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Who is to Blame For Brad Underwood Leaving Oklahoma State?

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There is a lot of finger pointing going around

NCAA Basketball: Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Oklahoma State Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

Ever since it was announced earlier today that Brad Underwood was leaving Oklahoma State to become the head coach at Illinois, Cowboy fans have been angrily looking for someone to blame.

The two obvious culprits are Underwood himself and Oklahoma State Athletic Director Mike Holder.

Now, before we get started, I always like to remember something that Colin Cowherd (whatever you think about him aside) preaches: information only comes out when somebody wants it too. I mention this to say, take everything reported from here forward, with a grain of salt.

A lot of blame has been thrown at Mike Holder today, for not throwing enough money at Underwood.

According to Jeff Goodman of ESPN, Underwood signed a 6-year contract worth $3 million per year with Illinois. That’s triple what Oklahoma State was paying him, and based on coaching salary numbers from 2016 (2017 numbers have not yet been released), would make him one of the 10 highest paid coaches in college basketball.

I really like Brad Underwood, but were talking about the kind of money guys make when they make Final Fours, not first round NCAA exits.

So what was Oklahoma State offering? According to an article written by Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman, sources say Mike Holder was offering $2.2 million a year with the opportunity for more.

The OSU source said Holder offered $2.2 million per year and would get Underwood to $3 million after five seasons.

The average salaries for Big 12 coaches is $2.9 million. The highest paid (based on last season’s numbers) was Bob Huggins at $3.325 million. The other top paid coaches, which include Lon Kruger and Shaka Smart (and we assume Jaime Dixon), have taken their teams to Final Fours.

For the sake of comparisons, $2.2 million a year would have put Underwood on par with Jim Boehiem at Syracuse and Mike Cronin at Tennessee, and within the top-25 paid coaches in the country.

Before we make this all about money, it’s important to note, it’s been reported that the relationship between Underwood and Holder hasn’t been great. According to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman, it wasn’t.

Told the fractured relationship between Brad Underwood and Oklahoma State AD Mike Holder was a major factor in his decision to leave for Illinois.

Let’s be honest, as great as Holder is about raising finances, he hasn’t been great with people and handling coaches’ contracts. He gave Travis Ford a 10-year deal after a 23-12 season where he went 1-1 in the NCAA tournament (both of which are better than Underwood this year). There have been multiple reports of football coach Mike Gundy talking to other teams in multiple years, despite being the best coach in Oklahoma State football history. We could also talk about his decision to fire head golf coach Mike McGraw, who helped Alabama win back-to-back national championships in 2013 and 2014 as an assistant. That includes beating OSU in 2014 (McGraw is now the Baylor Golf head coach).

On the one hand, you can’t blame Underwood for not turning down $3 million dollars a year. You also can’t fault Mike Holder paying a man that kind of money after this season.

On the other hand, was Underwood willing to take less? Could Holder have done a better job of negotiating?

According to The Oklahomans Berry Tramel, no.

But Underwood said he wanted $2.9 million now and would prefer $3 million.

I would read the full Tramel interview before making an opinion.

To be honest I can’t lay all the blame on Holder here. If Underwood wanted $3 million, I can’t blame Holder for not giving it to him. On the flip. Holder is supposed to be a good negotiator. How could he not convince Underwood to take lower to stay at a fantastic school?

We will continue to follow this story as it develops. As always, leave your thoughts in the comments section below.