STILLWATER — Bill Young and Joe Wickline are an unlikely duo.
Young is the grandfatherly type, always quick with a joke for his players and a smile for anyone passing his way.
Wickline is the drill-sergeant sort with a crew cut and an I-just-spent-an-entire-practice-yelling-at-my-guys voice.
But these two Oklahoma State assistants are more alike than they seem. They have become successful coaches. They have been sought-after men. Yet, they have shown they are committed to the Cowboys.
They are a sign of just how far the program has come. There was a time when assistants like Young and Wickline didn't stay put in Stillwater.
“It is a good deal, and we realize it,” said Young, the Cowboys' defensive coordinator. “We understand how fortunate we are to be here.”
We've long heard that kind of talk from OSU assistants. What else are they supposed to say about the school that's writing their paychecks? But Young and Wickline aren't just talking about how great their gigs are. They are showing it.
Wickline is considered among the best offensive line coaches in college football. He's developed the likes of Charlie Johnson, Russell Okung, not to mention the Cowboys' current crop of standouts. Several programs have made overtures and attempted to hire him away from OSU, including Texas a season ago.
He said no before the process even started.
“You think about the greener grass. You think about the bigger place,” said Wickline, whose other stops include his alma mater, Florida, Tennessee and Mississippi. “Stillwater and Oklahoma State, I guess everybody has their own opinions, but to me, it's good stuff. It's good for me and my family.
“I feel good about coming to work, so why am I going to mess with it?”
Young feels the same way.
When the Cowboys' defensive coordinator job came open after the 2008 season, the OSU alum got on the phone right away. Young talked to Joe DeForest about the job nearly a dozen times. He wanted it badly.
“After being here,” Young said, “it's an even better opportunity than I thought it was.”
The leadership of the program is solid. The camaraderie among the coaching staff is strong. The chemistry between coaches and players is superb. That has led to unprecedented success on the field.
Those intangibles enhance the tangibles. State-of-the-art facilities. Top-of-the-line amenities. Long-term contracts.
“The last time I was here, our contracts were up in January,” said Young, who was an OSU assistant from 1976-78. “They fired us Dec. 10, and we had a little over two weeks to find a new job.”
Young landed at Iowa State, but because he made only $250 a month as a part-time coach, he had to substitute teach just to pay the rent.
Is it any wonder multiyear, high-dollar contracts are a big deal to football assistants?
Credit Les Miles for starting the trend in Stillwater. Yet for several years, the improved contracts weren't always enough to keep assistants. Sure, guys like Larry Fedora, Tim Beckman and Dana Holgorsen left to be head coaches. Yes, Karl Dunbar moved on to the NFL. You can understand those types of moves. But up-and-comers like Curtis Luper and Trooper Taylor made lateral moves.
That isn't happening much anymore.
As Young and Wickline have demonstrated, coaches want to be there and want to stay there.
“I don't know what rung of the ladder Oklahoma State was on among coaching jobs,” Wickline said. “But I'll tell you this — it's on a higher rung now.”