Clemson is gone from future OSU football schedules. So is North Carolina State. And Purdue. And Air Force.
“Perfect,” says Mike Gundy.
Every name opponent on OSU's nonconference schedules has disappeared, except Tulsa (and not again until 2015) and Arizona, which the Cowboys visit Sept. 8.
After that trip to the desert, OSU football is booked for a steady diet of mid-majors, at best.
Texas-San Antonio. Lamar. Central Arkansas. Central Michigan. South Alabama.
Stinks for the fans, even though OSU ticket-buyers haven't been all that discriminating. Stinks for the television networks, which are paying Big 12 schools a ton of money and getting little September return. Stinks for the sport, which likes to claim all this pageantry and splendor but in reality is stuck with one to three exhibitions a year per school.
Stinks for the players, who revel in real competition, unlike their coaches, who prefer automatic wins.
OSU didn't initiate the cancellation of the series with Clemson and Purdue. Conference realignment changed the parameters.
Clemson is headed for a nine-game schedule in the ACC; the Tigers always play South Carolina, so they didn't want OSU, too.
And Purdue and OSU mutually agreed to scrap their series, because the Big Ten was headed for a nine-game conference schedule, and the Cowboys and Boilermakers were on the same rotation of five home games in even-numbered years, four home games in odd-numbered years, and couldn't settle on dates.
Of course, the Big Ten has backed off the nine-game schedule, but that's the way it goes in scheduling. Coaches look for reasons to get out of games and never look for reasons to get into games.
Gundy is glad they're gone and hopes nothing resembling a decent opponent is added.
“Now, with nine games, it's tough,” he said. “If you look at who we play (in conference), we're going to be playing some good teams. We've probably got five teams in the top 25 or 30, don't we?
“I know the fans want it, everybody wants it, but if you want to give yourself a legitimate chance to win your league and win the whole thing, you just can't get beat up every week. There's only so many hits and collisions.”
That's not true, of course. OU has won seven of the last 12 Big 12 titles, usually playing the league's best nonconference schedule.
Time was, hardly any major school played even one exhibition. And teams still won trophies.
But economic factors required more home games, and coaches and athletic directors learned that poll voters — writers, coaches, the Harris Poll's collection of zombies — are mostly dolts who can't see past the won-loss ledger.
So the incentive to schedule tough in the nonconference is limited only to politicking for one of the two berths in the Big Bowl.
“Most coaches would want it that way,” OSU athletic director Mike Holder said of Gundy's stance. “He makes some good points. It's pretty challenging. It's one thing when you play four nonconference games. When you play nine conference games, that dynamic changes some.”
The only thing that will change the attitude at OSU or anywhere else is pressure from the networks or the new Football Four. In 2014, college football moves to a four-team playoff that will be determined by a selection committee.
“If your goal is to win the national championship, then it's very important to give yourself the strength of schedule necessary to put yourself in the mix,” Holder said. The Cowboys know a little about that — they lost out to Alabama last December for the final Big Bowl berth.
OSU's nonconference schedule (a home game against Arizona, at Tulsa) was at least equal to Alabama's (three rumdums and at Penn State).
But Holder points out that “you could also argue that if you go undefeated, you'll be in anyway.”
OSU has not always dumbed down its schedule. The Cowboys have played UCLA and Houston in the 2000s. As recently as 2007 and 2009, the Cowboys played a series against Georgia.
When Gundy talks about Georgia, he focuses on what could have gone wrong, not what went right.
“I wouldn't vote for them again,” Gundy said of Georgia. “I learned this with the Georgia series; you have to practice so hard and so much more physical when you're opening the season with a team like that. It affects you in October. Nobody will ever convince me otherwise.
“If you don't play physical and you don't practice physical, you get your butt kicked. Then everybody's sad. It doesn't generate the interest and enthusiasm you need to keep things going.”
Well, then, schedule Georgia sometime after the season opener. It's not all that complicated.
And Gundy forgets the positive results of such scheduling. The Cowboys, before the Brandon Weeden era, landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated after their victory over the Bulldogs that christened the completed Boone Pickens Stadium.
This is not just an OSU problem. It's a Big 12 problem. Far too few Big 12 schools man up in September. And most of them don't care about the football committee.
Which means the networks are the best bet to save September. The Big 12 does not have enough quality games to fill out a September TV schedule.
The networks won't always settle for that poor content. They will demand more.
Until then, OSU fans, get ready for a steady diet of Texas-San Antonio, Central Michigan and South Alabama.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.