TUCSON, Ariz. — The old Cowboys – Phil Cutchin's Cowboys – gathered 53 strong in Tucson this weekend, despite Cutchin and his rugged coaching ways back in the day.
“There's not many of us who lasted through the Cutchin era, especially 1963 when we started,” said Pete Francis, who was a guard on Cutchin's teams of the early '60s. “I think only 18 of made it to beat OU in 1965. And after that, it was a great thing for us.
“We've always kind of stuck together.”
And nearly 50 years later, it was a grand reunion.
“We told lots of lies, how it used to be,” said Rusty Martin, a lineman from Checotah.
Drawn to the desert by OSU's game with Arizona and by one of their teammates, successful Tucson businessman Jim Click, they talked, too, about how it is now, with Mike Gundy's Cowboys and Boone Pickens' transformation project providing plenty of pride.
“Mike Gundy has done an unbelievable job up there,” said former running back Walt Garrison. “He's got the respect of the players, and that's what a coach needs. And he's pretty disciplined, which is another thing a coach needs to be.
“I think it's great. We played in Lewis Field, which held 28,000 or something like that. Mr. Pickens, Boone, has done an unbelievable job with that stadium. It's one of the finest stadiums anywhere.”
Francis, a Midwest City product, has an added reason to be proud of Gundy's work. But it goes much further than that.
“And I'm impressed with the way everybody has gotten behind the Oklahoma State Cowboys. It didn't used to be that way,” Francis said. “All the things they have going on at the university – all the building, all the extras they have, the enrollment – is fantastic and I think it's one of the best things that's happened to Oklahoma State.”
If the show Survivor were around in the '60s, it would have been based in Stillwater.
Cutchin worked those Cowboys so hard and so long, many quit. And those who didn't considered it.
“I wanted to quit,” Francis said. “My mother said, ‘Well, you can if you want to, but don't come home. I don't have any place for you.' I said, ‘I guess I'll stay then.'
“I graduated in five years and I've got a degree and that's one of those stories you have. I guess we put a lot of sweat, a lot of tears and a lot of blood was spread throughout the whole four years we were there.”
Garrison's journey was different, which likely helped him stick it out.
Coming out of Lewisville High in Texas, OSU was Garrison's only scholarship offer.
“When you've only got one to choose from, it doesn't take long to make up your mind,” Garrison said. “But a great school. Had a great time. And I go back every chance I can. I'm probably going to couple or three games this year.”
Besides, Garrison's grandson, Case Garrison, just arrived at OSU on a wrestling scholarship, so Walt has added incentive to venture into Stillwater. Not that he needs a reason to go back.
“Like I've always told people,” Garrison said, “everything that I have I owe to Oklahoma State.”