Hold on now
OSU Athletic Director Mike Holder criticizes Mike Gundy’s recruiting results.
OSU athletic director Mike Holder went on the Pistols Firing podcast the other day and complimented his football coach. Then Holder sort of challenged Mike Gundy, to put nicely. Bashed Gundy, to put it bluntly.
“You’ve got to give credit to Mike Gundy,” Holder said. “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 … I think sometimes we settle when we don’t have to.”
Well, you don’t hear that every day. An athletic director with specific criticism of his football coach. His ultra-success football coach. His best-in-school-history coach.
Was Holder telling the truth? I have no idea if Gundy and staff settle in recruiting. But in general,
OSU football does not recruit up to the standards commensurate of a program with the Cowboys’ success. Was Holder being fair? Well, Gundy just got a raise to $5 million a year, so fairness isn’t terribly relevant. Was Holder being wise? Heck no.
The Holder/Gundy relationship has had several rough patches over recent years. Same with Gundy and benefactor Boone Pickens. Everything seemed to be better in recent months. But this can’t help. Can’t help at all. I can’t see it lighting a fire under Gundy, if a fire needed to be lit. Seems like all this latest salvo will do is drive a wedge back between two OSU icons and galvanize the detractors of each.
But the truth is always a defense. And truth is, OSU’s recruiting has been remarkably stagnant despite the best run of success in school history.
I don’t pay attention to recruiting rankings and never will. They’re based more on which schools covet the players as they are potential of the player.
But I do pay attention to the NFL Draft, which is exponentially more objective than recruiting rankings. The NFL Draft isn’t a fool-proof method of evaluating talent, but it’s not half bad. It’s based not just on professional scouts’ exhaustive research into a player, but on franchises’ choices.
And OSU has produced a stunningly-low number of NFL Draft picks. In the last 10 years, 19 Cowboys have been drafted. That’s the same as in the 1980s, when OSU won 70 games total. The Cowboys have 96 victories the last 10 years.
Heck, OSU had 18 players taken in the first 224 picks (the standard modern draft) from 1974-83, a 10-year span when the Cowboys won 59 games. The Cowboys had 17 players taken from 1969-78, when OSU won 54 games.
How can this be? OSU ranks 10th among Power 5 Conference schools in victories the last 10 years, with 96, just behind Oregon, Stanford and TCU, just ahead of Georgia, LSU, Southern Cal and Penn State.
Yet all those programs have far more draft picks over that time than OSU’s 19. Oregon has 100 wins and 32 picks. Stanford has 98 wins and 37 picks. TCU 98 wins and 29 picks. Georgia 95 wins and 51 picks. LSU 95 wins and 65 picks. Southern Cal 94 wins and 56 picks.
The Cowboys have remade their football program. They’ve become a legitimate force in the sport. Over a decade, they’ve won more than Notre Dame and Texas. They’ve built facilities that match any in America.
And yet OSU’s recruiting in many ways hasn’t improved.
That’s not all bad news on the Gundy front. That means Gundy and his staff
are coaching their butts off.
“We do a great job of overcoming that (recruiting deficiencies) 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,” Holder said on the podcast. “I just think we would be better served with a few more James Washingtons coming in the front door … we need to take some of those fivestars and turn them into seven-stars, which I think Rob Glass could do, and I think Mike Gundy could as well.”
Holder went a little off the rails. Five-star recruits are rare for anyone this side of Alabama or Ohio State. And expecting the Cowboys to match Georgia or Clemson, much less OU or Texas, is asking a little much, considering tradition.
Since the advent of the 1970s, only twice has OSU had more players picked in a particular draft than has OU: 4-3 in 1986, 1-0 in 1995.
Over the last 10 years, when OU won 105 games and OSU 96, the draft tabbed 52 Sooners and 19 Cowboys. The eternal question in Stillwater — why can’t the Cowboys win more Bedlams? — is misguided. The better question is, how are the Cowboys winning as much as they do?
Efforts to reach Gundy and Holder failed Wednesday. Holder has already said his piece; in the Pistols Firing podcast, he admitted that “I have no idea how to recruit football players. I have a lot of experience recruiting golfers, and some of the things are exactly the same. The one thing they all have in common is that you have to convince youngsters that your dream for them is better than your competitors dream for them. So that’s what it comes down to.”
Holder was right the first time. He has no idea how to recruit football players. Comparing golf recruiting to football recruiting is silly. How many schools come close to caring about golf? Ten, 15, 20? How many schools care about football? All of them except Kansas.
But then you look at OSU’s recent football commitments. Quarterback Brendan Costello picked OSU over the likes of Cal-Davis and Eastern Washington. Cornerback Thomas Harper picked OSU over Navy and Wake Forest. Linebacker Na’Drian Dizadare picked OSU over Mississippi State, Louisiana Tech and Southern Miss. Cornerback Xavier Player picked OSU over the likes of New Mexico, North Texas and Louisiana-Lafayette.
That’s what Holder means by settling, even if he shouldn’t have said it.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at btramel@oklahoman. 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.
Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder, right, wants football coach Mike Gundy to recruit players “a little differently than he does. I’d want to finish higher in those recruiting rankings than we consistently do.”