STILLWATER — Nonconference scheduling has consistently surfaced as a key issue for Oklahoma State during the past several months.
Many criticized the Cowboys when they played — and historically drubbed — lowly Savannah State to open the 2012 season. And scheduling has been at the center of the reported rift between Cowboy coach Mike Gundy and athletic director Mike Holder, which prompted Gundy to recently interview for the head coaching positions at Tennessee and Arkansas.
But Wednesday brought the news that OSU will be a part of one of the marquee nonconference games of 2014, and likely one of the best out-of-league games in Cowboy history.
OSU will open the 2014 season against traditional power Florida State on Aug. 30 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, the two schools, Dallas Cowboys and ESPN officially announced.
The announcement offers more proof that OSU has evolved into a prominent and appealing team in the national landscape.
The Cowboy Classic has become the premier stage of college football's opening weekend, with previous matchups including Oklahoma-BYU, TCU-Oregon State, LSU-Oregon and, most recently, Alabama-Michigan. TCU will face LSU in the 2013 game.
Playing in that contest will also provide OSU with plenty of exposure, including a national television audience and hype throughout the summer leading up to what's almost sure to be one of the most-anticipated matchups of the early season. The benefits will even be a significant upgrade over the ones the Cowboys will receive in their 2013 opener against Mississippi State at Reliant Stadium in Houston as part of the Texas Kickoff Classic.
But the game is also the latest interesting twist in the nonconference scheduling dilemma that divides two of the most important figures in OSU's athletic department.
Gundy has made it clear that he prefers to play a soft schedule before Big 12 play to prepare his team for the conference gauntlet. He most recently expressed that in November, when CBS Sports first reported that OSU and Florida State were discussing a 2014 game.
“The very best chance for us to win a Big 12 championship is to not encourage what could be a 10th game of the year that could be very difficult,” Gundy said then. “It's just the percentages. But I don't do scheduling. I've not been involved in scheduling, so if that's going on, it's dealing with somebody else.”
But the deal is done. And in Florida State, the Cowboys get to face one of college football's most historic programs — and one that has also had plenty of recent success. The Seminoles won the ACC this season and will face Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 1.
OSU and Florida State have met four times, with the Seminoles winning three of the matchups. The schools last met in the 1985 Gator Bowl and haven't played in the regular season since a 1978 contest in Stillwater.