Mike Gundy is regarded as one of the top coaches in college football. He has turned his alma mater Oklahoma State into a remarkably consistent competitor in the Big 12 and nationally, despite the fact that it is the clear No. 2 team in the state, and not among the bigger brands in the region as a whole.
Still, the Cowboys are always dangerous. The team is currently riding three straight years of 10 wins, and has hit that mark in four of the last five seasons. Back in 2011, the team probably would have played for a national title, had it not been shocked in overtime by a middling Iowa State team.
Gundy has built one of college football’s winningest programs despite some limitations in recruiting. The Cowboys have finished in the Top 25 in recruiting a few times, topping out at No. 18 back in 2006, Gundy’s first full recruiting cycle after taking over for Les Miles.
In recent years, Oklahoma State has typically finished in the 30s or 40s. Even with on-field success, that apparently isn’t high enough for athletic director Mike Holder’s liking.
Mike Holder appeared on the Pistols Firing podcast this week, and had some interesting things to say about Mike Gundy’s recruiting strategy.
Holder, who took over as AD in September 2005, less than a year after Gundy was hired as head coach, complimented his coaching ability, but raised concerns about the level of talent that he brings in. From Pistols Firing:
“You’ve got to give credit to Mike Gundy. He’s really matured into a difference maker as a coach. I would approach recruiting a little differently than he does. I’d want to finish higher in those recruiting rankings than we consistently do. I think that ultimately puts a ceiling on what you’re able to achieve. We do a great job of overcoming that with Rob Glass down in the weight room, and I think our coaches do a great job of disciplining and motivating and channeling what talent we have in the right direction. I just think we would be better served with a few more James Washington’s coming in the front door – you know, he came in as a two-star, three-star, left a five-star – we need to take some of those five-stars and turn them into seven-stars, which I think Rob Glass could do, and I think Mike Gundy could as well.
“I’m patting them on the back at the same time I’m challenging them to get out there and do a little bit more recruiting … Recruiting’s the most important thing we do, and you’re only as good as your athletes.”
Holder went on to say that he feels like Gundy “settles” for players on occasion, though acknowledged that he, a former golf coach at OSU, doesn’t know the ins and outs of college football recruiting.
The comments echo what you’ll probably read on your typical college football message board, and there might be some truth there as well. However, the timing is interesting. After being targeted by a number of big programs for openings in the off-season, in January Gundy said that he is a “Cowboy for Life.”
Overall, things seem to be pretty good between Gundy and Oklahoma State, which hasn’t always been the case. His relationship with mega-booster T. Boone Pickens gets rocky on occasion. Either way, it is definitely in everyone’s best interest to keep Gundy happy in Stillwater, as there is definitely no guarantee that whomever comes next is nearly as good.