One-on-One With Mike Holder

We recently had a chance to speak with Oklahoma State's Mike Holder on a variety of topics. This was a very successful overall year for OSU athletics, although late season disappointments in football and basketball tarnished that some. It was the best overall finish for the Cowboys and Cowgirls as evidenced by the strong finish in the Learfield Sports Director's Cup and the Capital One Cup.

There are important issues with facilities still on the Oklahoma State campus, the O'Bannon-NCAA trial in which the eventual decision will come in August, the Northwestern players and Labor Union situation, and with needed and expected NCAA reform there is a lot on an athletic administrator like Holder's plate.

Holder on facilities and performance:
"I'm pleased with the progress we are making as an athletic department, primarily on facilities. I think it has translated into some improved performances on the playing field as well. We had almost all of our sports, all except one and that was softball, that played in the NCAA postseason.

"I don't know how many times that has happened around here, but I think it is very significant that it happened. Not only did we make it that far but we were very, very competitive in the postseason when our teams and individuals got there,

"Facilities don't guarantee that you'll win, but they give you the opportunity to recruit the kind of athletes that give you the opportunity to win, The facilities make a statement about how committed your institution is to that particular sport and that is compelling when you bring recruits on campus."

Holder on football as an example:
"I think Mike Gundy has done a great job, and the people behind the program have done well and there are a lot of great things going on. But that Boone Pickens Stadium is a huge part of the success and the turnaround in our program and I'm expecting that to happen with all of our programs once we get these new facilities on line."

Holder on the priorities left on facilities:
"We still need to get a new soccer stadium on line, have to build a new equestrian center, still need to build a new baseball stadium, and then we have some additions we need to do to the track facility. But at least the list is getting shorter and the amount of money needed to complete that athletic village is getting smaller. That is good news for everybody."

Holder on the baseball park:
"With Oklahoma State baseball there is a lot of history and when we build that new park it is important that we pay homage to what has happened before that has made it possible to have that new stadium. We want to make it kid friendly, fan friendly, we want it to be something that you bring the entire family and generations out to the ballpark to enjoy Cowboys baseball.

"You know how Donnie Walton grew up at the ballpark with his dad (assistant coach Rob Walton), and now Donnie is MVP of the NCAA Regional here. That has to make you feel good. Then you look out there and you see Brady Holliday that is doing exactly the same thing that his dad Josh was doing when he was 5 years old and that is running around the ballpark.

"We still need to get someone or a group of people to give us that donation that puts their name on the stadium or at least give us that lead donation of about $20 million. You know that stadium is going to cost around $40 million and we are already into it for about $10 million in land costs, so that is going to be a $50 million project.

"It is going to be about 3,500 seats and Allie Reynolds is about 4,000, but we feel that 3,500 is adequate. Our emphasis is about fan amenities and giving our coaches the kind of facility that will help them recruit that kind of players they need to be successful and get to Omaha."

Holder on the recent APR penalty in football:
"I don't really think it measures what the academic performance rate, it's more about retention, but that said we all know what the formula is and how it works. It is our job as coaches and administrators to meet the minimum standards and what you would like to do is not just meet the minimum standards, but shoot for 1,000 percent.

"There a couple of reasons that I think we fell short. I think Mike (Gundy) and the coaching staff made a couple of recruiting mistakes and had to get rid of a couple of players for some really good reasons that hurt. They could have kept them around but that wouldn't have adhered to the principles that he is building that program around. The APR doesn't help in those instances when the right decision is to get rid of someone. I applaud him for that.

"He (Gundy) was also a little too kind-hearted with some of the players that had sacrificed for the program and wanted to pursue their dreams of trying to make it to the NFL and keeping them on scholarship. He allowed them to enroll in class in the spring and knowing their focus wasn't on school and we lost a lot of points that way.

"We have corrected that and may not let some of those players enroll in the spring in the future, but let them know when their focus is on academics and completing their degree that we will welcome that and help them with that. We will support you academically because we want them to graduate even more than they may want to graduate. I think in the long run this will be good for us and we will be better for it and improve."

Holder on the Sports Illustrated investigation:
"I tell people this and they don't believe me, but I know as much about it as you do and I am as impatient as you are. I'm tired of writing checks for that investigation and whatever is going on out there. I had to stay out of it completely. I am excluded from the loop on purpose and our compliance officer (Kevin Fite) reports directly to the President and there is a reason for that. I anxiously await like everyone else what Chuck Smrt and the NCAA have uncovered in their investigation."

Holder on the changing climate of college athletics and the NCAA:
"I'll just kind of make an editorial comment, I think, because who knows what the end game is going to be on this. You've got previews with this nutrition legislation. I think if you really got aggressive with that (three meals and unlimited snacks for athletes) it might add $3 million to your bottom line. Get your mind around that. They are going to let you do whatever you want for every athlete, not just scholarship athletes, but walk-ons and everyone.

"I'm not saying that it is not good, but there are a lot of good things we could do out there but we simply can't afford them. The NCAA has thrown it back on the schools and said, 'we're tired of policing this and we're going to let whatever your amount of resource is there for you to do what you want for your athletes or what you can afford to do for them.' You know how competitive athletics is so a lot of people are going to push the envelope. That's the preview.

"When you start taking the cover off the big stick in your golf bag, the driver, and letting the big dog eat all of the time you better watch out because there is some trouble lurking out there. This new legislation, a lot of it is sorely needed. A lot of the red tape needed to be taken out of the equation and simplify a lot of the rules, but if one of the schools that's not at the upper echelon of the revenue production is really focused on trying to compete because we're a competitive group of people. We like to win at the highest level, I think the parity in budget could be more troublesome in the future. I don't know.

"A lot of those rules, I don't think people think about it or not, helped level the playing field. When you take them away I'm just apprehensive and I may be an alarmist. I just think it may be one of those deals that you be careful what you ask for because if you get all you ask for you might not be able to deal with all the consequences."

Holder on the rising costs of college athletics in the future:
"Even if I'm up there at the top with the Texas, Ohio State, Michigan, and Alabamas, you still have a few peers that are just as fortunate and have just as much resources as you. How far are you going to push the envelope? How much are you going to ask your fans to give? How much more do they have to sacrifice to pay for what may be perceived as luxury items? I don't think enough is said for what we do for our college athletes.

"If you look at the cost of, on average we spend on each scholarship athlete we probably spend over and above scholarship $75,000 to $80,000 an athlete, and that's before we start figuring out what we pay our coaches that come in and train these athletes. That's tax free. you look at the average per capita income in Payne County, which is at $30,000. You are talking about some well taken care of segment of your population. They are not under-privileged right now.

"I think you look at the problem is the grant-in-aid which has not gone up in the last 20 years and you see the alarming uptick in salaries for administrators like me, and for coaches, especially in football and basketball. The national spotlight has been focused on that disparity."


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