OSU remains Mike Gundy's Yankee job. But it's a job he's finding increasingly distasteful.
Gundy has flirted with Arkansas and Tennessee in recent days, either as a poker play or to seriously consider leaving his alma mater, and here's why.
The relationship between Gundy and his boss has fractured. Gundy is not pleased with OSU athletic director Mike Holder.
“I know Mike has always wanted to stay here,” said a source close to Gundy. “But I know he's not very happy.”
Why? Because of Holder, the man who more than a decade ago championed Gundy as a future head coach of Cowboy football.
But Gundy best be careful with his flirtations. In Holder and Boone Pickens, Gundy is not dealing with affable men with short memories. Keep threatening to leave, and they soon will either help him pack his bags or pull out a water hose and blast Gundy to a new locale.
Worse yet, Gundy is damaging his status as the most iconic of Cowboys. Gundy was a football hero turned messiah coach. But fan patience has its limits.
Two years ago, Gundy dangled Miami interest at Holder, which was not widely reported. A year ago, same with Texas A&M, which did make the news. Now the Vols and Hogs.
Enough. If you want to coach in Knoxville or Fayetteville or Louisville or Gainesville or Nashville or heck, even Holdenville, get on with it.
Otherwise, it's time to work out whatever differences are plaguing OSU football in what should be the salad days of the program.
State football is better than it's ever been. A Fiesta Bowl win and Big 12 title a year ago. Now a tie for third place in the Big 12, even though the Cowboys had to go three quarterbacks deep, due to injury, for conference wins.
Holder can be a difficult boss. Holder's personality — he's not warm and fuzzy; in fact, he's neither warm nor fuzzy — alienates many throughout the athletic department.
And Holder is frugal, which can frustrate coaches of all sports.
But Holder is who convinced Pickens to invest in the vision of OSU football.
Who convinced the OSU brass to interview Gundy for the head coaching job 12 years ago, when Gundy was all of 33 years old, and instruct Les Miles to add Gundy to his staff.
And Holder and Gundy have this common ground: an unquestioned passion for OSU.
“If you can ever find the common ground and unite people behind the common vision…” said an OSU source. “You can't be playing like kids in the sandbox. Gotta man up, work through your differences.”
Gundy wants veto power over nonconference scheduling. But sources say he has other issues, too, from recruiting logistics to constantly being told no about small things.
“I sensed the last year or so, Mike's been unhappy with Holder,” said the source close to Gundy. “I didn't know he was bucking Mike that much. Mike lets that stuff roll off his back pretty good. Apparently it has gotten that way.”
Of course, Gundy has his communication problems, too. An OSU source said that while Tennessee contacted Holder about talking to Gundy, Arkansas did not — and Gundy didn't inform his superiors. That's bad form.
And Holder has talked with Gundy about the scheduling issue. Talking with your boss can be like answered prayers.
Sometimes the answer is no.
Would Gundy really consider taking a job where it's tougher to win, where he's not the conquering hero, in part because he doesn't want to play Mississippi State (2013 opener) or even Florida State (possible 2014 opener) on neutral fields?
It makes no sense. Stop flirting with places you don't want to be, and start working on the place you do.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.