Oklahoma State football: How Dana Holgorsen's brief stay in Stillwater worked out for everyone

In one season as offensive coordinator, Holgorsen helped transform the Cowboys into a national power.
by Gina Mizell Published: November 7, 2012

STILLWATER — Dana Holgorsen's time in Stillwater was brief.

And memorable.

In his 10 months spent at Oklahoma State, Holgorsen installed his spread system that transformed the Cowboys into one of the most potent offenses in the nation. And he became known as an interesting — if not fascinating — figure because of his unique personality and lifestyle.

“Everything about Coach Holgorsen, you never knew what you were going to get every day,” wide receiver Charlie Moore said. “From the Red Bull cans all over the field, to the funny choice of language, to the stories that you don't even know about him, but you hear, to the pulling the hair, throwing the headsets…

“But overall, Coach Holgorsen was a good guy. I enjoyed playing for him. He was a fun coach.”

Ultimately, it was a short marriage that worked out for everyone. Holgorsen used his one successful season in Stillwater to make the jump to become the head coach at West Virginia, which visits OSU Saturday afternoon. And the Cowboys still use Holgorsen's base philosophies on offense, with a few tweaks implemented by his successor, Todd Monken.

“That was a good move,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said of hiring Holgorsen. “Not the most popular at that time, but it was a very good move, in my opinion.”

OSU inside receivers coach Doug Meacham — a Cowboy assistant before, during and after Holgorsen's short tenure — remembers being excited when Holgorsen was brought in by Gundy after the 2009 season. Meacham thought the Cowboys' personnel, especially quarterback Brandon Weeden, fit the spread offense perfectly. The system was simple, but would allow the Cowboys to play fast and throw the ball around the field.

Gundy admits Holgorsen followed a bit of a “fly-by-night” schedule. He wasn't much of an early bird, so he didn't show up to the football facility before 9 a.m. He wasn't a guy who locked himself inside his office to scribble out plays and scheme and mastermind.

He was in; he was out. Often as he pleased.

“What I tried to do was just stay out of his way and let him do his job,” Gundy said. “What I needed him to do was be productive for us. There's traditional coach thoughts that we all have … well, he goes against a lot of things. And that's OK.

“I just said, ‘Hey, look, there's what we need to do.' And he was good at it, so I just let him go.”

Even with the unconventional habits, Meacham said Holgorsen was well-liked on the staff, and that he created an enjoyable work atmosphere.

“It was a lot different than maybe a grinding environment, where you're chopping wood all day long,” Meacham said. “It really wasn't as much of that as it was trying to make it fun in the offices as well as on the practice field. A lot of joking and laughing and those kinds of things.

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by Gina Mizell
OSU Sports Reporter
Gina Mizell joined The Oklahoman in August of 2011 as the Oklahoma State beat writer, where she covered the Cowboys' historic run to the Big 12 championship and Fiesta Bowl in her first season on the job. Before arriving in Stillwater, Gina was...
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