STILLWATER — One burning question has been answered with Frank Anderson's firing at Oklahoma State, announced Tuesday, ending ongoing speculation attached to the baseball program's inconsistency.
Still another burning question remains: How good is this job, with no plans to address the aged Reynolds Stadium and an operating budget that insiders report lags significantly behind the Big 12's big boys?
The lineup of serious candidates interested in replacing Anderson will ultimately provide that answer, yet those are issues sure to come up in interviews with OSU athletic director Mike Holder.
Any top candidate will surely request — if not demand — major improvements or even a replacement for Reynolds Stadium. The facility, generally considered the worst in the Big 12, opened in 1981 and has received few additions or face-lifts since.
How important are facilities? Ask Mike Gundy, who regularly credits Boone Pickens' role in transforming the football stadium as a required initial step in transforming the program.
Anderson once had the promise of a new stadium, part of the proposed Athletic Village and budgeted for $30 million, due to be completed in 2011. But that project was shelved when the money invested from Pickens' major donation took a market hit.
Then there's the cash flow, which those with knowledge of the operating budget say falls as much as $1 million behind the league's front-runners.
At least the next coach won't have to deal with the scholarship limitations that hindered Anderson's recruiting for eight of his nine years on the job.
During his run, Anderson only enjoyed a full scholarship allotment once — this season, with administrative mistakes at the root of regular reductions.
“When Frank took this job, no one anticipated that he would have to endure five years of very significant scholarship reductions due to miscalculations by the compliance office,” Holder said in a statement announcing Anderson's firing Tuesday. “Even though Frank was not responsible for the errors, he accepted his fate with a positive attitude and never used the situation as an excuse.
“I commend him for his loyal service to OSU and regret that he didn't get nine years with a full allotment of scholarships and a level playing field with the competition.”
Where does the job rank in the Big 12? Realistically, behind Texas and Baylor, which operate with much larger resources. Outgoing Texas A&M rated much higher, too, while replacement TCU already had everything except a major conference affiliation — until now.
Oklahoma, too, has put more money and effort into its program.
Assuming all that is accurate, OSU ranks about fifth in the Big 12, right where the Cowboys finished in the league standings.
Talk of tradition and history are meaningful to fans and supporters, but carry little weight in the living rooms of recruits, which is what wins and loses on most weekends.
Anderson's time at OSU was marked by ups and downs, yet he exits as the second-winningest coach in program history.
This season, the Cowboys finished 32-25 overall, starting slowly, rallying into a second-place tie in the Big 12 standings entering the league's final weekend before a final six-game skid that included a two-and-out performance at the conference tournament.
Anderson's final record in nine seasons at OSU: 329-208 overall, 123-113 in the Big 12.
His last four teams went 130-100 overall and 44-58 in the league, failing to qualify for the Big 12 Tournament twice.
Anderson followed Tom Holliday as the program's 14th head coach in June of 2003, then led OSU to its only Big 12 Tournament championship in his 2004 debut. Inconsistency followed, with the Cowboys finishing anywhere from second to 10th and in between in the league's regular-season standings.
In Anderson's first year at OSU, the 2004 season, the Cowboys operated with 8.14 scholarships — more than 3½ off the allowed 11.7 scholarships allotted for baseball. That's a 30 percent hit. By comparison, it would be like football surrendering 25 of its 85 scholarships.
Anderson preferred not to offer up the scholarship limitations as an excuse.
“I really don't want to say anything one way or the other on the scholarship deal,” Anderson said then. “I just think that comes off as sour grapes and whining.
“I've never done that. And I told coach Holder I never would.”
While 2004 represented the worst of the reductions, Anderson regularly worked without an average of 13 to 15 percent of regular scholarship allowances.
“I think it's very, very important that people understand that dynamic, then judge,” Holder said in 2010.
Anderson's teams made six NCAA Regional appearances, twice as No. 1 seeds. The Cowboys advanced to a Super Regional in 2007 and had a team many pegged as a College World Series contender in 2008, before ace Andrew Oliver was ruled ineligible on the day he was scheduled to pitch in a regional at Reynolds Stadium, a game OSU lost on its way to eventual elimination.
From 2006 to 2009, OSU was the only Big 12 school to reach the finals of a regional in each of those four seasons.
Recent struggles, however, contributed to a growing unrest among a faction of fans and boosters. This season, the Cowboys lost several close games — including all three in a sweep by Texas A&M — influenced by a failure of fundamentals, like bunting and advancing runners, issues only magnified by the losses.
Who's next? OSU athletic director Mike Holder is expected to lead a national search for the next Cowboys baseball coach, with insiders suggesting those with program ties could have an edge. A list of possible candidates to replace Frank Anderson at OSU: FROM THE CORRAL Rob Walton, head coach, ORU. The favorite? A standout pitcher at OSU from 1983-86, Walton has been ultra successful at ORU, leading the Golden Eagles to nine straight Summit League championships and NCAA Tournament berths. Josh Holliday, assistant, Vanderbilt. Holliday starred on OSU's last College World Series team in 1999. Since then, he's built a reputation as a hot assistant and top recruiter at Georgia Tech, North Carolina State, Arizona State and Vandy. Mike Trapasso, head coach, Hawaii. Another former standout pitcher for the Cowboys, Trapasso just finished his 11th season at Hawaii, where he's built the program into a consistent winner and three times has been named WAC Coach of the Year. Rocky Ward, head coach, New Mexico State. This may be a pipe dream for those still pining for the glory days. But think about the possibilities, with pop Gary Ward on Rocky's staff as an assistant. Pete Incaviglia as hitting instructor? OFF THE RANCH Pat Murphy, manager, Eugene Emeralds. He comes with some NCAA baggage, after being forced to resign from Arizona State in 2009. But he comes with a trail of success, too, at Notre Dame and ASU, winning 629 games and leading four CWS teams in 15 years at the latter. He's the youngest coach to 500 wins. Rich Hill, head coach, San Diego. Overshadowed by San Diego State out west, Hill's teams just win. The Toreros are 40-15 this season entering the UCLA Regional as the No. 2 seed. Dan McDonnell, head coach, Louisville. He's led the Cardinals to five NCAA Tournaments in six seasons, including the 2007 CWS, when they beat OSU to get there. By John Helsley