Say what you want about Mike Holder’s on-again, off-again relationship with football coach Mike Gundy or his dove-hunting escapades with billionaire Boone Pickens or his steadfastness on Oklahoma State’s premium-game ticket policy or his blunder with Travis Ford — when it comes to being in charge of one of the fastest-growing college athletic departments in the country, the main was severely underpaid.
Holder got a massive raise and contract extension on Friday at the OSU/A&M Board of Regents meeting in Oklahoma City, his salary rising from near the bottom among Big 12 Conference ADs to near the top.
Holder’s 2017 total compensation was $644,372 (base of 564,372). His new annual salary, effective July 1, is $950,000.
Holder previously was above only West Virginia’s Shane Lyons ($625,000) and Kansas State’s Gene Taylor ($500,000) in the Big 12, but now he’s below only Oklahoma’s Joe Castiglione ($1.55 million), Texas’ Chris Del Conte ($1.3 million) and Texas Tech’s Kirby Hocutt ($1.175 million). (Baylor is a private school and is not compelled to release financial data.)
“Coach Holder’s compensation has been well below market for years,” OSU president Burns Hargis said in the press release. “Under his leadership, Oklahoma State is one of the most well-rounded, competitive athletic programs in the country. Mike has led historic improvements in facilities and performance of our athletes and, with this adjustment, his compensation will be more in line with Big 12 athletic directors.”
Holder turns 70 in August. That he also got a three-year extension is far more surprising than his new salary. OSU hired Chad Weiberg last year, presumably as Holder’s replacement. But with the extension, that transition clearly is now on hold.
Holder coached OSU’s men’s golf team for 32 years and won eight national championships. He was promoted to athletic director in September 2005 and, due to his friendship with OSU’s richest fan, immediately secured record donations from Pickens, including a $165 million gift that changed the name of the stadium and the future of OSU athletics.
Holder’s relationship with Gundy, however, has been as volatile as any investments Pickens ever made.
Just last week, Holder expressed a wish that Gundy would recruit better. Perhaps Holder is still agitated that Gundy’s team was supposed to contend for a Big 12 title last year but instead went 9-3, or maybe Holder is unhappy that the coach followed an underwhelming season by flirting with the Tennessee job — a flirtation that immediately preceded yet another pay raise.
Holder’s stumbles — the albatross contract he gave to Ford that was followed by seven years of mostly mediocre basketball left the deepest bruises — have been well documented.
But so have Holder’s triumphs. His ability to coax so much cash out of the pockets of Pickens and other OSU donors is virtually unmatched.
It’s about time OSU pays him what he’s worth.
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.