Bob Simmons shouldn't be forgotten in rise of Oklahoma State football

BERRY TRAMEL COMMENTARY — When you list the men most responsible for the ascension of Oklahoma State football, the usual suspects come to mind. Boone Pickens. Mike Gundy. Mike Holder. But a name that shouldn't be forgotten is Bob Simmons.
by Berry Tramel Modified: December 17, 2011 at 6:28 pm •  Published: December 17, 2011

When you list the men most responsible for the ascension of Oklahoma State football, the usual suspects come to mind.

Boone Pickens. Mike Gundy. Mike Holder.

Brandon Weeden, Justin Blackmon and a host of other big-time players.

We can keep going. Les Miles. Terry Don Phillips, who did more than dream the dream of nicer facilities.

Pat Jones. Barry Sanders. Heck, even Eddie Sutton, whose basketball teams kept OSU athletics financially afloat through dark football days.

But as the third-ranked Cowboys soon head for the desert and a Fiesta Bowl showdown against fourth-ranked Stanford, here's a name that shouldn't be forgotten.

Bob Simmons.

Yep, the only OSU football coach of the last 40 years to leave Stillwater with a losing record.

Simmons, 11 years gone from OSU, didn't bring championships or major bowl trips to the Cowboys in his six seasons as head coach. But he brought something just as valuable.

Hope.

Simmons upgraded the OSU talent base. Changed the attitude. Won Bedlam three times in his six years, though OSU hadn't beaten OU in 19 years when Simmons arrived. Hired an offensive coordinator, Miles, who still packs a punch on the college football food chain.

“Bob Simmons was a tremendous catalyst in moving that program forward,” said Phillips, OSU's athletic director from 1994-02 and now the AD at Clemson. Gundy “is doing a tremendous job. But it really all started with Bob Simmons.”

* * *

In December 1994, Phillips hired Simmons to replace Pat Jones, who had won big in the 1980s but who from 1989 through '94 had produced seasons of 4-7, 4-7, 0-10-1, 4-6-1, 3-8 and 3-7-1.

Simmons took over a program limited in numbers by the effects of probation and limited in vision by year after year of losing. Lewis Field was a rusting eyesore, a constant reminder that the Cowboys were substandard at dawn of the Big 12 era.

Simmons never met Boone Pickens. Closest he ever got was after the 12-0 Bedlam victory in 1995, when Holder, then the OSU golf coach, asked Simmons to sign a game ball for Pickens.

Holder said he would some day take Simmons out to Pickens' vaunted ranch in Texas. “I never got out there,” Simmons said with a laugh.

Holder eventually persuaded Pickens to make that $165 million donation that set in motion the stadium renovations that changed the landscape for OSU.

Simmons was back in Stillwater for OSU's 2010 game against Troy.

“I kept hearing about this Taj Mahal,” Simmons said. “They were right. I pulled into town, I didn't know where I was. When I went down the main street, I felt this Texas-like stadium, I said ‘wow.' I went around with my mouth open.

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
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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