Bob Stoops retirement shocked the college football world yesterday, and the effects of it are already being felt. The 56-year-old stepped down from his post after 18 seasons with 10 Big 12 Titles and one National Championship. The stability that he created at the University of Oklahoma cannot be overlooked. But there’s another coach about 90 miles north of Norman who is following a similar path.
The mark of a good program is that you can have a pretty good idea of what to expect year-in and year-out. With Stoops, that much was obvious. During his tenure, he had 14 10-plus win seasons, five 12-win seasons, and one undefeated season. He also averaged over 10 wins per season. Consistency was key. It’s how Stoops brought OU back from the dead (if they were really dead to begin with).
Stability is quite possibly the hardest thing to control for a coach at the Division I level. Players transfer and coaches run for greener pastures. It’s stuff that every head coach has to deal with. Not every coach can face it the way Stoops did, though. The legends are the ones who take that adversity head on, manage it and continue about their business. It’s what Stoops did at OU for 18 years.
It’s also what Mike Gundy has done at Oklahoma State for 11 years.
There aren’t a lot of similarities between the career trajectories of both Stoops and Gundy. Stoops inherited a lack-luster program, but a sleeping giant nonetheless. He turned it around quickly and never looked back. Gundy, on the other hand, was forced to clean up the ashes that Les Miles left after he burned the place down in 2004. It didn’t happen easy for either of them, but both of them have created powerhouses, albeit on different scales.
Oklahoma is going to do Oklahoma things. Sure, it takes a great coach to get them to where Stoops took them, but they’re dealt a better hand simply by being who they are. Oklahoma State doesn’t have that luxury. In its current climate, the Oklahoma State football program is like an old, fixed up car - really, really awesome, but without the proper care, it won’t run.
Gundy has been able to make it run for over a decade now, and he’s created the most stable football program in the Big 12 because of it.
Oklahoma State, in my mind, is the best bet for immediate success in the conference. It’s probably also the best bet for success in the long-term. Take a look at the current situations around the Big 12, and you’ll see what I mean:
- Oklahoma - While Lincoln Riley inherits a Heisman-caliber quarterback, long-term sustainability can’t be guaranteed with a first-year, 33-year-old head coach.
- TCU - Coming off a 6-7 season, Gary Patterson still has major questions on offense and defense.
- Kansas State - Bill Snyder’s last 10-win season was in 2012. You know what you get with KSU.
- Texas - Tom Herman might get the ‘Horns rolling, but it won’t be this year.
- Baylor - The departure of Art Briles was felt last season, and I anticipate it being felt for years to come.
- Texas Tech - Kliff’s seat is getting awfully hot.
- Kansas - I mean ...
- Iowa State - No.
- West Virginia - Stability appears to be on the way, but with one 10-win season in the last six years for Dana Holgorsen, it’s not likely.
All of these programs have big questions to answer, whether that’s this season or beyond. But with Oklahoma State, the immediate future is bright, and the long-term screams of continuity. Gundy returns arguably the best offense in the country in 2017. He’s got the program’s best shot at a Heisman trophy since Barry Sanders calling the shots on offense. He’s got the Biletnikoff front-runner catching passes.
When trying to assess the future, one must look at the past. Mike Gundy’s season records over the last seven years are as follows: 11-2, 12-1, 8-5, 10-3, 7-6, 10-3, 10-3. That’s an average of 9.7 wins per season.
Do we really think that’s going to change much over the next half-decade? Toss in an 11-2 season here and there, and maybe an 8-4 finish for good measure.
The thing about Mike Gundy is that it’s probably always going to even out. He’s going to get right back to that 10-win mark. Being able to do it is one thing, but being able to expect it is the stuff of legends.
For Oklahoma State, it doesn’t take a Bear Bryant or a Bob Stoops to be considered a legend. It just takes consistent winning. Mike Gundy has done that. Looking at what he’s done so far and the question marks surrounding other programs in the Big 12, there’s no reason to think he won’t continue.