Mike Gundy is staying at Oklahoma State. Well, he is at least not headed to Tennessee.
The truth is that going to Tennessee would have been a bad career move for Gundy. Granted, it probably would have been better for the Volunteers, but as far as Gundy is concerned, it could very well have led to the quick demise of his career.
Tennessee is not winning right now, and given the conference they play in and the talent they have, it does not appear likely that they will start winning anytime soon.
Oklahoma State is Gundy’s alma mater, is in its prime as a program and has a much easier schedule to win with. Gundy staying in Stillwater was the best thing he could have done as it pertains to the Tennessee job.
Although this reason for staying in Stillwater is overblown, it is still a valid reason that I believe factored into Gundy’s decision.
The truth is that Gundy loves Oklahoma State. He played there as a quarterback in the late 1980s in what was the winningest time period in school history, up until the past few seasons.
He has spent all but five years of his 22-year college coaching career somewhere other than Oklahoma State. Stillwater is his home.
Already, he has become the biggest legend in Cowboy football history, which is impressive considering that the school’s lore includes players like Barry Sanders, Thurman Thomas and Bob Fenimore.
No one is more loved by his school’s fanbase than Gundy, and if given the choice, that fanbase would jettison anyone else at that university to keep Gundy.
Few college coaches have that kind of support and that mutual love between Gundy and Oklahoma State is not something he could have replicated anywhere else.
Another reason Gundy is better off in Stillwater is the situation.
While there have been numerous reports about friction between Gundy and Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder, that situation is nothing compared to the one that has developed in Knoxville over the past few years.
Just five years ago, Tennessee went 10-4 and won the SEC East. Then, the Volunteers were still among the nation’s best programs.
Some may argue they are now, but the coaching turnover that has occurred (combined with the lack of winning) has not created a situation that is even decent for a new coach.
This is a fanbase that expects winning, despite the fact that they have not been able to perform well recently. Lane Kiffin screwed Tennessee over and Derek Dooley was unable to turn the program around.
When you add those recent bad memories to the annual schedule Tennessee has to go through, it is clear that this job would be a challenge for even the best coaches.
Tennessee has to play Georgia, Florida and South Carolina every single year. If that was not enough, they also have to play Alabama, Texas A&M and LSU regularly as well.
Oklahoma State has it tough enough playing Oklahoma and Texas every year, but their schedule is nothing compared to that of Tennessee.
When it comes to winning and being in a comfortable situation, Gundy made the right decision to stay in Stillwater.
The Ultimate Goal
Let’s be honest. The ultimate goal of any coach is to win a national championship. That goal is much more attainable at Oklahoma State right now than it is at Tennessee.
Take a look again that the schedule Tennessee has to play, as outlined above.
Even a really good team would be happy to get through with two or three losses. However, two or three losses is more than enough to completely eliminate a team from championship contention.
At Oklahoma State, Gundy will have to face some tough opponents, but only two that really compare with what Tennessee has to face.
Although he still has more to do in this area, Gundy has proven that he can beat Oklahoma and Texas already. Texas is down right now, but may not be for long, and Oklahoma is beginning to respect their in-state rival for the first time.
Going to Tennessee would be leaving a program headed into its prime for a program that is at its absolute, all-time lowest. Why would anyone have gone?