I graduated from Oklahoma State University two years ago and currently reside in Tulsa, about 100 miles away from the school. You would not think that 100 miles is a far enough distance from the epicenter of Oklahoma State Cowboys basketball unless you have visited Oklahoma and the small town of Stillwater. Without a doubt, Stillwater is a picture-perfect college town. During the year, the city population is listed around 50,000 in its secluded little area of north-central Oklahoma. However, during the summer, the city population struggles to break 20,000.
People live and die for Oklahoma State sports. They listen daily to Oklahoma State radio on the way to and from work, and then come home to news channels surely broadcasting multiple pieces from sporting facilities on the Oklahoma State campus. Over the years, an Internet sports forum for the Cowboys was started and has grown to be very successful. The forum has a wide array of people communicating with one another, from multimillion dollar donors to recent college grads and attendees. The forum has taken the die-hard sports atmosphere of Stillwater and brought it to the Internet. The forum has allowed a graduate like me to remain the die-hard Cowboys fan I am.
Recently, I was reading a topic on the site about Oklahoma State basketball. It caught my eye because the only topics popping up lately have been football related, and rightfully so, due to the recent success of the football team and the fact that it’s football season in the football-concentrated South. I decided to see how excited the fan base was becoming for the 2012-2013 season basketball season, though.
Travis Ford has recruited multiple top 20 prospects, which sets up the future for success for Oklahoma State basketball. This is one of the best recruiting jobs in Oklahoma State history. Nonetheless, everyone in the thread was discussing the failure of Ford as a coach and how he needs to be fired. I was extremely startled by this and continued to investigate the cause of people’s concerns. After all, these were not just students, but faculty and donors contributing to the idea of Ford being done as a coach. The most common cause of criticism was Ford’s coaching history with Oklahoma State.
Ford came to a school that was high on the failures of Sean Sutton, who is the son of legendary Eddie Sutton and currently an assistant to his brother at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa. Oklahoma State basketball officials wanted former player and assistant Bill Self to leave the Kansas Jayhawks for his alma mater no mater the price. When Kansas got word of the possibly that Self might leave, all the Kansas donors got together and tied him down for life. Oklahoma State realized they would not be signing Self and went on the hunt for the next best thing at the time: Travis Ford.
The criticism against Ford is that he took over a semi-prestigious basketball program that was at least expected to make the tournament every year and now struggles to qualify for the NIT Tournament. Last year was Ford’s first year coaching with no Sutton-era recruits and his team went 15-18. The 15-18 record seemed to be the topic of discussion within the thread. Instead of lashing out to Oklahoma State fans on the thread, I decided to lash out at them on this blog and then post it in their thread. My criticism of them is the following:
This is Oklahoma, not New York. In New York, a team would hire a coach who could come in and immediately change things around because if he didn’t, the media would oust him either way. Travis Ford was hired on the conditions that he could turn this team around in the future and not the present. Last season when Ford was under heavy criticism, he said, “Part of my job is to recruit and a big part is to win games, and I’m not going to stop recruiting or stop coaching.” That is the kind of tenacity that Oklahoma State wants. Many coaches forget one or the other and lose focus. Recruiting, which Ford is extremely good at, gives you the talent, and coaching, which will be determined in coming years, is what Ford needs to prove he is good at.
Ford has already come in and given Oklahoma State fans more than they paid for. The last three years of Eddie Sutton’s coaching looks like this: NCAA Final Four, NCAA Sweet 16, first round loss in the NIT tournament. His son Sean took over and his two years went by with consecutive NIT first round losses. Then Ford was hired. In his first year, Ford improved a 17-16 overall record to a 23-12 overall record and took the team two rounds deep in the NCAA Tournament. During Ford’s second year at Oklahoma State, he lost one more game than the previous year and posted the same Big 12 Conference record and once again took the Cowboys to the NCAA Tournament.
The only thing that could possibly have Oklahoma State fans down is the past two seasons, which have been a transition time from the Sutton-era recruiting to the Ford-era recruiting. Let me state to Cowboys nation right now that the recruits attending the university these next five years are most definitely better than what we obtained the previous five years.So buy your tickets, show your support and get ready for some basketball. It’s less than a month away!
The Cowboys tip off the season in an exhibition game against Ottawa, Kansas at Gallagher-Iba Arena on Nov. 1.
Follow me on twitter if you dare- TimBade1