GLENDALE, Ariz. — Jim Stanley brought the 1974 Oklahoma State Cowboys to the desert. They beat Brigham Young 16-6 in the Fiesta Bowl.
Some of those Pokes returned to Greater Phoenix in the past few days. They came for an even more triumphant OSU football experience, the Fiesta Bowl against Stanford on Monday night.
They also came to see their coach.
Stanley, who coached OSU from 1973-78 and to a 1976 Big Eight tri-championship, is fighting lung cancer. He's retired from the Arizona Cardinals, for whom he coached, scouted and worked in pro player personnel from 1995-07.
Stanley was in a Phoenix-area hospital Sunday when a dozen or so of his former players came by for a visit.
“He's in real good spirits,” said Scott Burk, a quarterback who played at OSU from 1974-78. “He lighted up big-time.”
Russ Farthing, a non-scholarship player who arrived at OSU in 1975, said Stanley's “spirits perked up when we came in the room. He loves his boys, I can tell you.”
Also among the Cowboys who visited were Derrel Gofourth, Reggie Pierson, Alvin Brown, Leonard Thompson, Jerry Cramer, Robert Turner, Frank Johnson and Kent Gravely.
“Kind of a neat reunion,” Farthing said. “All huddled around him, grabbed his hands, grabbed his shoulder. Loved on him.”
Then-assistant coach Deek Pollard also came with the group. Current OSU defensive coordinator Bill Young was on Stanley's staff back in the ‘70s. OSU was practicing while the players visited Stanley, so Young didn't join them. But Young did send along a football signed by the current Cowboys, who won the first outright conference title in OSU football history.
“Makes me real proud,” Burk said. “Coach Stanley recruited us to make changes in the program. It's taken 37 years to do that (win a title outright), but it's finally been accomplished.”
Burk, who is from Colorado and returned there after his OSU days, says he makes “two or three” Cowboy games a year. Burk got a tour of the new Boone Pickens Stadium awhile back and was stunned.
“Can't even fathom it,” Burk said. “As nice as anything I've ever seen.”
Burk said his favorite OSU memory was the first use of the “Orange! Power!” chant. “Nebraska 1975,” Burk said. “I remember the place was rocking. Just a good time.”
Now Boone Pickens Stadium rocks all the time, with one of the nation's best teams.
“We're all thrilled,” Farthing said. “We're so tickled with ‘em.”
Farthing said he and his former teammates are proud of their 1976 Big Eight tri-championship, but the current Cowboys “won it outright. And they did it with class. Mike Holder's a pretty big fanatic on doing the right thing. Mike Gundy, same way.
“One reason we bought into this group is the way they treat our coach. At a reunion a couple of years ago, Gundy said, ‘Anything you need, let me know. Tickets, whatever.' Mike Holder, same way. Treats Coach like a million bucks. People never forget how they're treated.
“We feel our contributions were valued. We support everybody here. We're tickled to death with ‘em.”