Mike Gundy's rise among the nation's top coaches — and that's a tag backed up by the numbers, most notably a stair-stepping annual win tally — in hindsight features many interesting moves and decisions.
From his strict stance on discipline, which began with a program cleansing in his first year; to a shift in offensive philosophy; to his theory that better beds and better meals brings better players; to his recent move toward shorter and softer practices; Gundy has thought and operated outside the box.
And the results could hardly be better.
Yet for Gundy, of all his edgy approaches, one in particular stands out.
“When I look back at decisions that I've made, and there were some that were wrong, but one of the best coaching moves in the country was to hire Dana Holgorsen,” Gundy said of the spread-offense renegade. “And the reason why is Brandon Weeden couldn't run, which is the system we had before. So we took a chance.”
Again, Gundy rolled the dice and came up 7s.
Holgorsen was always a Stillwater short-timer, bent on climbing to a head coaching gig. And he never hid those desires, bunking in a local hotel rather than wasting time or money in a home.
Still, Holgorsen's imprint on the program remains.
The Cowboys stand committed to his version of the spread, evident in a full-bore recruiting pursuit of wideouts and quick-trigger quarterbacks.
OSU signed seven receivers in its last recruiting class, which also delivered the heir apparent to Weeden in Wes Lunt. Already, the Cowboys have commitments from four more wideouts and a QB for the 2013 group. And they're not done stockpiling the pitch-and-catch portion of the offense yet.
Before Holgorsen's arrival to accommodate Weeden's skills, OSU leaned more toward a dual-threat take on the spread, having turned the corner as a program behind Zac Robinson at QB.
But Weeden's gifts — and the physical toll regularly absorbed by Robinson — led Gundy in a different direction. And there's no sign of turning back, now that Cowboys fans are over their original trepidations.
“People were scared to death we weren't going to run the ball,” Gundy said. “But I'd done my research and knew (Holgorsen) ran the ball.
“And he brought a little bit of attitude into our program.”
The attitude remains, thanks in part to Gundy's follow-up hiring of Todd Monken to replace Holgorsen.
Monken swings some swagger, too, while embracing the spread and adding some nuances of his own.
“We learned that system,” Gundy said. “We know it. We have it. And we understand it.”
No turning back.