STILLWATER — I talked with Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder about two weeks ago for a story on how the Cowboys' 2014 football opener against defending national champion Florida State at AT&T Stadium in Arlington came to be.
But I also used that opportunity to ask him about some broader topics surrounding football, OSU's overall athletic department and how his job has changed in the year 2014.
First, Holder said he had no timetable on when the independent review of the football program following Sports Illustrated's investigative series will be completed. He said he's staying out of that.
Yet here are some leftovers from the rest of our conversation:
After two consecutive close losses to end the season, some Cowboy football fans are disappointed with a 10-3 record. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
“That's a great thing. Those are nice problems, higher-class problems. In 2001, 1991, no, that wouldn't have been the case. We were just hoping to win a game or two. Now, you lose a game or two, and it's the end of the world. Kudos to everyone that's made that happen. And with expectation comes belief that you can get it done, that you can win at the highest level.”
Mike Gundy will enter his 10th season as head coach in 2014. Is it hard to believe that much time has passed?
“It just seems like yesterday he was breaking the huddle and taking snaps himself. Gosh, we're coming up on 30 years since that happened. That's hard to get your mind around. But there's a lot of excitement around football. You've got to give him a lot of credit for that. You've got to give Boone Pickens a lot of credit for that. You've got to give all the other donors a lot of credit for that. And then you've got to give a shout out to our fan base, because we sold season tickets in record numbers last year. Set attendance records. Had a sellout for Baylor (and a) great atmosphere. Gosh, a lot of good things going around for football.”
When you look back at the 2013 athletic year, what will you most remember?
“Gosh, I'm not even thinking about it. I'm thinking about 2014 and all the things that we've got left to accomplish. I'd say I'm primarily focused on finishing that athletic village and providing all of our coaches and athletes an opportunity to win championships. We've still got soccer to complete. We've got the baseball stadium. We've got an equestrian center. We've got a foundation for track, but there's more to be done for that facility. And time is of the essence. Every day that passes is a day lost, so I feel a sense of urgency to complete all the fundraising for that.”
What's the biggest challenge of being an athletic director in 2014?
“It's a multi-faced role now. I think finances are always a challenge, especially at a place like Oklahoma State where we don't have the largest football stadium around. You can take Oklahoma's budget for athletics and our budget for our athletics and it still wouldn't equal Texas'. But when you compete, you can't use that as an excuse. You're expected to compete with — and win — against that competition, no matter what the obstacles are financially. So that's always a challenge. I want to close that gap with the University of Oklahoma, and if I do that, we'll be moving closer to Texas. So I think finances are the No. 1 thing that keeps me awake at night.
“And then No. 2, just the changing world. We're evolving at such a rapid pace — communication, exposure — things are known about your athletes and your programs that three decades ago you wouldn't have to deal with. Who knows what the future is gonna be like in that regard? There just doesn't seem to be any nook and cranny where people can't see. That's good and bad. I think that's a challenge.”
On the flip side, what's the best part?
“It's the greatest job in the world. You're around young people and athletes every single day. There's so much energy and enthusiasm. And, as I said, dreams are contagious, so I think it helps keep you young. I can't think of anything better to do — any area of athletics, whether you're the athletic director, you're a coach, you're a trainer, doesn't matter. If you're involved with young people, you've got a good job.”