Mike Gundy could walk away tomorrow and find comfort in the fact he's the most important figure in the history of Oklahoma State football. He was the best quarterback the Cowboys had know, until his on-field accomplishments were surpassed by an assembly line of signal callers Gundy recruited and developed as Oklahoma State's head coach.
He's 121-59 in 14 seasons as the head man, with seven AP top-20 finishes and seven 10-win seasons, including a 2011 campaign that stands alone as the best in school history -- 12-1, an outright Big 12 championship and a No. 3 final ranking in both polls.
So, when the Cowboys saw three straight 10-3 seasons downturn into a 7-6 campaign in 2018, it wouldn't be insane to assume Gundy could look at his accomplishments, his stockpile of millions of dollars and decide it's time to go hunt rattlesnakes full-time.
Instead, the 2018 season had the exact opposite affect on Gundy.
“It energized me, because I failed to get our team to play at the highest level last year,” Gundy told The Oklahoman. “We were a very undisciplined football team, and we were not a very tough football team. And those two things fall on the head coach.
“So when I see mistakes that can be corrected and should be corrected, and when I go back and see the reasons for those mistakes were me, the head coach, it energizes me to come up with a solution, put a plan in place, solve the problem and make it better. Moreso than even an 11- or 12-win season, just for me.”
So energized is Gundy, who will be 52 when the 2019 season kicks off, that he has pushed back his retirement date, to age 60. That would take him through the 2027 campaign, making him the Cowboys' head coach for 27 seasons and putting him in Cowboy orange as a player, assistant or head coach for 41 total seasons -- more than two-thirds of his entire life.
“I’ve been very fortunate with my health,” Gundy said. “I feel good. A seven-win season actually adds years, because whenever the time feels right, like when most guys have said, Coach Stoops and different coaches I’ve had discussions with, I don’t feel that’s as close as maybe I thought it was five years ago."
The last time Oklahoma State went 7-6, the Cowboys bounced back and posted the three straight 10-3 campaigns of 2015-17. In fact, Oklahoma State hasn't endured two straight single-digit-win-seasons since 2008-09, and hasn't had two straight seasons of 9-or-fewer wins since 2006-07, so there's real historical precedent that a rejuvenated Gundy leads to a more successful Oklahoma State season.
In that case, Oklahoma State seems like a safe bet to be one of the most improved teams in college football this fall.