ENID, Okla. —
Mike Gundy had 5.5 million reasons to accept a reported offer to be Tennessee’s new head football coach.
That’s tempting, even if you are making $3.2-plus million as Gundy is at OSU, making him one of college football’s highest-paid coaches.
But he might have had 5.5 million reasons to turn down the offer.
Tennessee might have a rich history (alma mater of Peyton Manning and Johnny Majors) and a 100,000-seat stadium, but right now it’s not Gundy’s “New York Yankee job.’’
There’s a reason the job was open: Derek Dooley was fired after going 15-21 over three seasons and 4-19 in the Southeastern Conference.
Ditto for Arkansas, which had reportedly sought Gundy, too.
Why go some place which was 4-8 this season and will be graduating its star quarterback?
Gundy doesn’t need to go to a place where he has to rebuild. He’s had some hard knocks (4-7 and two 7-6 seasons) before finding his place among the Big 12 elite.
He’s the Frank Broyles (Arkansas legend) and Gen. Bob Neyland (Tennessee legend) of OSU football, being the school’s all-time winningest coach as well as the only coach to take the Cowboys to a Big 12 title.
He has 17 starters back next season and OSU will be one of the few Big 12 schools with a proven quarterback. Make that three proven quarterbacks — OSU was the first conference school to have three quarterbacks throw for more than 1,000 yards.
Landry Jones will be gone from the Sooners and OU has to visit Stillwater in 2013. Ditto for defending champion Kansas State. OSU has to go to Texas, but the Pokes have back-to-back wins in Austin.
OSU football has never been on sounder financial footing. T. Boone Pickens’ money has helped OSU come close to parity with OU and Texas. They are nearly filling an expanded 60,000-seat stadium.
Surely, Gundy and OSU athletic director Mike Holder can settle some differences.
Actually, Holder should be commended for scheduling a game with Mississippi State in Houston next season. That gives OSU a game in a rich recruiting area against a good, but beatable, SEC team. A win over a Mississippi State team could pay off later in BCS standings. It could get national attention. One can understand about not over-scheduling, but games like Savannah State last year didn’t help the Cowboys any.
Gundy, if he ever wanted to leave, would have better options in the future anyway. Look at the jobs that could be open.
Mack Brown might not be long for Texas if he has another 8-4 season (or loses his bowl game). He’s been given the dreaded vote of confidence by the UT administration.
Former OSU coach Pat Jones said if there was a vacancy, one of the first calls could go to Gundy. Texas, with its resources, might be the best coaching job in football.
Lane Kiffin can’t be in the best security at USC. Is there a place with more blue chippers than Los Angeles?
Then there’s Nebraska, which will have a new athletic director with Dr. Tom Osborne retiring.
That could be a concern to Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, whose team was blown out by five-loss Wisconsin in the Big 10 championship game. Nebraska may not have won a conference championship in this century, but they are Nebraska, and Gundy knows the territory, having faced the Huskers as both a player and a coach.
Let’s hope Gundy stays at OSU. I believe he was sincere when he called it his “New York Yankee job,’’ when hired in 2005. He bleeds orange and black (or whatever color uniform OSU is wearing). He needs to retire at OSU, not some other school.
Campbell is a News & Eagle sports writer.