Editorial: Should Frank Go or Should He Stay?

Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder has a tough decision to make as the 2010 college baseball season enters the final weekend. Or, is it really that tough of a decision? Unless OSU goes to Waco, Texas this weekend and sweeps Baylor, the Cowboys will not qualify to play in the Big 12 Tournament – for the second year in a row! What does that mean for Frank Anderson's future in Stillwater?

The Cowboys travel to Waco with a 29-23 overall record, and are ninth place in the Big 12 with an 8-16 record. They must win all three games against eighth-place Baylor (9-13 in league games) to qualify for the eighth and final spot in next week's Big 12 tourney in Oklahoma City.

More importantly, Anderson's team is in serious jeopardy of not qualifying for the NCAA postseason for the first time in five years, ending a four-year streak in which the Cowboys have advanced to the finals of an NCAA Regional – the only Big 12 team to accomplish that feat. Five of Anderson's six teams at OSU have made NCAA Regional appearances, and the 2007 Cowboys advanced to a Super Regional.

Anderson has won more than 62 percent of his games in seven years as head coach of the Cowboys (262-157).

The 51-year-old Anderson knows that OSU baseball fans are not happy with the Cowboys' performance the past two seasons, even though they still considered one of the nation's top 64 teams and earned an NCAA Regional bid last season after finishing ninth in the Big 12 with a 9-16 record.

But unless the Cowboys sweep the Bears, they will not be participating in the postseason in 2010. The Cowboys' RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) is No. 82 on one Internet site (www.warrennolan.com) and No. 84 on another (www.boydsworld.com). Anderson's team is going to have to get hot, sweeping Baylor to get in the Big 12 Tournament and then win the conference's postseason tourney, to earn the Big 12's automatic bid.

That leads us back to the question we've asked in the headline: Should Frank Go or Should Frank Stay?

Holder has shown in his tenure as athletic director that he is not afraid to make the tough decision, and some times it is not always the popular one with Oklahoma State fans.

But in evaluating Anderson and his leadership of the Cowboy baseball program, Holder knows that it involves more the number of games the team has won in recent seasons. There are other numbers involved, specifically how many scholarships the OSU coaching staff has been able to offer the past seven years.

Anderson has never had the full allotment of NCAA scholarships since arriving as OSU's head coach in 2004. That's right, because of indiscretions not involving him or anyone on his staff, Anderson has never had the full allotment of 11.7 baseball scholarships allowed by the NCAA.

For each of the past six years, Anderson and his staff has had 1.56 to 1.78 fewer scholarships to offer than Texas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and every other Big 12 member. Anderson has had anywhere from 13.3 to 15.2 percent fewer scholarships than teams with a full allotment. That would be the equivalent to OSU football coach Mike Gundy losing three to four scholarships – out of a maximum of 25 – every year.

"I think it's a credit to Frank that he's kind of bowed his neck and been willing to stay here and work through this unfortunate situation with us," Holder was quoted by The Oklahoman's John Helsley earlier this month.

Anderson, however, has never used the scholarship limitations as an excuse, and doesn't like to talk about it – and that's not just in public. A longtime friend of Anderson's recently told me that the OSU head coach does not even like talking about the handicap he's been dealing with for seven years in private conversations.

Unfortunately, the scholarship limitations continue for one more year – the Cowboys will be short only .13 scholarship aid in 2011 – before regaining the full allotment of 11.7 for the 2012 season.

Neither Holder nor Anderson like what's happened the past two seasons – losing records during the Big 12's regular season, not qualifying for the conference postseason tournament, suffering only the third series sweep at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium in 29 years to Texas A&M this season, and dwindling attendance at home games – but does that mean it's time for a change?

The landscape of college baseball has changed dramatically since Gary Ward was leading the Cowboys to 16 consecutive conference tournament titles and making yearly trips to the College World Series in Omaha. That's still the goal for Anderson and the Cowboys but anyone who expects to win 16 league crowns and make seven consecutive trips to the CWS (like OSU did from 1981 to 1987) is living in a dream world.

Anderson's expectations are not unrealistic – contending for the Big 12 title on an annual basis, qualifying for an NCAA Regional each year, making a CWS appearance every few years (the Cowboys last trip to Omaha was in 1999), and eventually winning a national title.

He's shown he's a winner everywhere he's coached, including Texas and Texas Tech, and if given the chance, Anderson will prove it at Oklahoma State.

Even playing shorthanded, OSU finished in the top three in the Big 12 regular season standings for three consecutive years (2006 to 2008) and the Cowboys have advanced to an NCAA Regional championship game in three of the past four seasons (2006, 2007 and 2009).

Should Anderson go, or should Anderson stay?

Anderson deserves a chance to show what he can do with a full allotment of scholarships, and maybe the new baseball stadium that was promised him when he took over in 2004. Anderson needs to stay.

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