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Travis Ford No Longer Head Coach Of Cowboys

Travis Ford's tenure as Oklahoma State's basketball coach came to an end Friday night when athletic director Mike Holder announced that the school and head coach were parting ways.

Mike Holder had 7.2 million reasons to keep Travis Ford as head coach. He also had 13,611 reasons to fire him. In the Oklahoma State athletic director’s math formula, however, 13,611 seats inside Gallagher-Iba Arena is much greater than the $7.2 million remaining on Ford’s contract.

That’s the decision Holder made Friday when he announced that OSU and the Cowboys head basketball coach were parting ways after an eight-year reign. Ford had a 155-111 overall record but was just 63-75 in Big 12 games, including a 3-15 record and ninth-place finish this past season.

“I like Travis Ford and his family,” Holder said in a release from OSU Media Relations. “He worked very hard at his job. Unfortunately, we have to move on.”

Although Ford still has three years worth $2.4 million each remaining on his contract, Holder apparently listened to the Cowboys fans, who had quit showing up at Gallagher-Iba Arena.

OSU’s average attendance dropped dramatically each of the last three seasons, from 10,397 in 2013-14 (21-13 record) to 7,897 during the 2014-15 season when the Cowboys were 18-14 overall.

But the average attendance fell another 2,000 to 5,857 this past season – in which the Cowboys’ record was 12-20 overall, including an 8-8 record inside Gallagher-Iba Arena (the third-most losses in 78 seasons of play in the historic arena). Only the OSU basketball teams from 1965-66 (3-10) and 1971-72 (3-9) lost more games in a single season since the school opened the arena in 1938.

OSU’s average attendance of 5,857 this season ranked 58th of the 65 Power 5 teams.

In Ford’s second season in 2009-10, after going 23-12 in his first year at OSU and leading the Cowboys to a first-round NCAA Tournament win over Tennessee, the average attendance was 11,585 (the highest in Ford’s eight years at the helm) but it’s been a slow decline since that season.

According to a report in the Tulsa World last week, ticket-sales revenue from Ford’s first season in 2008-09 to 2014-15 is close to the $2.4 million he was paid this season, and was set to make each of the next three years.

The Tulsa World report states that ticket-sales revenues have declined each of the past eight seasons, not including the most recent season (although when average attendance figures show another decline of nearly 2,000 that would make one believe that it will decline a ninth-straight year).

Holder knows that ticket-sales revenues have dropped dramatically since the 2006-07 season when they pulled in $5.17 million (Sean Sutton’s first full year as head coach after taking over for his dad, Eddie). In 2014-15, the last season in which numbers are available, that had dropped to $2.46 million.

The Cowboys won 20 or more games in five of the eight seasons in which Ford was head coach, including making five NCAA Tournament appearances. But they were just 1-5 in NCAA tourney games, and that lone win was following his first season in 2008-09.

Just as importantly, Ford’s teams only finished above .500 in Big 12 play three times (and two of those were 9-7 records in his first two seasons). The Cowboys best finish in the Big 12 was a 13-5 record (third place, one game behind Kansas and Kansas State).

The last three seasons of Big 12 play, the Cowboys finished 8-10 in 2013-14 (in eighth place out of 10 teams), 8-10 in 2014-15 (in a three-way tie for sixth place), and then 3-15 (ninth place).

The Cowboys were hampered by injuries throughout the season, including playing all but three games without senior Phil Forte, who suffered a season-ending elbow injury the third game of the season. Then, in early February, freshman point guard Jawun Evans, who was averaging a team-best 15.6 points and 5.6 assists, suffered a shoulder injury that required season-ending surgery. Evans sat out the last 10 games, and the Cowboys lost nine of those 10 games.

The 12 wins were the fewest by an OSU basketball team in nearly 30 years, since the Cowboys were 8-20 in Leonard Hamilton’s first year as head coach (1986-87).

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