Maybe it began as a misunderstanding between Mike Gundy and Bill Young.
Maybe it was a miscommunication.
Whatever it was, it's a mess now.
Thursday, we learned that Oklahoma State parted ways with its defensive coordinator. But we also learned that according to Young, he and Gundy agreed almost a year ago that this past season would be Young's last. The reason? In part, Young said, it was because Gundy said the 66-year-old was too old to continue coaching.
Told you this was messy.
This move that was sure to be difficult — how could the Cowboys cutting loose one of their own be anything but? — but it became down right screwy with some awkward revelations reported by Jimmie Tramel of The Tulsa World.
Let's start by rewinding four years. The Cowboys had just lost Tim Beckman, who had taken on Vance Bedford's underperforming defense, turned a corner with the Cowboys but stayed only two years. Looking for stability, Gundy turned to Young.
The OSU alum and former player was at Miami but was only a season removed from helping Kansas get to the Orange Bowl. Young didn't have a bunch of great players in Lawrence, but he still put together a stout defense.
There was no doubt he was getting the most out of his players, one of the hallmarks of his long career.
Gundy hired him, and here's where the mess started.
Young said that upon Gundy hiring him, the head coach believed Young would coach a few years, then retire. Did Gundy say as much, and Young just went along with it? Did Young dispute it but have his words fall on deaf ears? Or did Gundy just assume that retirement was surely around the corner since Young was already past his 60th birthday?
We don't know.
We might never know.
Only Gundy and Young know for sure what was said then or what was said last winter.
Last season, after the Cowboys won the Big 12, Young wasn't among the coaches given a contract extension. He went to talk to Gundy about it, and according to Young, the head coach told him that football is a young man's game. Young said that Gundy then told him that “he thought my age would hurt recruiting and he thought players wouldn't play for me.”
If what Young says is true, he might construe those comments as age discrimination. So might some lawyers.
Did I mention this was a mess?
We figured that Young might be on his way out. He had a health scare before the season that forced him to miss two games, and before the Heart of Dallas Bowl, he told me that he wasn't sure about his future beyond this season.
“I don't know, I don't know,” he said at the time.
Still, I don't know that anyone could've foreseen his final days in Stillwater ending like this.
OSU sent out a three-paragraph statement late Thursday announcing that Young had been let go and that Glenn Spencer would take over as defensive coordinator.
“We are appreciative of everything Coach Young has done for us over the past four years,” Gundy said in the statement, “but we are also excited about heading in a new direction with our defense.”
The fact that OSU chose not to have a press conference announcing the change, properly sending off Young and properly welcoming Spencer is a shame.
No one who truly loves OSU can be happy about how this change has come about. If all that Young says is true, it looks really bad for Gundy. Really bad for the Cowboys. Really bad for OSU.
I mean, there might be some Cowboy fans out there who are happy to see Young and his 15-yard cushions go. The ever-increasing space that the Cowboy defensive backs gave to opposing receivers this past season drove plenty of people crazy. But those cushions seem like minor nuisances compared to the firestorm that's been stirred up.
Spencer is likely to do a fine job in his new gig. He is a fiery guy with great connections to southern recruiting pipelines. He's already landed some good recruits out of SEC country, the latest being a defensive end from Georgia who switched his commitment to OSU earlier this week.
About the only good thing you can say is that Gundy granted Young's wish of not saying anything during the season about this being his last year. That, Young said, was one of his requests, and those closest to the program say they never heard anything about this being it for Young.
What could have been a day to offer well wishes to an alum and successful coach, then usher in a new defensive era has instead became a day filled with uncomfortable accusations and unfortunate details.
If you bleed orange, you can't like this chapter in Cowboy football.
What a mess.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.