STILLWATER – Around 1:45 p.m. today the American Eagle Canadair regional jet touched down on the runway at Stillwater Municipal Airport launching the city of Stillwater and Oklahoma State University back into being in touch with the nation and the world by local jet air service.
Two flights a day in and out of Stillwater connecting with DFW International is a really big deal in a lot of ways. One of those ways is recruiting for all sports at Oklahoma State, but the biggest user by far will be Cowboys football. The football office is trying to think of ways that they can help the airport with decorations and they are eager to show off everything from video highlights to new uniforms that can be displayed on mannequins in the terminal.
Most of all, they are eager to fly recruits in and out of Stillwater rather than picking them up in Oklahoma City or Tulsa.
"Now all those kids in Dallas can fly right into here," head coach Mike Gundy told John Helsley of The Oklahoman recently. "And kids in Houston can fly to Dallas and come right into here."
"I think it is going to be really big for us, not only in recruiting but our coaches too," football recruiting coordinator Johnny Barr said after the first flight had landed and taken off for the return to Dallas carrying a number of dignitaries from Stillwater. "We have four coaches that recruit the Dallas-Fort Worth area and now they can be there in an hour and 15 minutes instead of four hours and 15 minutes. Then when official visits (for recruits) start there aren't that many flights but we can start paying to fly them right into here."
Over the years there are a lot of things that have been used against Oklahoma State in recruiting in reference to its rural location. Coaches would remind prospects that Stillwater did not have a mall. However, the Student Union serves as a pretty good mall and has become a popular student hang out. The effort to get here with flying to the metro airports and then driving in had to be used a time or two.
"I don't know if it has," Barr said. "I know that for the past three or four years I've been trying to figure out why Manhattan, Kansas (Kansas State) had daily jet serve and Stillwater didn't. Joe Bob (Clements, OSU defensive line coach) used to coach there (at Kansas State) and he said it was huge for getting to Dallas and getting recruits up there and from other places."
On average Oklahoma State will generally have 30 to 35 official visits in recruiting. The NCAA allows 56, but Oklahoma State is pretty careful about those visitors. A rough estimate using last year's visits shows there were 26 official visits taken and 18 of those could have used the jet service connecting to Dallas either as the primary leg of the trip or a connecting leg from another airport.
"It just creates the attitude that Stillwater isn't this rural community anymore and that with this jet service from Dallas that Stillwater is very accessible," director of football operations and an expert in travel Mack Butler stated. "The opportunity the it presents from a recruiting standpoint is very important. I think it will be good. The perception to the public is that we're like everybody else."
That will also be the perception to the recruits. Now some of those schools that need to look for a way to negative recruit on Oklahoma State will need to look for something else. Other than the Student Union and a downtown mall, the town still doesn't have one of those big, spacious shopping malls. Of course, as you fly in and out of Stillwater you will see a lot of shopping areas, just not malls.