After starting 6-1 in 2022, the Oklahoma State Cowboys plummeted into a free-fall that saw them end the year 7-6, its worst finish since 2018.
The Cowboys looked like a legitimate Big 12 title contender at the midway point of the season, but then got thumped by Kansas State, 48-0, and never quite recovered.
There were plenty of questions surrounding the program through the backend of the schedule, but the controversy ramped up when Oklahoma State lost 11 scholarship players to the transfer portal in the first week of December, followed by four more players exiting after a Guaranteed Rate Bowl loss to Wisconsin.
Recently, Max Olson of The Athletic interviewed Gundy, who answered some of the questions that were circling after a disappointing year. What was wrong with their culture? Was Gundy losing control? Well, as you’d probably expect, he was perfectly candid in answering that.
“That’s 100 percent bulls—,” Gundy told The Athletic.
The reality is, Oklahoma State’s roster suffered several major injuries down the stretch, and their depth proved too inexperienced to make up the difference.
After a 5-0 start to the season, Spencer Sanders was leading an offense that was scoring 44.7 points per game and looked unstoppable. However, a shoulder injury against Texas Tech proved to be a long-lasting issue for Sanders, and consequently, the Pokes’ offense.
According to Olson, Oklahoma State’s offense played 196 drives, more than any other FBS team, but didn’t score on 130 of them. The Cowboys managed to score just 62 points on 54 drives without Sanders under center.
Last year’s flop was incredibly disappointing, but the most concerning thing for Oklahoma State’s future was the mass exodus at the end of the year. Usually, when that many players leave at once, there’s an issue.
“People say, man, the media was on you and the fans were on you and all this,” Gundy says. “I don’t give a s— about that. That doesn’t bother me. What bothered me was not knowing the final destination. It was the uncertainty and volatility of the team. I’ve never dealt with that.”
Gundy tells The Athletic that players left Oklahoma State last season for one of three reasons: looking for a fresh start, they weren’t good enough to play at Oklahoma State, or they received NIL deals that OSU wasn’t going to match.
“I can’t deal with a line outside my office of people coming in here negotiating for money,” Gundy says. “I can’t do that. I have not once said, ‘OK, what is somebody offering you? We’ll match that.’ Not one time. I’m not gonna do it. I can’t win that battle, and I don’t even know if it’s true.”
So, what will be different in 2023? How will Gundy make sure that a repeat of 2022 doesn’t happen again?
The personnel will look a lot different, that much is certain. But, if you expect him to change his ways, you might be disappointed when September 2 comes around.
“I’ve done things over my career that I thought were right that pissed people off,” he says. “I do what I think is right and I don’t care. So like I tell ‘em all the time: Anytime they want to can me, they can can me. I’m good, if that’s what they think they need to do. I have no desire to quit anytime soon because I’ve been lucky with my health, I feel good and I enjoy being around the people. But I’m also not gonna change my ways and change who I am.”