The Hair Makes The Man: Mike Gundy Sets Fun Tone at Oklahoma State


FRISCO, Texas – Mike Gundy’s current hairstyle – yeah, it’s still a thing – evokes a classic Seinfield episode.

“It’s real and it’s spectacular.”

A year ago at the Big 12’s football media days, the Oklahoma State coach appeared with a haircut often referred to as “business in the front, party in the back.” A mullet. His hair flowed to the back of his collar. An Arkansas waterfall.

Tuesday was the Cowboys’ turn to face the media and Gundy’s coiffe could have been scheduled for its own question and answer session. And the man wearing the haircut appears so relaxed and at ease with himself you would think that he’s the coach who recently retired, not Bedlam rival Bob Stoops.

“The players like it, they think it’s fun, I like to have fun with them,” he said. “I’m having more fun now than I ever have. I think that’s important when you try to stay in this profession for a long time. Truthfully, I’ve gotten to a point in my personal life where I have security in a lot of areas. So it’s allowed me to relax.”

A long-sought contract extension was recently finalized and signed. Oklahoma State has won 10 games in consecutive seasons for the third time in school history (two of those coming on Gundy’s watch) and this season’s team might be as good as the 2011 team that went 12-1 and just missed a chance to play for the national championship.

“I think we have as good a chance to win the league as anybody,” Gundy said. “Health is gonna be important, (for) multiple teams. You’ve got to get a break here and there. But this team should expect and prepare to win the conference.”

OK, enough boring media days football talk. Back to the hair.

Gundy claims that his barber is under more pressure than he is. Kathy Sweeney at Klip It Up is where the Cowboys coach goes for clipping. Gundy said he had given her phone number to a reporter who wanted to call her for a story on mullet upkeep.

“I actually cut it a couple weeks ago,” he said. “It was at ponytail potential at one time, so I either had to go with that or trim it a little. I decided to trim it.”

Senior quarterback Mason Rudolph, who maintains a classic cut that would fit in any Fortune 500 boardroom, backs the coach’s decision.

“I think he could have done a pony tail for good part of the off-season…I’m thankful he didn’t,” he said.

But before the trim, Mike Gundy messed with the social life of his teenage sons. They had invited some girls over for a pool party. Dad made the scene with the ponytail and swim trunks. End of pool party.

“My wife told me, ‘You just ruined those girls’ image of you for the rest of their lives. That’s the last thing they needed to see,’” said Gundy, who could hardly keep a straight face as he relayed the story.

While the mullet has been a sidebar for the past year, a few months ago Gundy was photographed during a rattlesnake hunt. He says skydiving is not on the to-do list, noting the comedian who once asked why a person would jump from a perfectly functioning aircraft.

Soon after his mullet started gaining fame, Gundy appeared on ESPN with NHL analyst Barry Melrose, another mullet man. Whether it’s Gundy relaxing fun, having a mid-life crisis or cleverly promoting the program, it’s working.

“Most of what we do comes from these guys,” he said, pointing to the school’s media relations staff. “I’m the fool standing up there but these guys think of a lot of it. We need to get our brand out there, it’s important to us.”

During his big-stage news conference, he mentioned he thought the ESPN appearance with Melrose was worth a few million dollars in marketing and exposure.

“When I was on with Melrose, people were talking about Oklahoma State,” Gundy said. “I don’t know what ESPN charges for a 30-second ad, but I was on for four minutes so that was worth eight commercials.

“I think that would be a good subject for marketing majors, graduate students to look into. I was very fortunate to get a new contract and should probably get an extension and a raise for that free marketing for the university.”

Gundy turns 50 on Aug. 12. That’s a significant milestone for a coach who burst on the national scene for the first time with his “I’m a man, I’m 40 rant.”

Mike Gundy doesn’t think that many of his players are aware of his post-game tirade that happened before social media helped turn videos viral. Randolph was a 12-year-old in Rock Hill, S.C.

“If you watched SportsCenter back then, you saw it,” he said. “When he turns 50, I doubt that he’ll do it again unless one of you guys are unlucky and he goes off on you. You can be part of history.”

Gundy’s goofiness has extended to his talented team; if the Cowboys remain this loose during the season, they’ll never feel any pressure.

Senior punter Zach Sinor, who is sporting a Fu Manchu mustache, has started his own “Heisman Trophy” campaign complete with a t-shirt that he wore during afternoon interviews; a hashtag; a one-page promotional pamphlet; and a website straight out of 1995.

Senior wide receiver James Washington, who his teammates consider one of the team’s quietest players, showed up wearing a wig and carrying a plastic snake and a “Big
Daddy” coffee cup . Gundy had a cup like that on his podium during a spring practice media session. And of course, that went viral.

And now, one more time … back to the hair.

“It’s got some curl in it,” Oklahoma State senior linebacker Chad Whitener said of Gundy’s flowing locks. “I don’t support the trim, but I support the curl. He’s got some product in it.”
Well, not according to Gundy.

“Just shampoo it every three days when I shower,” he said, obviously – we think – underestimating his showering frequency. “I use Suave…that’s about the cheapest there is, right? In fact, I think it’s two-in-one (shampoo and conditioner).”

Mike Gundy, folks. He’ll be here all season. Tip your wait staff and try the veal.