Gundy's Cowboys must fill the seats

Berry Tramel Published: June 29, 2008
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STILLWATER — Extreme Makeover: College Football Stadium Edition nears completion along Hall of Fame Avenue and Hester Street.

Still amazing, every time you see it. Still startling, watching OSU could go from rickety Lewis Field to glittering Boone Pickens Stadium, from hopelessness to hope, in a few short years.

But progress creates its own headaches, and Mike Gundy, the biggest beneficiary of Boone's brick and mortar, is also the biggest beholder to the transformation.

Gundy's job description has changed. He's wearing a new hat, and I don't mean something that sits high on his head.

Gundy has entered the ticket-selling business.

That's new territory for an Oklahoma State football coach. The Cowboys historically have been mom and pop, not big business. More hang-out-a-shingle than market-to-the-masses.

OSU football fans were faithful and consistent. There just weren't that many of them, about 35,000 strong, with stragglers and visitors determining whether attendance crested at 40 or 45.

Football coaches were asked to win but not always expected to, were asked to play by the rules but not always expected to, were asked to jump in the fray and fight but not always expected to.

Those days are gone. You don't build a 60,000-seat palace with a county fair attitude. You build 60,000 seats because you want them filled.

It's Gundy's job to fill them. He's got to get some help from the marketing department and the business office and even the hot-dog vendors. But in big-time college football, it falls upon the coach to fill the seats.

OSU averaged 39,857 fans in 2007, so there's not going to be any jump to 60,000 in 2008. But the ascension must start.

Gundy doesn't seem all that worked up about the mandate. "My job is to put a good team on the field,” he said.

Gundy's done a so-so job of that the past two years but he's done a heck of a job giving fans their money's worth. Football at the Boonedock has been the best show in the state the last two years.

Victories of 41-29 over Nebraska, 49-45 over Texas Tech and 41-39 over Kansas State; losses of 34-33 in overtime to Texas A&M, 27-21 in Bedlam, 38-35 to Texas and 43-28 to Kansas. Poke fans don't always go home happy from Stillwater, but they always go home entertained.

Give Gundy credit for that. His decision to bring in Larry Fedora's no-huddle, wide-open offense worked for the Cowboys on two fronts.

"It gave us a chance to move the ball and score points,” Gundy said.

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