As the Tulsa World reported earlier this week, the retirement of Oklahoma State’s athletic director Mike Holder could be on the horizon.
The World reports:
Will his remaining time in the athletic director’s position be measured in years or in months?
Or in weeks?
Sources indicate that several influential university figures are advocates of change in the athletic director’s office. Advocates of Holder’s retirement.
It is believed that Oklahoma State is exploring the possibility of hiring an athletic director-in-waiting — someone who would agree to become Holder’s designated successor.
Here’s my question: instead of years, months or weeks, how about days?
It’s time for Oklahoma State and Mike Holder to part ways, and that can’t happen soon enough.
Yes, Mike Holder has given most of his adult live to the University, and for that he should be commended and honored. In 1966 he was a walk-on on the golf team, he coached the golf team for 32 years, and has been involved with the University for 51 years. Kudos.
But, Oklahoma State can’t get stuck living in the past, which they are close to doing.
As an athletic director, there are two sports that need the majority of one’s focus: football and men’s basketball. They are the bread winners, and without them having a semblance of success, the athletic department will struggle.
Granted, with today’s television contracts racking in tens of millions of dollars per year, per Power 5 University, a program can still get by being mediocre. But don’t forget the millions in ticket sales, vendor sales, merchandise, donations, and more received by a University when football and men’s basketball succeed. That doesn’t happen for soccer, golf, track, and the rest.
Mike Gundy’s reported sour relationship with Holder has nearly run off, by far, the best football coach in Oklahoma State history, and an alum(!), on multiple occasions. Be it flirtations and rumors regarding Arkansas, Tennessee, Baylor, and Oregon, Gundy’s name seems to constantly pop up when a big-time job opens up.
Hell, CBS Sports reported back in 2013, that Gundy very nearly did leave Stillwater to go to Knoxville, Tennessee to coach the Vols.
Where would Oklahoma State football be now, had Gundy left? My guess: not in nearly as good a shape as they are.
Meantime, Mike Holder’s impressive butchering of the Oklahoma State basketball program in recent years hasn’t helped his cause. After Travis Ford had one decent season, Holder dished out a disastrous 10-year contract. Then after finally pulling the plug on Ford (a year or two too late), he makes a really solid hire in Brad Underwood. Amazingly, he manages to piss off Underwood enough that the coach leaves after 1 year for Illinois.
You can’t make this stuff up.
To a couple of folks I spoke with that are heavily involved with the University, the Underwood disaster, combined with the Mike Boynton hire, was the final straw for them.
Boynton may turn out to be a really good coach, but he’s “only” making $1 million per year, which puts him near the bottom of the Big 12. Why won’t he be job hunting after a couple good years? And why would Holder pay him, when he wouldn’t pay Underwood?
Now, what has Mike Holder done well?
Fundraising. Most notably, pleasing his good friend T. Boone Pickens. The mega-booster is a big reason Holder got the job to begin with, as Pickens believed he could trust Holder to spend his hundreds of millions of dollars in an appropriate and correct manner.
That turned out to be true. For that, Holder deserved credit. And at a time when the University needed a massive influx in cash to get itself to the “next level” competitively, Holder was the right hire.
But times in Stillwater have changed.
There are those that are concerned that pushing Holder towards retirement may dry up the money well that is ole T. Boone.
That’s certainly should be a consideration, but can’t be the only one.
I would suggest to Oklahoma State that they do as the Tulsa World reported they may, and find that athletic director-in-waiting, and let Mr. Pickens give his 2 cents (or several hundred million cents?) on who that person should be.
But if he holds firm on “Holder or else”, then Oklahoma State needs to have the cajones to possibly move on, call Pickens’ bluff, and see what happens.
If the Gundy/Holder relationship keeps deteriorating, and Gundy does eventually decide to jump ship, Oklahoma State’ football program will absolutely take a step back. One of the reasons the mess within the basketball program the past few years hasn’t been as much of a focus as it would’ve been 15+ years ago is because Oklahoma State officially became a football school, with many thanks to Gundy.
But here’s the final question I would ask every T. Boone/Holder supporter out there: what’s the point of having an athletic department flush with money, if team on the field/court isn’t worth a damn?
That’s not the case right now, but run Gundy off, and keep fumbling with your basketball coaches, and it’s bound to happen.
Mike Holder should be respected and honored on his way out for his decades of service to the University, but sometimes the hardest part is realizing when to move on, and it’s finally time for Oklahoma State to do just that.
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