The drama surrounding the Oklahoma State Men’s Basketball team continues as more information regarding what led to Underwood’s departure from the program comes to light.
There’s been a lot of back and forth on who is to blame for the situation. One of the biggest concerns was the apparent bad relationship between Athletic Director Mike Holder and Brad Underwood. We know Holder wasn’t willing to pay the $3 Million Underwood was asking for (which I don’t blame him), but now it seems that may not have been the only thing that divided the two men.
According to an article from Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman, a source says that Underwood became angry with Holder over comments he made during a sit down meeting.
The source said that Underwood was told by Holder that Ford won more games in his first year than did Underwood and went on to make five NCAA Tournaments. The source said that Underwood was so angry he got up to leave the office at that point, though Holder convinced him to stay.
On the one hand, that’s not something you want to hear during a negotiation with your boss. On the other, what Holder said isn’t inaccurate. Holder doesn’t want another “Travis Ford contract” situation. He’s not willing (and may not be able to) shell out $3 million for a guy who won 20 games, finished .500 in conference play, lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament, and had a six-game losing streak. He probably could have put it better, but he wasn’t inaccurate.
Though, this does align with many OSU fans’ thoughts that Holder has a hard time getting along with coaches (see: Mike Gundy). While college sports are a business, coaches aren’t necessarily businessmen, and we are talking about a lot of big egos, Holder included.
The more concerning issue though was apparently comments Holder made, that caused Underwood to question the AD’s commitment to the basketball program.
When discussing the value of OSU basketball on campus, the source said, Holder told Underwood he was asking for Final Four-type money and that the Cowboys currently are on a level of Iowa State, Texas Tech and Kansas State in the Big 12.
“He was going to Illinois the moment Holder said that to him,” the source said. “What he was looking for, Holder's vision for the program, ‘I believe you can get us up to KU and Bill Self and blah-blah,' and that just wasn't what he heard.”
“What I just heard from my boss,” Underwood told the source, “we want a program about equal to Iowa State, Texas Tech and Kansas State.”
My initial reaction was the same as what you’re probably thinking right now. ANGER.
However, after taking a step back, there are three ways to view Holder’s statement:
1. Holder really believes Oklahoma State’s basketball program should be equal to Iowa State, Texas Tech, and Kansas State. That those are the highest of expectations for it. If that’s the case, fire Holder tonight.
2. What Holder is saying, is that Oklahoma State is currently on-par program wise with those other three schools. That is not an unreasonable statement. Here are the records of the three teams mentioned over the last four seasons.
Iowa State: 100-40 (.714) | NCAA 5-4 | 3 Big 12 Championships
Kansas State: 73-59 (.553) | NCAA 1-2 |
Texas Tech: 64-63 (.504) | NCAA 0-1 |
Now let’s at Oklahoma State’s record over the last four seasons
OSU: 71-60 (.534) | NCAA 0-3 |
I hate to admit it, but the Kansas State comparison is pretty spot on. Yes, we are better than Texas Tech. Iowa State? No, especially since we haven’t beaten them in four years.
3. Holder is saying that Oklahoma State can only afford to pay comparable to the other three schools. From what I could find, Texas Tech Head Coach Chris Beard’s base salary this year is $286,905, and will go up to $300,000 next season. According to numbers from 2016, Steve Prohm at Iowa State made $1.5 million last year, while Bruce Weber at Kansas State makes $1.85 million. It’s been reported that Mike Holder was offering Underwood a raise to $2.2 million, which would have been higher than all three of those coaches, and according to those 2016 numbers, the sixth highest paid coach in the Big 12.
$2.2 million isn’t chump change, and based on what Underwood had achieved so far, it’s a perfectly reasonable salary. Plus, there’s no reason to believe his contract wouldn’t have been renegotiated to $3 million once Underwood reached a Sweet 16 or Final Four.
I do like to remind everyone at this time, that information like this gets out because someone wants it to get out. The quotes from this source make Holder look bad, but they don’t really make Underwood look much better.
If Underwood’s interpretation of what Holder said was the first option, then again, Holder needs to be out. If it’s the second or third, then Underwood heard what he wanted to hear, and is just posturing to save face.
The bigger issue now is, where does Oklahoma State go from here? The basketball program is taking a hit locally and nationally with all of this. It’s a good thing the tournament is still going on, or the national perception might be worse. A lot of pressure is on Mike Holder to get this next hire right, and to make sure this kind of situation doesn’t happen again. If he’s really committed to the program, then he’ll make this right. If not? It could be a long few years for OSU basketball fans.
This can all be solved with the announcement of a new head coach that makes everyone feel better again. The right guy for Oklahoma State is out there (though I have a few suggestions), it’s just going to be rough going until he’s found.