Mike Gundy and Oklahoma State football have been synonymous for years now, with the former Midwest City star playing at OSU during the Barry Sanders heyday of the 1980s before becoming an assistant and later head coach at his alma mater.
Gundy has made the news recently with his updated contract with OSU, which guarantees the coach a “perpetual five-year contract” to keep the coach in Stillwater. Gundy has now compiled a 144-68 record with the Cowboys through his 17th year as head coach.
Only five active head coaches in college football have more career wins than Gundy: Alabama’s Nick Saban (263), North Carolina’s Mack Brown (257), Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz (174), Mississippi State’s Mike Leach (148), and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney (145). Of those coaches, only Ferentz with the Hawkeyes and Swinney with the Tigers have spent all of their head coaching years at the same school.
Very few coaches can match the success of Oklahoma State football’s Mike Gundy, who has the third-most victories of any active FBS coach at one school.
Before Gary Patterson and TCU decided to part ways, the former head coach had won 181 and lost 79 games with the Horned Frogs during stints in three different conferences: Conference USA, the Mountain West, and the Big 12.
Patterson had taken over at the end of the 2000 season in Fort Worth after former boss Dennis Franchione left the squad to become Alabama’s new head coach. Franchione would spend only two seasons in Tuscaloosa before returning to the Lone Star state to become head coach at Texas A&M and later at Texas State.
Mike Gundy has been in charge at OSU since 2005 and is now the Big 12’s longest-tenured coach. Here’s how many head coaches each fellow Big 12 school has had in that span: Baylor – five, Iowa State – four, Kansas – seven, Kansas State – three, Oklahoma – two, Texas – four, TCU – two, Texas Tech – five, and West Virginia – four. These numbers do not include one-game, postseason interim coaches.
In the past 17 years, each Big 12 school has averaged exactly four head coaches. For every coach like Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops or TCU’s Gary Patterson who excelled for more than a decade, there were many coaches like West Virginia’s Bill Stewart, Kansas’ Turner Gill or Charlie Weis, or Texas Tech’s Tommy Tuberville who failed to last longer than three seasons.
In other words, there have been 36 different Big 12 head coaches at the nine other member schools during Gundy’s tenure at OSU, and these coaches have a lifespan of 4.25 years on the sidelines. These figures exclude one-game interim coaches that fill in for the team’s bowl game after the head coach leaves the team.
Gundy’s value to the Cowboys is simple: he’s provided consistent leadership, he’s won big games, and he’s brought a level of success to Stillwater never before seen in school history. In 10 of the last 14 years, OSU has been ranked at some point as a Top 10 squad.
Gundy has also led OSU to a winning record and a bowl game for 16 consecutive seasons (counting 2021, with the Cowboys currently sitting at 7-1 overall). The Cowboys have finished the year double-digit victories in six different seasons under Gundy.
Gundy has also shown that he can send players to the next level. He has sent 28 different OSU players to the NFL, including six Cowboys that went as first-round NFL Draft picks. Eight different OSU players have also been honored as first-team All-Americans since 2005, as well.
The former OSU quarterback has built on the success that Les Miles brought to Stillwater two decades ago, but Gundy doesn’t view the Cowboys as a stepping stone job to reach another, more prestigious football program. Once Gundy eventually leaves OSU (hopefully with a retirement ceremony), it would be difficult to find another native Oklahoman and graduate of the school who can get the same results with Gundy’s level of commitment to OSU.
Despite the dalliances with schools like Tennessee or Arkansas to improve the coach’s contract or the purported friction between him and billionaire booster T. Boone Pickens, Gundy has been what drives the Cowboys’ success on the football field.
Fellow Big 12 schools have shown a short fuse and little patience with the “win immediately” mindset: Texas Tech fired coach Matt Wells after not even three seasons in Lubbock and TCU parted ways with Patterson midseason despite the coach’s 22 seasons in Fort Worth.
If OSU fans grumble about Gundy’s playcalling, his mullet, or his gruffness, just remember that no one is more responsible for the football team’s success in the national spotlight for the last decade and a half.