“It's one of the top places in the country when you go visit it. It's not even close to what I brought recruits into.”
Still, Simmons recruited quality ballplayers. Among them, Jamal Williams, R.W. McQuarters, Juqua Parker, Tatum Bell, Kevin Williams, Marcellus Rivers, Kenyatta Wright, Tony Lindsay, Alvin Porter, Jack Golden, Dwayne Levels, Jacoby Shepherd, Rashaun Woods, Reggie White, Terrence Robinson and Sam Mayes.
1997 was a breakout year for OSU. The Cowboys went 8-3 in the regular season, with two overtime defeats. OSU came agonizingly close to winning the Big 12's South Division.
That Alamo Bowl season, OSU's first winning season in nine years, wetted the appetite of Cowboy fans.
“One of the challenges we had was getting people to believe that we could compete at that level,” said Phillips. “I used to joke, to be an Oklahoma State fan during that time, you had to have a lot of courage.
“We had a mindset, like when you're getting in the car, we felt like we can't open the door and get in the front seat. We just got in the backseat.”
Phillips began a campaign for OSU fans to wear orange. It took hold.
And now, when he flips on the television in South Carolina, or Simmons in Colorado switches on an OSU game, they see a sea of orange in a Taj Mahal.
* * *
Simmons' success didn't last. The Cowboys went 5-6 in both 1998 and 1999, with close defeats zapping the momentum of '97, and when OSU fell to 3-8 in 2000, Phillips was compelled to make a change.
OSU turned to Miles, whom Simmons had brought in as offensive coordinator in 1995.
Miles' three years on Simmons' staff gave Phillips the chance to observe Miles. Without Simmons, there would have been no Miles at OSU.
Simmons also retained Gundy as a 28-year-old quarterback coach in 1995 and hired Rob Ryan as defensive coordinator in '97.
Simmons – who went on to coach at Notre Dame, Washington and Portland State and now lives in Greater Denver – expresses nothing but positive feelings about his OSU days.
“Great experience,” Simmons said. “It was a matter of giving the program a message, a direction of where we want to go.”
Where Simmons wanted to go is where OSU now is. Big 12 champion and Fiesta Bowl bound. He's part of the reason.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at