STILLWATER — Taralyn Stearnes knew how she would react if Mike Gundy had left Oklahoma State for another head coaching job.
It wouldn't have been pretty.
“If Gundy leaves, I am going to go buy a pint of Ben and Jerry's (ice cream), get in my pajamas, lay in bed and watch the 2011 Bedlam game and cry,” the 21-year-old former OSU student and current season-ticket holder told a friend.
“A bit dramatic, yes, but that is how much I loved this man.”
It's been a rocky few weeks for Cowboy Nation.
Two days after Thanksgiving, OSU was on the cusp of a dramatic Bedlam win in Norman to stay in the thick of the discussion for a BCS at-large berth.
Then came the heartbreaking loss to the Sooners, and another defeat at Baylor. A tumble to the Heart of Dallas Bowl followed, despite finishing the season tied for third in the Big 12 standings. And last week, the Cowboys lost their second offensive coordinator in three years when Todd Monken took the head coaching job at Southern Miss.
But the most dramatic — and perhaps unsettling — part of it all for fans was when Gundy was very much a part of the coaching carousel, entertaining opportunities at Arkansas and Tennessee.
What was it like for the OSU faithful to watch it unfold from the outside? And has the overall perception of Gundy changed?
As expected when surveying a large group, it depends on who is asked.
Some said they understand that coaches who win will be courted by other schools. And that college football, while largely fueled by passion and loyalty, is ultimately a business that involves agents, lots of money and, sometimes, disagreements between bosses and employees, like the rift between Gundy and OSU athletic director Mike Holder.
“Successful programs always have suitors making offers for their coaches,” said OSU graduate Greg Blocker, 46, of Tulsa. “It's not much different than the speculation we see every year with several big names: Urban Meyer, Nick Saban and, even occasionally, Bob Stoops. It's the price of success.”
But others admit they felt betrayed by Gundy's actions. He's an OSU alumnus and has become a beloved figure in Stillwater after lifting the Cowboys to national prominence on a consistent basis during his eight-year tenure as the Cowboy head coach.
After calling OSU his “New York Yankees job,” and signing a lucrative new contract less than a year ago, some have asked why Gundy even felt a desire to personally meet with other schools.
“I thought (Gundy) could do no wrong until he started interviewing for other jobs,” said Jordan Winders, a 29-year-old OSU season ticket holder from Stillwater. “I felt like it was a slap in the face to the fans, and the fact that he never came forward after or during and told us anything was just awful.
“We love our university and our Cowboy football, and Mike Gundy is still the man. I just want an apology and for him to not do this every year to the people that want him the most.”
Added 29-year-old OSU graduate Temo Ibarra of Duncan: “It's like a marriage. You commit through the thick and thin. You don't go talking to other women when your wife isn't doing something you wish she did. You talk about it and you resolve it. I think Coach Gundy bleeds light orange and the brightness is fading. (Am I) hurt? Of course, but we can forgive him. Just don't do it again.”
But after taking a couple turns on the coaching carousel, Gundy assured media members in Dallas last week that he has “no doubt” he will be OSU's coach in 2013. Meanwhile, Arkansas hired former Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema and Tennessee hired former Cincinnati coach Butch Jones.
That means Stearnes can keep her ice cream in the freezer — at least for now.
“After everything that has happened, I still love Gundy as much as I did before,” she said. “Yes, I'm irritated he didn't make a statement sooner than he did, but I still think he loves OSU and that it is where he wants to be.
“One thing is for sure, these two guys (Holder and Gundy) need to sit down and make some compromises — I've been told that is the key to a good marriage — to avoid this crazy fiasco in the future.”