Still, a connection never developed.
Stories from when Ford was hired still linger. There was one about him wanting to live in Edmond instead of Stillwater. There was another about him getting an SUV and asking for something better. Cowboy fans die a little inside anytime anyone does anything to disparage Stillwater or OSU.
Then, Ford has struggled to keep players. Reger Dowell. Roger Franklin. Fred Gulley. Ray Penn. Jarred Shaw. Darrell Williams. Cezar Guerrero. Kirby Gardner. Stevie Clark. Some chose to leave. Others were shown the door. But the number of Ford's five recruiting classes that remained intact is zero.
And of course, Ford's teams have struggled to have postseason success. While they have regularly shown improvement late in the season, only one won a game in the NCAA Tournament.
That team was Ford's first, a bunch largely fueled by players who were recruited by the Suttons.
Cowboy fans have grumbled about many of these things for years, but as this promising season crashes and burns, the pitchforks and torches are out.
The Cowboys were picked to win the Big 12, but they might not finish .500 in league play.
They were seen as a possible Final Four team, but they might not make the NCAA Tournament.
They had all the feel-good momentum in the world after Marcus Smart, Le'Bryan Nash and Markel Brown decided to come back, but now, the season has become a chair-kicking, fan-shoving meltdown.
OSU fans are embarrassed, deflated and angered.
“It literally hurts to see it be the way it is,” Donnie Stafford said.
The man with the Bedlam tickets that will go unused can never remember feeling this way before — and he's been through a lot having been a Cowboy fan his entire life. He was born and raised in Stillwater. He has season tickets for both football and basketball. He even tattooed his love of OSU on his body.
But right now, he thinks the best way to support the Cowboy basketball team is by not going to games. He hopes his empty seats will help spur change because he believes that is the only way to save the program.
Stafford has friends who tell him that he should go to games to support the players. He admits that he hates not being there for them — but he hates the coaching that they're getting even more.
Stafford, by the way, isn't completely boycotting Bedlam. He'll be watching on TV. He's watched all the games this season.
“I have to,” he said.
He's still a Cowboy fan, still loyal and true. But like a lot of the OSU faithful, that makes it all the more difficult to watch what this team and this season has become.
Jenni Carlson can be reached at 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.