STILLWATER – Oklahoma State is a university fan base that, moreso than most, reveres successful coaches.
Henry Iba, the father of OSU athletics, was known as Mr. Iba most of his 36 seasons coaching Cowboy basketball, and not because he looked old even before he was and won NCAA championships. More than anyone else, Iba was responsible for OSU's admission into the Big Eight Conference.
Then Eddie Sutton rejuvenated basketball at his alma mater and became a father figure to everyone in OSU orange.
OSU's first wrestling coach, Ed Gallagher, was so exalted that in 1939 his name was placed on the school's year-old coliseum, which had been dubbed the “Madison Square Garden of the Plains” but became Gallagher Hall. And most every wrestling coach since, from Art Griffith to Myron Roderick to John Smith, was homegrown, ultra-successful and much-loved.
And now OSU has found the same in the sport that drives collegiate athletics. The Cowboys have a football coach who has reached iconic status.
Mike Gundy, OSU class of 1990, coached the Cowboys to the Big 12 title last season and a stirring Fiesta Bowl victory over Stanford. And his popularity figures to trump anyone's who coached in what is now known as Gallagher-Iba Arena.
“Eddie won when we had nothing,” said OSU fan Brad Cromwell of Yukon. “We all were closet football fans. Didn't have much to cheer on. What Mike has done is mind-boggling.”
Twenty-three victories in the last two seasons, which trails only LSU, Boise State and TCU (24 each). Consecutive seasons setting a school record for wins (11 in 2010, 12 in 2011). OSU's first outright conference title in school history.
“He's a very popular coach,” said OSU athletic director Mike Holder, a decent Cowboy coach himself, having taken State to eight NCAA golf titles. “I wouldn't know how to rank him. I would think he'd have to be one of the most popular coaches ever.