STILLWATER — Oklahoma State's recent success has come with plenty of rewards: A rise in national prestige, additional television appearances, national award winners along with record-setting ticket sales and attendance.
But success also comes with ample drawbacks.
The Cowboys program has earned a reputation for excellent evaluation and strong recruiting thanks in large part to the success of underrated recruits like running back Kendall Hunter, a two-star prospect who became a two-time All-American, and Justin Blackmon, a three-star recruit who won the 2010 Biletnikoff Award.
This spring, OSU has seen multiple recruits commit to the Pokes only to see them then decommit and reopen their recruiting.
The Cowboys were among the first schools to offer Fort Bend (Texas) Hightower receiver Bralon Addison, earning his commitment in early February. But the 5-foot-10, 185-pounder chose to reopen his recruitment in early May before eventually committing to Texas A&M.
OSU was the first school to offer Van (Texas) linebacker Dalton Santos, securing his commitment in October 2010. Nine months later, Santos has offers from Oklahoma, Alabama, Arkansas, Michigan, Texas A&M, Tennessee, TCU and others after decommitting in May.
Those two prospects are examples of what Mike Gundy considers one of the most frustrating aspects of his job. While the Cowboys' head coach can't comment about specific recruits due to NCAA rules, Gundy was candid when talking about how he handles decommitments and his approach to trying to make the best out of the situation.
“It's very disappointing and very discouraging but it's not going to change,” Gundy said. "The player is always going to have the last say, they're holding the trump card.
“There's nothing you can do about it. It's not like you can call and beat them up over the phone, because then you won't be able to go back into that high school.”
It's particularly problematic for Gundy, who has made a point to insist his coaching staff be as honest as possible when speaking with recruits about scholarship offers.
“It's not going away, so you deal with it and try to do the best you can,” Gundy said. “You try to have backup guys, but if you have a backup guy who calls and commits you have to tell him, ‘We don't have a scholarship, we're full but we might have one later.' Well, if I'm him, I'm not waiting around for that.
“There's nothing you can do about it.”
The only silver lining regarding the recent rash of decommitments from the Cowboys class is the fact OSU has seven months to recover and find another prospect to try to fill the void.
An example of the worst-case scenario would be a decommitment on signing day, which happened most recently with Tulsa Washington defensive tackle Calvin Barnett in February 2010, who signed with Arkansas after being committed to OSU for several months.
“It's the part of the job that is most discouraging,” Gundy said. “When you have a guy committed for three, four, five months, you've stopped recruiting at that position then they go somewhere else.”
Barnett's late change likely had a direct impact on OSU's decision to sign five defensive tackles in February, because the Pokes didn't fill the void left by Barnett's decision in 2010.
“We offer a certain number of scholarships and have a certain number committed,” Gundy said. “And, this has happened to us, when a guy falls out in January and changes his mind, we can't go back and fill that void in most cases.”