STILLWATER — Mike Holder stepped behind the podium, surveyed a room full of reporters, then launched into a nearly five minute statement about a soon-to-be-released, expected-to-be-scathing Sports Illustrated report on Oklahoma State football.
The OSU athletic director wasn't really talking to those media types Monday afternoon, though.
He was addressing Cowboy fans.
“I'd really like to talk to every season-ticket holder we got,” Holder said, adding that the school is on the verge of selling a record number of football season tickets. “We have a responsibility to those people because they're going to suffer from this as well.”
They're already suffering.
Even though Cowboy fans have yet to read a word of the stories generated by the magazine's 11-month investigation — the first will be released 8 a.m. Tuesday — they are worried and aggravated and scared. Who knows what's to come? Why is this coming out now? What will this do to the football program?
Blake Reichert wanted to see if Holder had any answers to those questions on Monday, so the Cowboy fan watched Holder's press conference live. Reichert wasn't overly worried about the allegations based on what he'd heard.
“But after hearing Holder's thoughts and watching his demeanor,” he said, “I'm now more worried than ever.”
Reichert saw a man who didn't seem confident, who didn't seem content with the way things were going.
The truth is, though, Holder is in a unique position here. He's been at OSU in some capacity since 1966. He's not just an employee of the university. He's an alum and a fan, loyal and true.
The same can be said of the president and the football coach. Burns Hargis is an alum. Ditto for Mike Gundy.
Where else is it the case that the university's president, athletic director and football coach are all alums?
No where else in big-time college football, that's for sure.
“We're all committed to playing by the rules, doing things the right way here,” Holder said. “And for people to say that's not what is happening is very disturbing.”
Jeff Nichols read those words and thought Holder sounded like a man who has a broken heart.
“Truthfully, in all honesty,” Nichols said, “mine is, too.”
Nichols became an OSU fan when his family moved from Michigan to Oklahoma in 1975. He was only 10 years old at the time, and going to school in Perkins, then in Cushing, he was in Cowboy Country. He became an OSU fan.