The dog days are here. Oklahoma State’s baseball and softball teams concluded their postseason runs more than a week ago. If you’re like me, you found yourself with a little more time to kill this past weekend than you were used to.
I decided to spend my smidgen of newfound free time reflecting on a sports year unlike any other and ponder the next to come. Here are the storylines that rose to the top in my mind.
1. Excellence Makes for a Shorter Offseason
Despite being a weird year for one big reason, OSU’s 2020-21 was a fun year for several others.
In many years, and if covering other schools, I would have rolled out my summer soliloquy much sooner. But, as incoming athletic director Chad Weiberg pointed out, OSU didn’t have a single sport miss the postseason, and that made for a late start to summer. The honey-do list around the Casa de Cox is lengthy, and calling.
Weiberg went on, noting OSU’s strong finishes in wrestling, soccer and cross-country. All that accomplishment couldn’t be contained in Twitter’s character limit, apparently.
2. A New Regime
As of July 1, the Mike Holder-Burns Hargis era will come to an end. A 14-year partnership that saw OSU rise to new heights in football and facilities. And all of those impressive accomplishments Weiberg was boasting came about under the watch of the outgoing AD and president.
Weiberg and incoming university president Dr. Kayse Shrum will each assume their new roles in just a few weeks, and they’ll have their own legacies to build.
Weiberg, who OSU sharply called home as an up-and-coming Deputy Director at Texas Tech in 2017, has already gotten started with an extension to lock up an ever faster riser, Mike Boynton. OSU signed its men’s basketball coach to 7-year deal.
Those are the types of deals that define such legacies, and they can’t be accurately judged until years later, sometimes ever. But the good news for this new partnership is that they take the reins of university and athletic department chock full of winners.
3. Who Will Succeed OSU’s Superstars?
For the first time since 2014, the Cowboys will have to replace both their leading rusher and their leading receiver in the same offseason. And with all due respect to Desmond Roland and Brandon Sheperd, Chuba Hubbard and Tylan Wallace were absolute superstars who, when healthy — or just while wearing cleats — changed the way defenses approached the Pokes. They won’t be so easy to replace.
Do the Cowboys have anyone at either position that can keep opposing DCs up late at night? That remains to be seen, but there are some candidates.
Brennan Presley looked like the heir apparent to Tylan during OSU’s bowl win, but that was just one game. Braydon Johnson is a known playmaker who can stretch a defense. Several others could have something to say about it, but none are proven.
At running back, the Cowboys return some productive pieces like LD Brown, Dezmon Jackson and Dominic Richardson. I’d expect Brown to start but it seems like more of a RB-by-committee approach may be the answer. And that might put even more pressure on quarterback Spencer Sanders as he enters Year 3.
The future does look bright with OSU’s incoming recruiting class being its highest ranked since 2014 while next year’s is on-pace to be Gundy’s best ever.
4. Bring Back the Rowdy
It really is a shame that Cade Cunningham will never lace ’em up in front of a full GIA.
With OSU’s venues now completely opened, we’re set for an all-time atmosphere inside Gallagher-Iba Arena. And despite the departure of its superstar, Oklahoma State looks like it could field a Big 12 contender next season with virtually everyone else returning and former five-star prospect Bryce Thompson highlighting a 2021 class full of transfers. At the very least, they should be fun as hell to watch.
And to make things even rowdier, OSU is expanding the student section to surround three sides of Eddie Sutton Court.
Do yourself a favor and get to a hoops game or two this year. And don’t forget to take in a couple of Cowboy wrestling duals. They can get quite rowdy, as well.
5. Getting Closer to Normal
With the nation continuing to reopen this summer — and barring any setbacks — the start of this next sports year in fall should be a return to a more traditional fan experience.
Last year we were just glad to have sports to consume, on any medium. But 12,000 fans taking in a game in a 60,000-seat stadium not only dilutes the in-person experience, it waters down the entire event. The echo carries over the waves and the stream.
We got a preview of what’s to come with some late-spring events. I was especially impressed with the crowds at Cowgirl Stadium in the regional and super regional rounds. And a WCWS should be on any sports fan’s bucket list.
Now we look forward to a rowdy GIA and a raucous BPS. As long as it can be done safely, that’s the way college sports are meant to be. I can’t wait.
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