Hold on now

OSU Ath­letic Direc­tor Mike Holder crit­i­cizes Mike Gundy’s re­cruit­ing re­sults.

The Oklahoman - - FRONT PAGE - Berry Tramel btramel@ok­la­homan.com

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.

[PHOTO IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY THE OK­LA­HOMAN]

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.”

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