With apologies to Jim Lookabaugh, the two most successful coaches in OSU football history are Pat Jones and Mike Gundy.
Lookabaugh was very successful. In 11 seasons, Lookabaugh went 58-41-6. He coached the 1944 Cowboys to the Sugar Bowl and the 1945 Cowboys to the Cotton Bowl. By every measurement, an excellent resume’.
However, Lookabaugh’s high times came during World War II, when college football was at its lowest point ever. Most able-bodied American lads were fighting the Nazis or the Japanese.
The successes of Jones and Gundy came during college football golden years. Jones in the ’80s, when college football was rock ‘em sock ‘em football. Gundy in the 21st century, when parity has made almost every Saturday an adventure.
Jones coached 11 years, 1984-94, and probation ruined the last half of his tenure. Jones went 18-45-3 his final six seasons. But those first five years were glorious. OSU reeled off records of 10-2, 8-4, 6-5, 10-2 and 10-2. The Cowboys played big-time defense in 1984-85 and amazing offense in 1987-88.
Gundy has coached nine years, 2005 to the present, and is 77-37. The OSU program appears to improve each year — the Cowboys have won fewer games than the year before only once in Gundy’s nine seasons. They dropped from 12-1 in 2011 to 8-5 in 2012, a season in which OSU lost two games after failing to get fourth-down stops in the final minute or so.
So Jones did a great job, and Gundy has done even better. They are the closest things the Cowboys have had to iconic coaches.
And their combined Bedlam Series record is 1-18-1.
Go back and read that again. The two best coaches in OSU history have a winning percentage of less than .100 against the Sooners.
We talk often about OU’s domination of Bedlam. Which is true. The Sooners lead the series 84-17-7. That’s a winning percentage of .810. But OU’s winning percentage against all the OSU coaches other than Gundy and Jones is .767. The Sooners are 66-16-6. Terribly one-sided. But as one-sided as OU’s dominance of the best coaches in Cowboy history.
That’s what makes this series so kooky. The better OSU’s teams, the worse they do against OU. In 20 games against the two most successful coaches in OSU history, the Sooners have lost just once, 2011. The Sooners went 3-3 against Bob Simmons and 2-2 against Les Miles but 18-1-1 against Jones and Gundy.
It’s inexplicable. And it’s something the Cowboys have to change, else the status (high-stakes Big 12 showdown) and drama (almost always thrilling) can’t sustain itself.