In 1989 Pamela Anderson became semi-famous for her looks. She was discovered in the crowd at a CFL game and almost immediately was hired for some modeling gigs, then appeared on the cover of Playboy later that year. She was strikingly beautiful (like super super hott... you should really do yourself a favor and GIS pictures of her from 1989-ish), and appeared to have a promising career ahead of her as a... um.. model, or actress, or something that very pretty people do. In early 1990, no one doubted that she would be successful, but what level of success she would attain would have been a more difficult prediction. Right around this time, she got herself some giant implants... and you know the rest of the story. Home Improvement to Baywatch to movies, all while appearing in Playboy almost every year along the way. For most of the 90's, 00's, and even today, she is the point of reference for the large-breasted, gorgeous, blond bombshell. She has been a star for 20 years, and will forever be remembered alongside Marilyn Monroe, Farrah Fawcett, et al. as a cultural defining sexual icon, but due to the augments, will also be viewed as less pure than them. So the question is, could Pamela have done this without the implants? There is no doubt that her path would have been different, but she did appear to be headed for greatness before the enhancement, so would it have happened either way? Would she have still become a sexual icon without the DD's?
Assuming the Oklahoma State football program continues to improve, and Mike Gundy stays right where he is for 10+ more years, his legacy will face a similar question: Is Mike Gundy a great coach and program builder, or is he an decent coach that has benefited greatly from a facility improvement that coincided with his tenure? (facility improvement = DD implants. See, I eventually tied that all together.)
Like Pam, in 1990 Mike Gundy appeared destined for a bright future. A recent graduate of Oklahoma State he was hired on as receivers coach, then moved to quarterback coach with his Alma Mater. He spent the 90's and early 00's gaining coaching experience and succeeding wherever he went, finally culminating in attaining his dream job as the head coach at Oklahoma State. Most liked the hire as Mike seemed like a coach on the rise and many expected him to lead the Cowboys to success. Well right around this time, Mr. Pickens donated a DD sized amount of money to Oklahoma State and you know the rest of the story.
In Gundy's case, just like Pam's, there is no way to separate the person from the enhancement. Two straight 9 win seasons, four straight bowl games, a short lived #5 ranking, a 2011 recruiting class that will likely end up being ranked a top 10 class.... these are all things that almost never happen at Oklahoma State, and they have all happened under Gundy. He has already accomplished things that none of the previous 21 coaches at Oklahoma State could accomplish, and further improvement not only seems likely, it is expected... yet, how often do you hear anyone refer to Gundy as a great coach? And the thing is... he may be a great coach. If Gundy were fully credited for the improvements of the last few years, as coaches usually are, he would widely be considered a great coach. But in Gundy's case, there is no way to isolate his performance from the program enhancement, so the perception of the job he has done, and will continue to do, is mixed.
The upcoming season is a great microcosm of the perception problems Gundy will face (and has faced) for his entire head coaching career. In spite of all his accomplishments, Gundy finds himself in a lose/lose situation heading into 2010 in that, if Ostate has a down year, the cries of "All these facilities at his disposal and all we get is a 6-6 season!" will rain down from the fans, media, and possibly T. Boone himself. However, if OSU finishes better than expected, it will be attributed to finally experiencing a "reloading" rather than "rebuilding" year, which directly refers to the recruiting, which as of late has been mostly attributed to the facilities. Five years into Gundy's tenure, and he already has an asterisk placed next to every accomplishment, and is blamed for any shortcomings.
Now, back to his legacy, Gundy will probably never be considered a bad coach, any more than Pamela would ever be considered unattractive... however, whatever Mike accomplishes, or fails to accomplish, will always be mentioned in conjunction with the facility improvement, so really he has almost no opportunity to ever be regarded as a great coach. I don't know that Mike himself cares about things like this, but as fans, and especially as blog reading fans, legacies and perception are a big part of what we do care about. So while it is too bad for us that Gundy may have a ceiling placed on his legacy, I'm sure he would be just fine with having to share the glory of a few Big XII championships with his $165 million dollar enhancements. After all, I doubt that Pamela minds her T's being mentioned alongside her name, if the rest of that sentence is comparing her to Marilyn.
But the questions will always linger... Should Gundy be given credit for current and future performance improvements at Oklahoma State?... and is it even possible to evaluate Gundy's legacy on its own?