going to cut it, QB injuries or not. The hometown discount runs both ways and he’s used his up with me.”

See, that’s the thing. Gundy has damaged his reputation with OSU fans. It’s one thing to answer the phone and talk to someone from Tennessee. But to go to the Stillwater airport, take them to your house and talk about the job, all as a ruse so you can schedule Savannah State instead of Florida State, well, that’s uncool.

Mims: “Gundy better realize that he is not going to win a power struggle with Holder. Airing his dirty laundry in the newspaper only antagonizes the powers that be and gives the impression of a spoiled brat pouting. Additionally he needs to realize that contracts get litigated daily and he is messing with the right hand of the Messiah. He needs to check his hole card.”

I assume Gundy knows that. Certainly he does, doesn’t he? That Boone and Holder hold the power. Surely Gundy doesn’t think he can win a staredown with those guys.

Bob: “Your column on Holder and Gundy is terrific! Very well done and to the point. I am guessing that you will get lots of feedback from friends in Stillwater and that, to me, indicates that you have hit close to home. It will be interesting to see what reaction you get. Thanks for doing that column! You wrote what needed to be written.”

Thanks. Looks to be about 2-to-1 on the side of Holder, though not really on the side of Holder. More on the side of, can’t we all just get along and quit trying to interview for a job we don’t want?

Bob: “If Mike Gundy leaves, it will be for one of two jobs. Texas or Southern Cal. Those are two jobs that Mike would be a fool to turn down. I don’t see any other big school firing a coach in the near future. I do not want Mike to go to Texas. That’s all that school needs is a good coach. It would be hard to beat them if Mike went there.”

For reasons I can’t explain, I’ve always thought Southern Cal could be a place where Gundy might land. I don’t know why.


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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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