Mike Gundy, the head coach of the Oklahoma State Cowboys, is the best coach in the Big 12.
Currently leading the best period in the history of Cowboy football, Gundy has taken a program that used to be on the backburner and has made it relevant again. In fact, he has made it more than that, which he proved in 2010 and 2011 when his Cowboys contended on a national level.
There are arguments to be made for other Big 12 coaches. Bob Stoops has won ultra-consistently at Oklahoma. Gary Patterson has done a great job of bringing TCU all the way from the WAC to the Big 12. Mack Brown has won a national title at Texas, and Bill Snyder does more with less better than anyone.
However, Gundy should be thought of, above them all, as the Big 12’s best coach.
The reason is his unique status as both an established, successful head coach and a young go-getter who is doing more with less.
In eight seasons as the Cowboys’ head coach, Gundy has posted a record of 67-35. In the last five seasons, the Cowboys have gone 50-16. No other coach in the country, much less the Big 12, has been so successful at a program that is not a traditional power.
Stoops has been great at Oklahoma, but he should be. The truth is that, while he has been a great coach, recent big-game losses have resulted in losing recruiting ground, coaching changes and decreasing fan support. A similar, yet even more dire, situation is the one in Texas for Brown, who probably only has another year to redeem himself.
Gundy is nowhere near these problems. He is leading the best football period in the history of Oklahoma State, having gone to seven straight bowl games (the previous high was just two).
Patterson at TCU and Snyder and Kansas State are Gundy’s biggest rivals for this honor. Both are successful coaches who are loved by their school’s fanbases and nowhere near losing any support.
The argument against Patterson is that he and his Horned Frogs have not yet proven themselves to be capable of winning consistently at the Big 12 level. Once he does, he will be neck-and-neck with Gundy.
Snyder is a coaching legend, and while he might beat out Gundy at getting more out of less (something Gundy beats everyone else at), the one area in which he falls behind Gundy is championship contention. Snyder’s Wildcats will keep winning as long as he is there, but they are not poised for championship contention as well as Gundy’s team is.
Gundy built a competitive football program at Oklahoma State. He had help, but it is clear that he is the integral cog in the machine. Keep in mind that, unlike Snyder and Patterson, Gundy built this winning tradition while having to play the powers of Texas and Oklahoma each and every year.
Mike Gundy does not have the most athletic team in the Big 12, and he probably never will with the Sooners and Longhorns around. He has, however, made it perfectly reasonable to believe that this Oklahoma State program will be able to compete and win for a long time.
Certainly not an easy task, but one that could only be accomplished by the Big 12’s best coach.