Usually contract extensions are fairly simple after successful seasons--especially in Stillwater. The last couple negotiations have gone so well between athletic director Mike Holder and head coach Mike Gundy that Gundy didn't even need to hire an agent to help iron out any of the terms.
So what's changed? A lot.
And don't take what you are about to read the wrong way. I firmly believe Mike Gundy will be the head coach at Oklahoma State for a very long time to come. With that said, it has become quite clear that he isn't exactly happy with where his contract sits among peers. And I'm not just talking about his fellow Big 12 football coaches (but while we're on that line of thought, it is ridiculous that he is in the middle of the pack in terms of salary). I'm talking about another head coach at the very same university.
Travis Ford is currently sitting pretty with a ten year contract averaging over $2 million a year. Looking back on that now, Holder has to be shaking his head with a massive internet facepalm attached. When it comes to salaries, everything is based in comparisons regardless of the sport. Success is success whether it is on turf or hardwood. And in that vein of thought, Holder has definitely painted himself into a corner.
More after the jump.
Before I get into the juicy drama of Gundy's contract negotiations, let's first go back and figure out how Travis Ford's lengthy contract came to be.
After the glory years of Eddie Sutton, the OSU basketball program hit hard times. What started with Eddie's car wreck ended with Sean Sutton failing to get the Pokes into the NCAA tournament two years in a row. Add to that a massive decrease in ticket sales (which can be blamed on a number of reasons that I refuse to get into) and OSU had hit a low it hasn't seen in over twenty years.
Enter new head coach, Travis Ford. He had charisma, he spoke with inspiration, and in his first season, he led the OSU squad back to the NCAA tourney and nearly knocked off number one seed Pittsburgh in the second round. To add to all of that, Coach Ford's name started to circulate in rumors about Kentucky's head coaching vacancy.
Due to all of these factors, it is my opinion that Mike Holder panicked. He felt like Travis Ford was the answer to bringing Cowboy basketball back to glory and certainly didn't want any other schools to lure him away. So how do you keep that from happening? A ten year contract.
Fast forward to present day. The basketball team hasn't had the same success they had under Ford that first year. In fact, to be quite honest, they have regressed. But out on the football field, the Cowboys have reached heights the program has never seen. Mike Gundy has led his team to its second straight eleven win season, its first BCS bowl game, and its first ever Big 12 championship. So where is Gundy's ten year contract?
The problem stems from one of Gundy's very own catchphrases: "This is my New York Yankees job." Fans rejoice when they hear those words. A deep sigh of relief is breathed when we feel assured that our head coach will not leave for a larger program. And make no mistake, there has been plenty of interest from big time programs. But Gundy has stayed true to his word and true to his alma mater. Unfortunately, it would seem that those words have also caused the powers that be to get a little too comfortable.
When an administration feels like a head coach isn't going anywhere there isn't the same sense of urgency to keep him committed and happy as there is with coaches that may be looking around. This isn't to say that Holder and company are taking advantage of Gundy because I don't think that is the case. But it is clearly evident that Gundy wants every bit of the same treatment Travis Ford received. Evidence? An agent has been hired for the first time. Rumblings about the negotiations are taking place among local media members. "Distractions" are trying to be avoided before the Fiesta Bowl.
In the end, Mike Gundy has every right to demand the lengthy contract Coach Ford received and then some. How can Mike Holder say otherwise? What has Travis Ford accomplished that Mike Gundy hasn't? What alternatives does Holder have? Can he really afford to say no to the best OSU coach in football history and quite possibly the best coach in the Big 12 conference?
So this is where we stand. Gundy holds all the cards. Where there used to be a simple handshake over terms, there is now an agent with a fifty page contract and a big grin. All because the administration overreacted in favor of Travis Ford and took Gundy's situation a bit too lightly due to his spoken loyalty.
My guess? Gundy ends up with at least eight more years making $3.5 million a season.
Ah, yes. Mike Holder is definitely shaking his head at himself right now. And if he isn't, he should be.