ARLINGTON, Texas — Credit Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy. The Cowboys’ buck stops with him.
OSU’s slide to unexpected mediocrity and startling inconsistency in 2018 was, Gundy said, his fault.
“I let little things slide in practice and in meetings,” he said. “Just the overall concept and as the head coach, my responsibility is to make sure we do everything perfect all the time. I didn’t do a good job of that.”
O-State’s 7-6 record last season has been acknowledged and has been addressed, Gundy said Monday during interviews at Big 12 Media Days.
“I’m excited about really working hard with our staff and players and trying to become a more disciplined, fundamentally sound and tough football team,” Gundy said. “Lost a little bit of that last year, so I’m kind of looking forward to implementing a few things.”
Gundy, who has raised three sons, said he allowed the program to become complacent much like parents might do with a third child.
“You kind of see stuff — ‘Eh, it’s not that big a deal’ — and if you don’t stay on it, it gets a little worse,” Gundy said.
Gundy, 51, has only known one place in his 14 seasons as a head coach: the same place he played four years, and the same place he worked for 10 years as an assistant coach. So, after 28 years in Stillwater, it’s actually easy to see how complacency — even now, at $5 million a year — could set in.
“Again, it’s not major things,” Gundy said. “I think it’s just an accumulation of little things, and I need to do a better job of that this year.
“You kind of do it without working at it. Really, my job is to coach the coaches the way we think is best, and then the same with the players, and not let anything slip. You get into cruise control and you drive the car. You’re on a highway and you’re excited because you don’t have to punch the gas.”
Gundy has been an Oklahoma State Cowboy for 342 games as a player, assistant coach or head coach. That’s a stunning 28.7 percent of all of OSU’s 1,191 games since 1901.
So if anyone should notice something is out of place, it’s Gundy.
“We had a lot of 15-yard penalties, late hits, grab facemasks, just things we didn’t need to do, that cost us probably two games,” he said. “I saw some of that in practice and I was like, ‘Eh, it’s not that big a deal.’ Then it came up pretty much true: you play how you practice.”
OSU came within a misfired 2-point conversion of beating playoff-bound Oklahoma before losing 48-47 in overtime, and easily could have prevailed in losses at Baylor (35-31) and TCU (31-24). The Cowboys also inexplicably lost a home game to Texas Tech (41-17) and a road game at Kansas State — two teams that finished below them in the Big 12 standings.
“The players at times became undisciplined. As coaches we became undisciplined. So we were an undisciplined organization and that’s why we played the way we did at times last year.
“I don’t think anybody would question that there was a chance we could have had double-digit wins last year. Teams we beat, they probably look at themselves and say how did we let that team beat us? That goes on forever. So just being a more focused and disciplined head coach should make us a better football team this fall.”
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “The Franchise Drive” every weeknight from 6-8 on The Franchise in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and appears throughout the day on other shows on The Franchise. Listen at fm107.7 in OKC, fm107.9/am1270 in Tulsa, on The Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page. Hoover also covers the Big 12 for Sporting News and Lindy’s magazine and is a feature writer for Sooner Spectator magazine. Visit his personal page at johnehoover.com.