Oklahoma State Moves on From Travis Ford

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 18th, 2016

Three straight bottom-half finishes and zero NCAA Tournament wins since 2009 had long been enough for supporters of Oklahoma State to separate themselves from Travis Ford, but it wasn’t until today that it became enough for athletic director Mike Holder. As the curtains fell on another disappointing Cowboys season, so too did they fall on Ford’s mostly empty tenure in Stillwater, as he was fired from his head coaching post on Friday despite three years and $7.2 million remaining on a generous extension he signed seven years ago.

Assured of its eighth straight season without an NCAA Tournament victory, Oklahoma State has finally moved on from Travis Ford. (USA Today)

After its eighth straight season without an NCAA Tournament victory, Oklahoma State finally moved on from Travis Ford. (USA Today)

If Ford still had defenders, they would point to the laundry list of injuries suffered by key parts of this year’s rotation that caused the season to run off the rails, resulting in a lackluster 18-14 record and ninth-place finish. To an extent, they’d have a point. There’s no doubt that this season would have yielded better results had Phil Forte not hurt his elbow in November and had Jawun Evans not been lost for the last 10 games of the season with a shoulder injury. However, multiple disappointing finishes depleted Ford of the capital to write off another one, with five bottom-half finishes in the last six seasons no longer enough for the leadership of an otherwise proud program to overlook.

Though Ford had long since lost his cache with fans, only more recently did reports from Stillwater indicate that the administration had come to share that viewpoint. The reasons, of course, were mostly financial. Ford’s lengthy and pricey extension was the dominant factor in him staying on campus for so long despite such consistently poor results, but some tremendous investigative work from Mark Cooper of The Tulsa World uncovered just how stark an impact the waning fan confidence had on the school’s ledger. Just three power-conference schools ranked lower in attendance this season than Oklahoma State, and in the two seasons since Marcus Smart’s departure, attendance at Cowboys games had plummeted nearly 44 percent. In finally letting Ford go, Oklahoma State remains on the hook for $2.4 million annually through June 2019, though per a clause in Ford’s contract, that amount can be reduced by the yearly salary he earns from his next employer. Regardless, in Holder’s eyes, restoring faith in the program is worth that price, plus the costs of hiring a replacement.

So now Oklahoma State’s leadership is tasked with identifying that next coach, and it remains to be seen just how heavily Ford’s buyout will hang over the administration as it rounds up candidates. Moving forward, not only must Ford’s replacement restore the program’s winning tradition, but to stem the attendance woes, he has to be someone who can regenerate interest in a hurry, even if the winning part of the equation doesn’t come as immediately; That’s a big reason why Doug Gottlieb continues to be mentioned as a possible successor despite his lack of experience, just to give one example. We’ll dive deeper into the candidate pool as the dust settles, but for now, Oklahoma State’s fans as well as its leadership can finally turn the page.

Brian Goodman (987 Posts)

Brian Goodman a Big 12 microsite writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BSGoodman.

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