“I think we're heading that direction in this business, getting out of the ‘because I said so' mentality. We're just trying to keep it fresh and exciting where they want to learn.”
If so, Gundy is helping lead the charge, utilizing some out-of-the-box philosophies that draw scoffs from some traditionalist coaches, including Jones, who recruited Gundy, installed him as a true freshman quarterback and later gave him his first coaching job just months after throwing his last pass as a Cowboy.
Bill Young more than qualifies as old-school, in his fifth decade of coaching as OSU's defensive coordinator at age 66. But Young sees the benefits of Gundy's player-friendly ways.
“Coach's attitude toward players, the chemistry of our coaches and the chemistry of our football team, I'm not sure could be any better,” Young said. “I just think it's a great situation right now.”
It's been a work in progress.
Gundy's first season, 2005, produced a rough ride. The Cowboys finished 4-7, winning but one Big 12 game. But that has been the only blip, with his subsequent teams gradually gaining in the win column, reaching a record 12 victories last season, when Gundy was named National Coach of the Year by three organizations.
Entering this season, Gundy's teams accumulated 41 of his 62 victories since the start of 2008.
Sixth-year senior offensive lineman Jonathan Rush has been around for Gundy's winningest seasons. He said he'd be pleased to help push Gundy over the top.
“It gives me goose bumps thinking about it,” Rush said. “And especially for it to be on Homecoming, I guess that makes it pretty special. Regardless, I'm just happy for him and everything that he's achieved in his time here. And I'm proud of him.
“I feel sorry for any coach who comes to OSU after him, because he's done it so young and he'll probably be here for a lot longer to jack up those numbers.”
Only in his eighth season, Gundy could indeed extend the wins record to an impressive total, although he insists he's not keeping track of his own victory mark, but his team's.
“I don't think a lot about it. I really don't,” Gundy said. “My first concern is making sure that our team's functioning the way it should, that attitude's good, that the people that come to watch them play are proud of the effort and the way they perform and they continue to get better each day and each game.
“That's really my concern. Anything else that comes with it, I think we share as a staff and as a team. And I really feel that way.
“And I talked to Coach (Jones) about that and I think he understands the way I feel. It's almost like that I'm just kind of carrying on what he started.”
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OSU's top coaches
Mike Gundy is 62-32 as the OSU head coach, which matches Pat Jones' Cowboy wins record. Outside of Gundy, the top five OSU coaches in wins:
1. Pat Jones, 1984-94, 62-60-3: The most wins, the most losses and tied for the most seasons (11) in OSU history.
2. Jim Lookabaugh, 1939-49, 58-41-6: Coached OSU to its only major bowl trips before the Fiesta Bowl last season.
3. Cliff Speegle, 1955-62, 36-42-3: Coached OSU to 1958 Delta Bowl, only postseason game for the Cowboys between 1949 and 1974.
4. Jim Stanley, 1973-78, 35-31-2: 1976 Big Eight tri-championship was OSU's only league title before 2011.
5. Pappy Waldorf, 1929-33, 34-10-7: Big-time winner at Kansas State (1934 Big Eight title), Northwestern and California who got his head-coaching start at OSU.
By Berry Tramel