Donnie Stafford has two tickets to Bedlam and zero intentions of using them.
The longtime Cowboy fan is discouraged about the state of State basketball. The losses. The dismissals. The transfers. The Marcus Smart incident.
But he has stopped using tickets that he's had for three decades because he can no longer watch what he calls the train wreck — Travis Ford.
“It's not a personal deal toward Travis Ford,” Stafford said. “I'm sure he's a nice guy.”
Still, Stafford can't stomach seeing his team continually struggle with what he considers to be fundamentals. Out-of-bounds plays. Clock management. Issues that should be handled by the coach.
He wants a coaching change — and he hopes to send that message with his empty seats in Section 327.
Stafford isn't the only Cowboy fan who's reached a tipping point. In the days leading up to Bedlam, The Oklahoman asked the OSU fans to tell us how they're feeling. We received email from 48 of them, and only five could be classified as positive. Amid the disappointment and despair of the other 43, a whopping 34 lamented about Ford.
To clarify, we didn't ask Cowboy fans for their opinions of the coach. We asked how they felt about OSU basketball, and in answering that, nearly three out of four expressed some level of frustration with Ford.
James Erkin, McAlester: “If I had a heart attack and die watching an OSU basketball game, they need to file murder charges on Travis Ford because watching his teams is killing me.”
Justin Phillips, Broken Arrow: “I don't believe that Coach Ford instills the discipline or toughness that is necessary in his players, and it has become blatantly obvious with our performance on the court and numerous issues off the court.”
Blake Follis, Tulsa: “The excuses for Travis Ford have been made. They all begin with a wait-and-see approach. I have waited, and I have seen. In fact, I have seen enough.”
To be fair, there were a couple fans who stuck up for Ford.
“Why is there talk of his job being in jeopardy?” said Gary DeShazer, an OSU grad living in Charlotte, N.C. “He is not the one on the court. The players are not making their shots. We can't seem to make a free throw either.
“I feel sorry for Ford and support him a hundred percent.”
Coaches, of course, come under fire all the time. It wasn't so long ago that some Oklahoma fans wanted Bob Stoops run out of Norman on the first train to anywhere. Then the Sooners won Bedlam and beat Alabama, and what do you know, those calls for Stoops' head stopped.
Yet, it sure seems like Cowboy fans smell blood, a $10 million-plus buyout be damned.
The relationship between Ford and fans has never been spectacular. There is a faction of the Cowboy faithful that refused to embrace him because he wasn't a branch from the Iba-Sutton coaching tree. That's their prerogative. But by in large, most Cowboy fans gave him a chance. They wanted to welcome him. They wanted to love him.
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.