Oklahoma State Tabs Brad Underwood To Reinvigorate Program

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 22nd, 2016

One of the most attractive jobs in the conference opened up on Friday when Oklahoma State parted ways with Travis Ford. While five bottom-half finishes in six seasons may not suggest much allure to the gig, strong facilities, access to the lush recruiting hotbed of Texas, a winning tradition and avid fan and donor support (when the team performs) were enough to sway former Stephen F. Austin head coach Brad Underwood to come aboard just one day after his Lumberjacks exited the NCAA Tournament.

With little (if anything) left to prove on the mid-major level, Brad Underwood jumped to Oklahoma State. (USA TODAY Sports)

With little (if anything) left to prove on the mid-major level, Brad Underwood jumped to Oklahoma State. (USA TODAY Sports)

Much like a baseball prospect who’s mashed his way through the minor leagues, there was simply nothing left for Underwood to prove at the mid-major level. His Stephen F. Austin teams went 59-1 in conference play over three seasons, winning the Southland Conference tournament each year he was there and bringing that same fire to the NCAA Tournament, winning two games as a double-digit seed and pushing a good Notre Dame team to the final second over the weekend. Underwood’s resume was overwhelming even before this season’s Second Round run, but the postseason certainly elevated the demand for his services, making it clear that the time had come for him to find a bigger challenge.

Underwood will find just that in the Big 12, whose coaches have a combined 43 Sweet Sixteen trips and eight Final Fours to their names. The biggest hurdle he’ll have to clear will be the demanding task of recruiting in Stillwater’s backyard, but his ties to the area as a McPherson (Kan.) native and as a two-year player at Kansas State and assistant under Bob Huggins and Frank Martin suggest he’s more than capable of doing the job.

He also checks the box of a splashy name that can reignite fan interest in a hurry. Normally, that wouldn’t be a major priority in a coaching search, but given Oklahoma State’s recent struggles to fill Gallagher-Iba Arena, Underwood’s spotlight-grabbing run to the Round of 32 could help jump-start a reversal of fan perceptions towards the program. This should help the program’s bottom line a bit, too.

The hiring doesn’t come without questions, of course. The Big 12 is nothing like the Southland Conference, and while Underwood may be familiar with it, it remains anyone’s guess as to whether he’ll meet the tremendous expectations that come with leading a proud program under the pressures of a high-dollar contract. Underwood would take a big first step towards that end if he can find a way to retain the services of guards Phil Forte and Jawun Forte, two key players who can make the Cowboys competitive in 2017, as he begins to mold the Oklahoma State program.

Brian Goodman (987 Posts)

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

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