OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — For Mike Gundy, part of becoming a better coach was learning to let go.
Once he yielded control of his offense and defense to his coordinators, he found himself better able to deal with all the day-to-day decisions that come with being the man in charge of a major college football program.
With first-year offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen leading what would become the nation’s third-highest scoring offense and Bill Young in charge of a defense that created 30 turnovers, Gundy was able to see the big picture and add his influence wherever his inexperienced Cowboys needed it.
The result: the first 10-win regular season in school history and Gundy’s selection Tuesday as The Associated Press’ Big 12 coach of the year.
“I’m humbled by it and I think that it’s an award for our coaching staff,” Gundy said in a telephone interview. “They’ve had a great year.”
The 16th-ranked Cowboys (10-2, 6-2 Big 12) were picked to finish fifth in the Big 12 South after losing their starting quarterback, two NFL first-round draft picks and numerous starters but instead shared the division title with Oklahoma and Texas A&M.
Gundy received 12 of 20 first-place votes from the AP panel. Texas A&M’s Mike Sherman got seven votes after a turnaround helped the Aggies win their final six games. Art Briles received the remaining vote after leading Baylor to bowl eligibility for the first time since 1994.
Gundy was also named the Big 12 coach of the year in voting by the league’s coaches. It’s the first time he has received both honors.
In his sixth year as Oklahoma State’s head coach, Gundy said he now fits better into the role. A former offensive coordinator, he had previously been heavily involved in the offense and play-calling. But when he brought in Holgorsen, he gave it up — for the better.
“I think it had a huge role in just me coaching attitude, player development, body language and time management,” Gundy said. “I allowed Dana and Bill, of course, to do their jobs and my presence on the sideline was much more calming because I wasn’t having to get so involved in the play of an offensive lineman or receivers or quarterbacks and chew on them about something they did wrong.”
Defensive players feel his influence more than ever before, and Gundy said he may have spent more time with defensive players than the offense this season for a change. He also had more time to spend on recruiting and during games, he was even more in tune with clock management and injuries.
During the week, Gundy could pop into any meeting instead of always meeting with quarterbacks.
Gundy also credited the Cowboys’ unexpected success to the development of a new batch of playmakers — including Justin Blackmon, Brandon Weeden, Shaun Lewis, Brodrick Brown and Joseph Randle — and strong returns from serious injuries by Orie Lemon and Andrew McGee.
“When you tie all that together, you end up with 10 wins and a season that everybody will look back on and say obviously it was the most wins we’ve ever had here in the regular season,” he said.
Under Gundy, the Cowboys have played in four straight bowl games for the first time in school history and will make the postseason again, likely in the Alamo, Insight or Holiday bowls. It’s a far better destination than anyone expected in what Gundy called a “rebuilding” year.
“If the consistency’s there, it’s going to allow us to recruit well enough each year to put us in a position that when we have a mature team and we have three or four big-time playmakers on both sides of the ball, then you have a chance to beat anybody you play,” Gundy said.