Oklahoma and Texas, the blue bloods of the Big 12, and just about every pundit across college football will tell you that the Big 12 needs Texas to be good again. But is that changing? As time goes on, should we consider whether or not Oklahoma State has filled the void left by Texas? Are the Cowboys a flagship program of the Big 12?
If that first paragraph currently has you mashing out an angry comment to inform me how dumb I am, I get it, but before you bloody your fingers beating your keyboard into submission, just hear me out.
Everyone recognizes Texas as a flagship, if not the flagship, program in the Big 12. Texas is the only program with their own television network. They are the richest program in all of college football. They have National Titles. They have a higher winning percentage in the conference, and have history of winning beyond the Big 12 that the Cowboys can’t even sniff. Simply put, Texas is a blue blood.
For the sake of argument, I’m going to use Texas as a baseline.
In the Big 12, the Longhorns are 186-81 with a National Title in 2005. That’s a .697 win percentage.Overall, the Cowboys fall short of Texas. Oklahoma State is 158-101 in the Big 12 with a .610 win percentage. Not that far off, but they would need a couple of perfect seasons while Texas went winless to get within spitting distance of Texas.
Obviously, Oklahoma State is not a blue blood. No one is arguing that. However, there is a difference between flagship program and a blue blood program. Oregon is a flagship of the Pac-12, but they aren’t a blue blood like USC. Clemson is a flagship of the ACC, but they aren’t Florida State. The difference is subtle, but it’s there.
College football is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately sport. Let’s face it. Texas hasn’t been Texas for quite a while. Since the turn of the decade, over the last seven years, Texas is averaging just over six wins a season. Six. There are middle schoolers that only know Texas as a mediocre program at best.
Furthermore, since the Longhorn’s National Title in 2005, Texas is 91-50 over the last 11 seasons. That includes a run back to the National Title game in 2009. Over that same period though, Oklahoma State is 100-43, and was just a few votes short of playing for the National Title in 2011. For more than a decade, the Pokes have the better record.
The Pokes have reached a level of sustained success that shows they are reloading more than they are having to rebuild.
Oh, and eleven seasons is not just more than decade, it’s also just over half of the Big 12’s life. And unless something major happens, that trend will continue into the 2017 season.
Now, clearly Oklahoma State does not have the football history that Texas does. To say that would be foolish. However, that doesn’t mean that Oklahoma State is without some history, some tradition.
The Pokes have 51 NCAA Team National Championships, including two in men’s basketball and one in baseball along with several Final Four and College World Series appearances. Only three other schools in the entire country boast more titles, none of which are in the Big 12. Football is king, but to be a flagship program, you have to show that you can win across the board. The Pokes haven’t just picked up the Longhorn’s fumble on the football field and ran with it, they have a trophy case in Stillwater proving that they are, and have been, leaders across the entire athletic program.
As I said though, Football is king. And speaking of the trophy case, the Pokes received a rather significant addition last October when the American Football Coaches Association named Oklahoma State their 1945 National Champion. And while the Pokes have received some flack for the retroactive award, there is no changing that they now have a Coaches’ Trophy, the crystal ball.
And then there is the man, the myth, the legend, Mike “the Mullet” Gundy.
The mullet and going viral skills aside, Bob Stoops has turned over the crown as the face of the conference. Gundy is now the “Big Daddy” of the Big 12, and that’s a testament to the length of time OSU has been winning.
Speaking of Stoops, though. There are two major road blocks to the argument of whether or not OSU is a flagship program. One, recruiting. Two, Bedlam.
In order to be a flagship program you have to be able to attract top recruits. And while the Cowboys have a habit of finding 3-star diamonds in the rough and developing talent, they don’t win a lot of 4-star and 5-star recruiting battles. Although, the flip side of that is looking at some of the top talent they have put into the NFL like Brandon Pettigrew, Russell Okung, Dez Bryant and Dan Bailey. They are some of the best to ever play their respective positions. Still, conventional wisdom says that to truly reach the next level, it begins with recruiting.
And then there is Bedlam. You know the saying; to be the best, you have to beat the best. To be a flagship program, you have to be able to contend with the other flagships in the conference, and it is no secret that Oklahoma State has struggled against the Sooners. Since the Poke’s ascension to the top of the conference, they’ve only beaten OU twice, and that’s a glaring knock on Gundy and the Cowboys.
2017 feels like a make or break season for OSU and reaching the next level. Both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have Big 12 Title hopes and CFB Playoff aspirations. If Oklahoma State can get the Bedlam monkey off their back, it may be time to start considering them a flagship program of the Big 12.