Mike Gundy says Oklahoma State's scheduling philosophy — playing at least one decent non-conference game a season — compromises his vow to recruits that the Cowboys are in the hunt for a national championship.
Gundy might have had a point in the old days. Not in the new.
Don't look now, but the fast-coming Football Four, the new playoff format that arrives with the 2014 season, is having a sobering effect on college football.
With various meetings that will produce a basketball-like selection committee come more and more clues that strength of schedule will weigh heavily in the process.
And schools are responding. Alabama-Wisconsin, Tennessee-Southern Cal, Texas A&M-Oregon, Ohio State-Oregon, Ohio State-Texas and Michigan-Arkansas are just a few of the series that have been scheduled in recent months.
“I think that's great for college football and the people trying to fill seats in college football and for the players,” said OU athletic director Joe Castiglione. “At least now there's an incentive to start scheduling better than they have.”
But Gundy still doesn't buy it. Which is why, he says, he flirted with Tennessee and Arkansas last December.
“I have a great job here,” Gundy said. “I'm very happy, very well-paid and been fortunate to be where I'm at.
“But ultimately, at the end of the day, when I go recruit, and I go into meetings with these guys (fellow coaches) every day, and tell 'em this is what I believe in and this is what I want them to believe in, if it's not that way, then I can't do it. I've got to go do something else.”
I don't follow Gundy's reasoning. Especially with recruits. Hey, you don't get to play Savannah State this year, you have to go play Florida State at Jerry World. Yep, that's a real turnoff to anyone with a pint of competitive juice.
And besides, though Gundy said one of his two suitors is going against the grain on scheduling, the evidence suggests otherwise.
Tennessee is playing Oregon in 2013, OU in 2014-15, Nebraska in 2016-17 and Southern Cal in 2021-22.
Arkansas, a notorious light scheduler, has on the docket TCU in 2015-16, Michigan in 2018-19 and Texas in 2021.
In fact, Holder, more than most athletic directors, seems to be following Gundy's philosophy. The Cowboys play Mississippi State in Houston to open the 2013 season, then that Florida State game in 2014. After that, OSU has nothing but a series of Texas-San Antonios, Missouri States, Central Michigans and South Alabamas.
What are you guys feuding about?
Check out Michigan State, which in the next 10 years has Notre Dame scheduled six times, Oregon twice, Alabama twice, Miami twice and Boise State twice.
Check out Texas A&M, which dabbled in softball scheduling but now has added home-and-home series with Southern Cal and Oregon, plus will take on the Longhorns as soon as DeLoss Dodds' successor gives the OK.
Few schools are on the other side. Kansas State is, because Bill Snyder is like a tree planted by the waters. He shall not be moved, although K-State hosts Auburn in 2014.
Mississippi State has nothing decent on the horizon after its 2013 opener. Minnesota and Texas Tech don't either.
But any school with serious national championship hopes is not scheduling down. It is scheduling up.
“I see it going both ways,” Gundy said. “I talked to some people at big programs that are going the other way. Then you talk to some that feel like they need to schedule what some would call up to par.
“I have a philosophy what I feel is best for Oklahoma State. That philosophy may not be best for OU or Texas or Michigan or Notre Dame or Florida or whoever.
“I just know what I think are the ingredients for success here. And I've made that very clear. That doesn't mean somebody has to agree with me.”
Gundy has some valid points on scheduling. He still recoils at the 2007 and 2009 openers against Georgia. Says those games made the Cowboys practice physically the entire month of August, else the Bulldogs would have run roughshod over the Cowboys, which they did anyway in '07 but not in '09. Says that kind of scheduling didn't allow OSU to ease into its season and go into Big 12 play fresh and healthy.
Maybe so. Maybe a solution is play a marquee non-conference game later in September. Don't open with the likes of Florida State.
However, don't make the argument that an easy schedule is a sign of commitment to a national title. The opposite is true.
In fact, in the 17-year history of the conference, no Big 12 team ever has been denied a spot in the national title game by a non-conference defeat. Conference losses? Sure. Big 12 title game defeats? Yep. But non-conference losses? Nope.
And of the historic losses within the conference – Kansas State at Baylor 2012, OSU at Iowa State 2011, OU at Texas Tech 2007, Texas to Colorado in the 2001 title game, Kansas State to A&M in the 1998 title game – none can be blamed on a team being beat up. They just got beat.
“If we schedule to where we go into league play and we're healthy and we're fresh and we win the league, then from a financial standpoint, this place will be fine forever,” Gundy said. “If we win in league play, we'll sell so many season tickets and so many seats, we'll have as much money as we've ever had at this school.”
Can't argue. He's right about that. OSU fans seem to be no respecter of opponents. State has done a solid job building up its fan base, regardless of the attraction.
Savannah State attendance on Sept. 1: 55,784.
Texas attendance four weeks later: 56,709.
Just don't make the national championship/recruiting argument to justify a soft non-conference schedule. It doesn't hold up. Not anymore.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.