This will be the 24th season in which Gundy will participate in Cowboy football as either a player, assistant coach, or now in his 10th season as head coach of the program. On the other sideline is Fisher, who in his fifth season as a head coach (all at Florida State) and is coming off a glorious 14-0 National Championship season.
My thought is still stands that the players will decide the game but how equipped the players are to dictate that outcome will come from Gundy and Fisher, and their coaching staffs.
Fisher was meant to be the coach at Florida State and to succeed a Hall of Fame coach in Bobby Bowden, who is responsible for building the Florida State program. We will get to that story in a minute, but first we will continue a debate that many Oklahoma State loyalists have with a vocal minority of the same family over the magnitude of Mike Gundy.
No gushing here, just facts as Gundy begins his 10th season as head coach. I have known Mike Gundy since he was 16 years old. I have been fortunate to know his family, members of his extended family, and many of his friends.
While I was never talented as a quarterback, I have noticed that Gundy and I have some traits in common, and not all are good. We are very capable of tuning people out and sometimes at wrong moments. We can both be very singularly directed and focus on only getting one aspect of a situation done before even considering another aspect.
That is not to say Gundy can't multi-task. He can. I can too, but there are times neither of us chose to. The singular trait I have discovered in Gundy and in his family that I admire the most is his loyalty. This appears sometimes with quarterback decisions where he is often loyal to the guy that has been in the program the longest working his way to the position.
However, I would never take away from loyalty as I think it is one of the most important qualities that one can have. Gundy is loyal to his family, his friends, his players, and his school. You can debate some of the past situations (talking to Arkansas and Tennessee a few years ago about their heading coaching jobs) but you cannot question how they turned out. He is a Cowboy and I truly believe he will finish his coaching career as a Cowboy.
The facts are indisputable. I will be the first to agree that Boone Pickens vast contributions along with many smaller donations, Mike Holder's athletic department leadership and many other contributions through campus administration, and the support of the fans have all helped and been better than in any other era of Oklahoma State football.
Using that positive infrastructure but battling many shortcomings such as tradition, location and others, Gundy has done this:
** Posted an overall record of 77-38 and become in a short period of time the most successful football coach in Oklahoma State history,
** Won an undisputed Big 12 Championship,
** Defeated Stanford in the 2012 Fiesta Bowl and finished the 2011 season with the third-ranked team in the nation.
** In his first season with a team depleted by dismissals he chose to make. His team defeated 13th-ranked Texas Tech and he has since gone on to a 15-20 record vs. Top 25 competition. That record is 11-8 over the past five seasons,
** He has coached 16 All-Americans,
** He has coached five first-round NFL Draft selections,
** Has coached 41 wins over the last four seasons, 50 wins over the last five seasons, and 59 wins over the last six seasons, and
** Posted an overall 5-3 bowl record.
You can debate Gundy but you cannot debate his accomplishments. I would not trade the Gundy era for any previous era of Oklahoma State football. I know Cowboys fans wouldn't either. Once you turn a program into a consistent winner not only do you experience so much more joy but you also can create so much greater heartbreak.
Now to Jimbo Fisher and a story that longtime Florida State play-by-play radio announcer Gene Deckerhoff shared the other day on the radio.
There have been several schools in several sports attempt the coach-by-succession model only to see it fail miserably. Florida State lined it up with Bobby Bowden and Jimbo Fisher and it has worked like a charm. Deckerhoff, in kind of a Paul Harvey "Rest of the Story" role, explains why.
"Jimbo Fisher's connection with the Bobby Bowden family goes back to when he was a 19-year-old and left Clemson University, where he aspired to be a starting infielder for the Clemson Tigers, came back to his hometown and attended Salem College and quarterbacked for a guy named Terry Bowden," Deckehoff spun with his distinctive storyteller announcing style.
"And Terry Bowden was, of course, Bobby Bowden's son in the coaching profession, who is now at Akron, brought him in there and he quarterbacked for three years with Terry at Salem. Then when Terry got the job at Samford, he went down to Samford with Terry and set all the passing records at Samford, got his first coaching assignment with Terry at Samford, and then went to Auburn with Terry.
"He worked almost every Bowden camp, Terry Bowden and Bobby Bowden Football Camps, from the time he was about 20 years old until he got the job at Florida State and people thought he was married to a Bowden (daughter). That's the true story.
"There is a synergy there that I don't know that you can find anywhere else in college football," Deckerhoff continued. "A guy that grew up coached by a Bowden, played for a Bowden, and then coached again with another Bowden and then he follows the legendary head coach Bobby Bowden.
"It is a tremendous story, Robert, that I don't think many people know about. It could probably be a chapter in one of Bobby's books. He has another one out right now. That is a story about the transition and there is a lot of this head coach-in-waiting stuff that might not have worked and might not be smooth, but at least at Tallahassee and Florida State it happened and it worked."
That may be the one thing that these two head coaches have in common. Yes, Fisher was a coach-in-waiting that worked, but behind the scenes when Les Miles was hired, Terry Don Phillips asked Miles to hire Gundy as his offensive coordinator. Both Phillips and Miles knew the reason was because some day Gundy was going to be the head coach at OSU, but I'm not sure either Phillips or Miles knew just how successful that move would turn out to be.