Mike Gundy was OSU’s greatest quarterback before Brandon Weeden claimed the crown, and since Gundy was the Cowboy head coach of those great Weeden teams of 2010-11, Gundy was glad to acquiesce.
But Gundy is not the only star quarterback-turned-head coach-at-his-alma mater. Kliff Kingsbury this season takes over at Texas Tech, where Kingsbury quarterbacked from 1999-02.
Gundy recently was asked about his transition from quarterback to coach and what Kingsbury can expect.
“I’ve been very fortunate to be at Oklahoma State,” Gundy said. “I’ve said that, and I mean it. They took me on as a young player when I don’t think most coaches would have. Now in 20 years, if I would have walked through the halls of the high school and looked at myself, I don’t know that I would have recruited me. They gave me an opportunity, and it worked out well.
“And obviously as an assistant coach and been fortunate enough to be the head coach. For me personally — and I think it’s different for everybody — it means more to me to be at Oklahoma State. Again, everybody’s personal opinion.
“Kliff is a smart guy. He’s had success. He’s obviously got good pedigree. He’s been trained by one of the best in the game, and I’m sure that he’s very excited to be back in Lubbock and will definitely bring more excitement for you guys and for the fans to Big 12 football.”
A couple of other Big 12 schools have assistant coaches who are only a heartbeat away from taking over. OU’s Josh Heupel and Texas’ Major Applewhite were star quarterbacks – even though Applewhite’s career sputtered late, because of Mack Brown’s infatuation with Chris Simms – and now are offensive coordinators at their respective alma maters.
Both OSU and OU have had opportunities in the past to hire former quarterbacks as head coach.
Charlie Weatherbie quarterbacked OSU to a share of the 1976 Big Eight championship, then became a head coach with some success at Navy. OSU’s best quarterback-turned-coach story was Jack Hartman, who QB’d in the 1940s but also was a Henry Iba basketball disciple and became a great college hoops coach at Southern Illinois and Kansas State.
Several Bud Wilkinson quarterbacks were not just notable head coaches, but excellent head coaches. Jack Mitchell was 72-61-7 over 14 years at Wichita State, Arkansas and Kansas. Darrell Royal, I assume you know about. Eddie Crowder became a Colorado coaching icon.
Interestingly, none of the wishbone starters at OU went into coaching. But three quarterbacks from the ‘90s became coaches – Cale Gundy, Garrick McGee, Justin Fuente – and the latter two now are head coaches, McGee at Alabama-Birmingham and Fuente at Memphis U.
West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck was a great Mountaineer quarterback. Nolan Cromwell was a great Kansas wishbone quarterback in the ‘70s, then had a great career as an NFL assistant coach. Same story for Texas’ Bill Bradley, the original wishbone quarterback in 1968, and Alan Lowry. And Texas’ Todd Dodge became head coach at North Texas.
There are others, no doubt. But only Gundy and Kingsbury have made the trek from quarterback to alma mater head coach.