Mike Gundy and Oklahoma State: The Perfect Match

Oklahoma State clearly made the right move when it hired Mike Gundy.

-by CoachesByTheNumbers.com

During the 51-year period from 1950-2000, the Oklahoma State Cowboys lost more games than they won in 33 of 51 (64.71%) seasons. Additionally, during this period the Cowboys only had 18 winning seasons (35.29%), 12 seasons with seven or more wins (23.53%), and only 10 seasons that ended in trips to a bowl game (19.60%).

The above numbers aren't Kansas State pre-Bill Snyder bad, but only winning more games that you lose 35.29% of the time over a 51 year span is pretty atrocious in our book. Let's now look at some numbers over the last 11 seasons for the Cowboys:

School Years Overall WP% Losing Seasons 7+ Win Seasons Bowl Bids
Oklahoma St. 2001-2011 62.96% 2 9 9

You don't have to be a genius or have 20/20 vision to see that over the last eleven seasons Oklahoma State football has gotten a lot better. So, what happened in Stillwater to bring about this change? From our standpoint, two things happened:

  1. T. Boone Pickens decided to test the idea that anything is possible if you throw enough money at it.
  2. Oklahoma State hired a good coach who in turn hired another good coach.

As much as we love a good underdog story, there simply aren't very many in college football. We wrote a little about this in an article we published recently on Mike Sherman.

From the article:

Here is a list of the last 10 AP National Champions:

2001: Miami
2002: Ohio St.
2003: USC
2004: USC
2005: Texas
2006: Florida
2007: LSU
2008: Florida
2009: Alabama
2010: Auburn

What do the above schools have in common? They are all loaded with NFL-caliber talent and, with the exception of Miami, have large undergraduate enrollments and 80,000+ seat stadiums they fill up each and every week. We are not trying to squash the hopes of the smaller schools out there or state that they cannot have successful years or programs, Chris Petersen and Gary Patterson have proved as much. We are simply trying to point out the existing reality of college football. It’s very much an arms race and those with the bigger and better guns typically win the most battles and wars.

So, how do you become one of the Have's in college football? You go out and find a billionaire who wants to make your football program the primary benefactor of their philanthropy. We are a little fuzzy on the exact numbers, but it's safe to state that T. Boone Pickens has donated or pledged to donate several hundreds of thousands of dollars to making Oklahoma State football a Have.

The second thing Oklahoma State did right was to hire a quality coach in Les Miles in 2001. In the five seasons before Miles took over, the Cowboys had one winning season and won 46.43% of their overall games. During Miles' four seasons at the helm, the Cowboys had only one losing season, won 57.14% of their games, and had a nine win season for the first time since Barry Sanders' senior season in 1988.

One of the smartest moves Coach Miles made at Oklahoma State was bringing Mike Gundy on board right from the start to run the Cowboys offense. From 2001-2004, the Cowboys had a nationally top 20 ranked scoring offense three of the four years Gundy was calling the plays. In 2005, Miles was hired to be the next head coach at LSU (more on that here), and the Cowboys decided to take a chance and promote their relatively young signal caller from offensive coordinator to head coach. After the first three year's of Gundy's reign, many OSU fans may have wondered if a mistake had been made:

Years CBTN Stars Overall WP% Conf. WP% WP% Against Over .500 Teams WP% in Close Games Losing Seasons 9+ Win Seasons
2005-2007 48.65% 33.33% 29.17% 42.86% (3-4) 1 0

The above numbers resembled those of a Have Not or possibly a Have that has the wrong coach in place. Now, let's look at the past nearly four years and see how Coach Gundy has fared:

Years CBTN Stars Overall WP% Conf. WP% WP% Against Over .500 Teams WP% in Close Games Losing Seasons 9+ Win Seasons
2008-Present 79.59% 77.42% 66.67% 80.00% (4-1) 0 4

So, what happened to transform Mike Gundy from a seemingly standard sub-par Oklahoma State head football coach into a coach who, over the last four years, has won almost 80% of his games and over 77% of his conference games? Is this a case of the guy-behind-the-guy? Gundy has certainly had some quality coordinators over the last four years (Dana Holgorsen in particular), but it doesn't appear as though his success has been dependent on the arrival of one particular offensive or defensive coordinator. Well, if it's not Coordinator Dependency Syndrome, what else could it be? How about recruiting? Let's take a look:

Coach Year 4 Year Recruiting Average Record
Mike Gundy 2005 39.50 4-7
Mike Gundy 2006 35.50 7-6
Mike Gundy 2007 34.25 7-6
Mike Gundy 2008 36.00 9-4
Mike Gundy 2009 31.25 9-4
Mike Gundy 2010 31.75 11-2
Mike Gundy 2011 30.75 10-0 (two regular season games to play)

So, the talent has increased since Gundy took over in 2005, but not enough to explain going from winning less than 50% of his games from 2005-2007 to winning nearly 80% of his games from 2008-Present. After digging around, our conclusion is that we don't really have a conclusion. We believe Mike Gundy has a phenomenal offensive football mind as evidenced by the fact that, since 2001, Oklahoma State has had a top 25 nationally ranked offense in eight of the last eleven seasons. It appears it took Mike Gundy a few years to get his head coaching sea legs under him, and since then (see 2008), Coach Gundy has been one of the top 15 head coaches in all of college football. So, if you want to change a culture of losing, go find a billionaire like T. Boone Pickens and masters of their craft like Mike Gundy.

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