STILLWATER — Kliff Kingsbury is the football coach at Texas Tech, and all of Lubbock is thrilled. A hero is coming home.
But Kingsbury is the coach most of Techdom wants only if it can't turn back time. Saddle Tramps Nation still wishes Mike Leach roller-bladed Lubbock's wide streets.
The Red Raiders still reel from the loss of Leach, who was fired three years ago this month for not getting along with his bosses.
Under Leach, Tech football was mostly better and definitely more popular than ever before. And it all went splat.
That's not just a lesson for Leach, and the rest of us, to get along with our superiors. That's also a lesson for superiors. Don't mess up a good thing.
The Tech saga is incredibly instructive for OSU, which this month has sweated through Mike Gundy flirting with Arkansas and Tennessee, not because he wanted to head for either set of hills, but to make a point with his boss.
And while it's incumbent on Gundy to patch that relationship, it's also incumbent on athletic director Mike Holder to keep Gundy happy.
The truth about Tech is that Leach was itching to leave. The relationship had soured. If Leach had left voluntarily instead of being fired, Tech football would have been no better off.
Coached by Tommy Tuberville, the Red Raiders went 20-17 in three post-Leach seasons, quite a fall from the 84-43 record in Leach's 10 seasons. Unless the schism was patched, Tech was headed for this dip no matter what. Leach was going one way or the other.
No reason to allow such things to fester, when you've got a good thing going. Such as Tech had and OSU has.
Gundy on Friday certainly talked like he knew that.
“Oklahoma State has enough here to maintain football for a long time,” Gundy said. “Not like we had it 10 years ago. Because of what Boone (Pickens) did for this university, and with Mike Holder and some of the decisions he's made. He's made a lot of really good decisions.
“And I think you'd have to say I've made some good decisions.”
Correct on all counts. This is the golden age of Cowboy football. Did you see the chart I produced in the Sunday Oklahoman? In the last three years, among major-conference teams, OSU is tied for sixth in victories. Over the last five years, OSU ranks seventh. Over the last 10 years, OSU ranks 13th.
Cowboy football is an amazing success story, and Gundy is right. There's plenty of credit to go around.
But with success comes pressure. Pressure and expectations and responsibilities. Working together is mandatory.
Gundy said all the right things Friday. Said that reported friction between he and Holder is overrated, and that while yes, they disagree on scheduling, Gundy understands that Holder has to make decisions for the entire athletic department.
“He pretty much gives me anything I need to have success here,” Gundy said. “When I've needed money for coaches, he's given me money. When we wanted an indoor (facility), he worked to get an indoor. New grass practice fields.”
Even if that's not the way Gundy privately feels — and I don't think it is, completely — it's good to hear him talk like that. But the conciliatory attitude is not all on Gundy.
Holder and Pickens and all the OSU brass must work with Gundy, too. The Cowboys have a great thing going, and they don't want to mess it up. They've got a Big 12 neighbor to use as Exhibit A.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. 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.