2019 is here. The start of a new year leaves us optimistic or th the future while we look back at the year that was. We are all another year older, another year wiser (hopefully), and another year more experienced as sports fans.
For Oklahoma State, it was an interesting 2018 that saw the rise of a basketball coach, a return to the top of the mountain for an already historic program, conflict both on and off the football field, and so much more.
It seems like a good time to look back at the year that was for Cowboy and Cowgirl athletics.
BEST: We Were Wrong About Boynton
We all know the story by now. Brad Underwood fled for greener ($$$) pastures at Illinois and Mike Holder promoted one of his assistants to run the Oklahoma State basketball program. When Mike Boynton’s name was announced, the entire fanbase let out a collective, “who?” They (we) were unhappy with the decision and many wondered if Mike Holder even cared about the basketball program any more.
Then, Boynton started winning. While the non-conference was nice, with a marquee win over Florida State in Orlando, it was what he did in conference play that shocked everyone.
Winning two out of three over Kansas including one in Lawrence, a road win over West Virginia, sweeping Iowa State, and winning two of three over Oklahoma were just a few of the highlights of the season.
Along with learning that Boynton could coach and motivate, we found out he could recruit. His 2019 class is ranked in the Top-20 nationally and 3rd in the Big 12, and include three 4-star recruits. That doesn’t include the pretty impressive, and underrated 2018 class Boynton was able to pull in.
I’ll admit I was one those who wasn’t pumped about the hire when it was announced, but I’ll eat my crow and say it was a “slam dunk.” While year two won’t have the on-the-court success of year one, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about the future of Oklahoma State basketball under Mike Boynton.
WORST: The Loss to Kansas State
It was the most inept performance we had seen from an Oklahoma State football team since the loss to Texas in 2014.
This time though, the Cowboys weren’t on a back-up quarterback, we’rent mired in a 6-game losing streak. They weren’t facing a team that was obviously more talented (though more poorly coached). It was just an absolutely mind-boggling performance.
It had everything; offensive calls that didn’t fit the personnel, interceptions, ineptitude. It was the absolute low-point of the season (though you could argue TCU was down there as well).
It’s the kind of performance I hope the fanbase doesn’t have to witness again for a very long time.
BEST: Upsetting Texas at Homecoming
Two weeks after the low point of the season, came the high point; knocking off one of the hottest teams in the country, Texas, in front of a sold-out homecoming crowd.
The first half was easily the best half of football Oklahoma State played all season; frustrating the Texas offense and Sam Ehlinger while the Cowboys offense did just about whatever it wanted en route to a 24-7 lead.
Yeah, the Cowboys had to hang on for a 38-35 victory, but at the lowest point of the year, when things seemed at their most dire, the Cowboys not only got a win they desperately needed, but over a team they weren’t supposed to have a chance against.
WORST: No NCAA Bid
If only Oklahoma State had scheduled better losses, instead of worse wins, they likely could have gone dancing in Mike Boynton’s first season.
Despite wins over Kansas (twice), Oklahoma (twice), West Virgnia (on the road), Texas Tech, and Florida State, a weak non-conference schedule was used to keep Oklahoma State from dancing.
While the NIT run was fun, and a great opportunity for fans to see the team at home a few more times, it would have been to see Boynton reach the tournament in his first season.
BEST: The Title Drought Ends
From 2003 through 2012, Oklahoma State’s athletic program won eight NCAA championships across three sports.
Then... nothing. Teams got close. The women’s tennis team reached the championship match in 2016 but fell short to Stanford. but for five straight years, the Cowboys and Cowgirls couldn’t bring home a crown.
It was strange that an athletic department with programs as historically good as Oklahoma State’s golf and wrestling squads, would go so long without a title.
But in May of 2018, in front of a home crowd, the No. 1 ranked Oklahoma State golf squad, a team for the ages, finally brought the drought to an end with a sweep of Alabama. It was more than just another championship for a program that already had 10. It was one that chased away some demons. A 12 year title drought, the longest in program history. A win as the No. 1 ranked team, something no one else had during during the match play era. Winning in match play, a format that had ended numerous talented Oklahoma State teams’ seasons, was especially impressive, including sweeping a team as talented as Alabama (We Beat ‘Bama!)
But nothing beat winning the title on their home course, with thousands of Oklahoma State fans in attendance as the winning putt went down. The atmosphere was unlike what you would normally expect at a collegiate golf event, and was more akin to a football or basketball game.
It’s something this fanbase will remember for a long time, especially those who were able to witness it first hand.
WORST: Gundy vs. Holder... Again
Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad if it hadn’t happened in the summer. Maybe it would have been lost in the minutiaue if there had been games going on. Alas, the comments Mike Holder made about Mike Gundy’s recruiting while on the Pistols Firing Blog Podcast became a national story.
“He’s really matured into a difference-maker as a coach,” Holder said on the podcast. “I would approach recruiting a little differently than he does. I’d want to finish higher in those recruiting rankings than we consistently do. I think that ultimately puts a ceiling on what you’re able to achieve.”
There are two points to make about this.
First, Holder is not wrong. Gundy should be recruiting more talented and more highly rated players to Oklahoma State. We know this because A. he has before, and B. programs with the recent history of success OSU has had, recruit better. Hell, Illinois, which has been hot garbage, out recruits Oklahoma State.
It certainly didn’t help that Gundy followed it up with a 2019 class rated in the 40s and with a 6-6 regular season that showed the lack of real depth Oklahoma State has on the roster.
The second point though, is that I’m not sure this was the way to go about it. The comments came a bit out of nowhere, and seemed to stir more strife into a relationships that was already riddled with it. Successful programs don’t let their dirty laundry hang out for everyone to see, and while Gundy and Holder can say their relationship is good, their actions prove otherwise.
I don’t need my athletic director and head coach to be best friends. But I do need them to be on the same page publicly for the sake of the program.
BEST: A New Home
Allie P. Reynolds Stadium has been the home for Oklahoma State baseball since 1981. It’s housed hundreds of amazing games, moments, and memories. But for some time now, it has been time to retire the stadium.
In 2020, Oklahoma State will finally have a home worthy of the times; O’Brate Stadium, a baseball facility most minor league baseball teams would be proud to call home.
The thing is beautiful and work is already underway. Players, former and current, and fans are excited for the home opener in 2020 when they’ll finally be able to get walk in, grab a seat, and watch the Cowboys take the field.
Before that happens, Oklahoma State fans will get one final season to say goodbye to Allie P, and hopefully, one last chance to see an NCAA regional hosted in the Cowboys’ home.
I look forward to both saying goodbye to Allie P. and breaking in O’Brate over the next two years.