Mike Holder has been telling us for years. Stepped on toes to tell us. Angered some of his constituency to tell us. Risked ridicule to tell us.
Football is important. No. It was more than that. Football is king. Even at a basketball school like Holder's beloved Oklahoma State, football has to reign.
That's not a popular message on a campus with Eddie Sutton hoops and historically mediocre football.
But if the summer of 2010 has brought us anything, it has delivered confirmation that Holder was right.
Football is paramount, and beefing up football has to be OSU's prime directive.
The angst last month in Lawrence, Kan., closed that case. When the Pac-10 appeared ready to swipe a variety of Big 12 South schools, the majestic Kansas basketball program seemed leagueless.
KU would have landed somewhere. The Mountain West. Or, stretching the bounds of conventional geography, the Big East.
But the Jayhawks, despite a hardwood history rivaled by only a precious few, would have been scrambling. All because their football didn't measure up in prestige or revenue production.
That lesson can't be lost on OSU, which was on the safe side of this realignment roulette wheel but is guaranteed nothing the next deck shuffling.
Yes, Boone Pickens' renovations have made State a much more attractive football entity. Yes, the Bedlam relationship — with the legislature watching, OU will be hard-pressed to leave behind OSU — is nice insurance for the Cowboys.
But there are no sure things. Not when your all-time football record is 10 games below .500. Not when you draw barely half as many fans as your chief rivals, despite setting school attendance records. Not when the roulette wheel creates fewer and fewer openings.
Which is why OSU must keep winning.
The Cowboys come off back-to-back 9-4 seasons, and talk of maintaining that momentum to keep Mike Gundy's seat cool or placate a not-getting-any-younger Pickens is silly. Gundy has done an excellent job in five years as coach; Pickens knows how tough is the landscape.
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