STILLWATER â€” Bill Young had it good.
He was the defensive coordinator for a team that had not only gone to but also won its first BCS bowl, that had lost only one game and that returned nine of its 11 defensive starters. His work was being lauded, and his future was looking bright.
But he got the heck out of Dodge.
Well, actually, it was Lawrence, but Young left Kansas all the same.
He dodged a bullet because of it.
After one season at Miami, Young landed at Oklahoma State where he is helping oversee one of the best seasons in school history. The Cowboys sit atop the Big 12 South and No. 10 in the BCS standings. They are on the verge of the program's first 10-win regular season. They are one of the biggest stories in college football this year.
The Jayhawks are in shambles. In the three years since that BCS bowl, they have had a player-treatment scandal and a head-coach firing, and this season, they've won only three games and languish at the bottom of the Big 12 North.
â€œI really haven't spent much time thinking about them,â€ Young said matter-of-factly, not maliciously. â€œ(The focus has) always been who we're playing the next game.
â€œNow, it is them.â€
Young is too much of a gentleman to say it, but it's easy to see that he prefers being on this side of Saturday's matchup.
OSU, remember, is his alma mater. Coaching the Cowboys was always a dream of his. It's why he chose to leave Miami. It's why he picked Payne County over South Beach.
A season like this has validated his choice.
He's assembled a defense that has continued to improve. He's crafted a scheme that plays to individual strengths. He's built a unit that is helping the Cowboys win ballgames.
â€œHe keeps it simple,â€ Cowboy defensive end Richetti Jones said. â€œHe doesn't make things complicated. He doesn't make it hard.â€
Young makes it work.
â€œWhen you see your players go out there and execute the things we're asking them to do as coaches,â€ he said, â€œit's very gratifying.â€
That's about as excited as Young will get about his defense. Heck, if you ask him about how well it has played of late in holding Kansas State, Baylor and Texas in check, you might wonder if you're talking about the same bunch.
â€œWell, I wish we'd shut out everybody and hold everybody to no yards passing or rushing,â€ he said wryly. â€œBut we're winning. That's the bottom line.â€
Young appreciates this season's successes as much as anyone in the Cowboy Nation. What if he would've stayed at Kansas? What if had been caught in the mess?
An ugly brouhaha played out publically last winter over then-head coach Mark Mangino's treatment of his players. A nasty he-said, he-said scandal followed, pitting players against coaches and players against other players.
Mangino was eventually fired and his staff sent packing.
A disaster of a season has followed under first-year coach Turner Gill. Kansas has managed just three wins â€” Georgia Tech, New Mexico State and Colorado â€” and the average margin of defeat in its seven other games is 26.0 points. That includes a season-opening loss to Football Championship Subdivision foe North Dakota State and a 52-point shellacking against in-state rival Kansas State.
Kansas fans have been placating themselves with basketball for more than a month now.
That dream season of three years ago seems like a lifetime ago.
And for Young, it is. He doesn't think much about the bullet that he dodged. He doesn't dwell on the decision he made to leave Kansas. He is focused on the here and now, on preparing his Cowboys to defend the Jayhawks.
â€œI love Oklahoma State,â€ he said. â€œWe have to keep fighting, keep working and good things will happen.â€
Bill Young had it good before, but now, he seems to have it even better.