Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy has been at OSU for a long time. Hailing from an hour south of campus, he’s been the head coach at the school since 2005, was an assistant there for all but five years since 1990, and spent the four years before that as an OSU quarterback.
T. Boone Pickens has also been involved with the school for a long time. The football stadium’s named after the megabooster, a billionaire energy financier who once gave a national-record $165 million at once to OSU athletics, and that was just one gift. He also likes to speak his mind. (Pickens isn't technically Gundy's boss, but ... like I said, his name's on the stadium.)
Here’s how things were going back in 2009, back when Gundy had only been the head coach for a few years:
"Mr. Pickens can be brutally honest at times," Gundy said.
When you've made (and occasionally lost) as much money as Pickens has in his 81 years, charm is optional.
Gundy said Pickens told him the victory over Georgia was worth the $260 million he has donated toward the stadium project.
Since then, though, Gundy’s been connected to vacant jobs at Arkansas and Tennessee, and this week, when asked about Les Miles’ firing at LSU, he said in part, "You just hang around a place long enough as a coach, they're eventually going to get tired of you and fire you."
Anyway, here’s a list of quotes!
"You look at the other schools we play, and we’re competitive," Pickens said. "The only one we haven’t been competitive with is OU. Like last year, we’re a 10-point favorite and lose. ... We need to do better on OU."
The question: Are you still supportive of Gundy?
The answer: I’m certainly supportive of Oklahoma State University. I’m always going to be for OSU, I don’t care who coaches ‘em.
On Monday, OSU’s head coach said he hadn’t heard those comments. A reporter filled Gundy in and he responded swiftly.
"I don’t need anybody to tell me that they like me or dislike me," he said. "I don’t really care. I just like to coach my guys and keep playing ball … I don’t know what to say. He’s old enough to make his own comments now, right? I can’t control what he says."
The most successful coach in Cowboy history and the man who bankrolled the operation. How could that go wrong?
But Boone has made little secret of his disdain for Gundy, the most successful coach in Cowboy history.
Some of it stems from Gundy’s dalliance with Tennessee and Arkansas, using those open jobs as negotiating chips with OSU. Some of it stems from a clash of egos, and there is much ego involved when tycoons mingle with college football coaches. Some of it stems from wells unknown.
Before the Mike Gundy-Oklahoma State contract negotiation three years ago, what was the nature of the Cowboy football coach’s relationship with OSU mega-donor T. Boone Pickens?
"It was fine," Gundy says.
Since the negotiation, Gundy acknowledged during an interview with the Tulsa World last week, "we haven’t really had any communication."
With his next statement, Gundy seemed to extend an olive branch in Pickens’ direction: "I don’t know what his thought is, but I would like for there to be more communication."
Gundy: "I enjoy the conversations, the relationship that he and I had at one time. We went through a couple years where we didn’t have communication. It wasn’t good for Oklahoma State, and it wasn’t enjoyable for me. We’ve worked on it over the last four months, and I would anticipate it to be good for the remaining time of my career."
Pickens: "[We weren’t on] bad terms, we just fell out of communication. [Athletic director Mike] Holder, he said, ‘Look, you guys need to start talking again.’ That was kinda it. [...] You can’t disagree with [the idea that OSU is bigger than Gundy or Pickens], because it gets back to we want the same thing: we want to beat OU."
"I'll go by and see (Pickens)," Gundy said. "Probably take him to dinner."
Gundy says he regularly communicated with Pickens by phone throughout last season after the pair previously lost contact for roughly two years following the negotiation of Gundy's new OSU contract.
"All that's been good," Gundy said. "It was certainly a really good move for me to extend myself and reignite the relationship."
"Boone wants to win 14 games," Gundy said. "And so do I."
"I would like to beat OU," Pickens said while standing in the stadium that bears his name. "Mike has struggled with that game. I think he’s 2-9, so we’re not competitive with OU. By golly, we beat Texas. We’re the only team that has beaten Texas four in a row in Austin. If we can beat Texas, we sure ought to beat OU."
Pickens didn't leave it there.
"(Former Cowboy coach) Les Miles beat OU, didn’t he? Two out of four? Yeah. That’s competitive."
Pickens said he and Cowboys coach Mike Gundy aren’t talking. "I don’t have any conversations with Gundy," he said. Is there a rift? "I don’t know, but Mike doesn’t handle people relationships very well. And he gets mad about things. I’ve heard he’s written some notes about me that weren’t very complimentary."
9. Oct. 1, 2016
Gundy has beaten Oklahoma twice. Otherwise, he’s hands-down the most successful coach the program has ever had, coming within a field goal of playing for a national title in 2011, whether Pickens always seems to agree or not.