This season for the Cowboys has been one to forget. Frankly, this decade has been, too.
Travis Ford, now in his eighth season as the head man at Oklahoma State, is about to turn in his worst campaign yet. Since 2008, Oklahoma State has finished no worse than 6-10 in conference play under Ford's tutelage. Now, with just four games to play (all against ranked teams), Ford needs a miracle. Without his two best players, the thought of finishing with six conference wins seems out of reach.
With Travis Ford, Oklahoma State has managed double-digit wins in conference just one time in his eight seasons; Marcus Smart's freshman season. Aside from catching lightning in a bottle in that 2012-13 season, Ford has hovered right around eight conference wins each year, which is a losing record. Take a closer look at Ford's record as coach at Oklahoma State:
We can dissect the reasons that Ford has not succeeded at Oklahoma State, or we can look at his 2013-14 season. That year, Ford returned Marcus Smart, LeBryan Nash, Markel Brown, Phil Forte and Michael Cobbins. Sure, that team was maligned with injuries, but the dramatic meltdown that took place down the stretch nearly caused that star-studded team to miss the NCAA tournament. They made the tournament, and got bounced in the first round by Oregon.
Berry Tramel wrote an article yesterday explaining why Oklahoma State should not fire Travis Ford. Before we discuss the article, you should know this; Berry Tramel is one of my sports journalism heroes. People talk all the time about their Mount Rushmore of sports, and I would put Tramel on my Mount Rushmore of journalism. I read nearly every piece he puts out. That being said, I could not have disagreed with Tramel more.
Tramel writes, "It makes no financial sense to fire Travis Ford."
If Ford were to be fired, the university would owe him $2.4 million per year, to be paid out monthly over the next three years. If Ford finds another job, which he will, then the university is required to pay only the difference of his contract and his new salary.
The Athletic Department is losing money each game. With incredibly high ticket prices and a mediocre product on the court, how can you blame people for not showing up? Oklahoma State has lost six home games this season: Missouri State, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Baylor, Iowa State, and Texas Tech. Why would fans pay the kind of money the University is asking to watch that? Saturday's listed attendance at the Texas Tech game was 5,814. If you watched the game, there is no chance it was even 4,000.
People aren't going to games. People won't go to games, unless a change is made.
Tramel continued to write, "It makes no competitive sense to fire Travis Ford," citing his NCAA tournament appearances and potential to reach the tournament again soon.
No competitive sense? I'm shocked that this is Tramel's opinion. Maybe I'm watching a different basketball team, but I've seen nothing, even with a fully healthy team, that shows me OSU is on the cusp of being an NCAA tournament team. The lone bright spot on this season has been the emergence of Jawun Evans, and even that didn't go right. Oklahoma State ranks at, or near the bottom of every statistical category in the Big 12. With Phil Forte and Jawun Evans, does that change? Probably not.
What does Travis Ford bring to the table? We are nearing the end of his eighth season, and we know a few things about him: he can recruit very well, he doesn't value the low post, and his teams consistently underwhelm.
Ford has had an abundance of opportunities, and has not once met the standard that is Oklahoma State basketball. With such a large sample size, ask yourself: are you pleased with where Oklahoma State basketball is now, compared to where it once was? We all long for the days of Eddie Sutton and Desmond Mason and Joey Graham, but those days are long gone, and none like them are in the foreseeable future, unless a viable change is made.
The university has two choices: stay the course and allow a floundering program to undoubtedly get worse, or make an effort to restore the legacy of a once-proud basketball program, starting at the top.
That decision should be an easy one.