A Look Back at Cowboy Basketball During the Ford Era.
“The Kentucky graduate never finished better than third in the Big 12. In fact, Ford finished sixth or worse in the seven of his nine seasons.” Quote from Gary Parrish of cbssports.com
Written By: Jordan Branstetter
After the 2015–2016 Oklahoma State Cowboys men’s basketball season came to another disappointing conclusion, speculation was surfacing for a coaching change in Stillwater. There was one major issue, money.
Travis Ford, the head coach of the Cowboys, was supposed to be the head coach under contract until the 2019 season. Which would mark the end of a contract that has been deemed one of the more controversial and lucrative in program history.
The men’s basketball program has been in shambles and crowd attendance and on-court performance have been painful to witness over the years which led to a desire for change. A change that alumni, big donors, and fans have been seeking for. But first, let’s take a step back to the year 2008 and what it meant for the future of Oklahoma State basketball.
After the firing of head coach Sean Sutton during April of 2008, the Cowboys were looking to go in a different direction, one that steered away from the Sutton family. In comes Travis Ford, hired in the spring of 2008, with hopes to turn around the program. The Kentucky native had been the head coach at University of Massachusetts from 2005–2008 until being brought in at Oklahoma State by University Athletic Director Mike Holder.
In his first season, Ford led the Cowboys to a 23–12 record and helped the Pokes receive an NCAA tournament bid. Following a first round victory over Tennessee, the team then lost to #1 seed Pittsburgh. After the conclusion of the 2008–2009 season, spirits were high for Pokes nation and that resulted in a 10- year contract extension for Travis Ford. A contract so lucrative that Travis Ford was making more money than North Carolina head coach Roy Williams. Over the course of the following 8 seasons, Ford couldn’t deliver the Cowboys another NCAA tournament win. Overall, Ford had an NCAA tournament record of 1–5 with the Cowboys, with the lone victory coming in his first season as head coach.
During the seasons of 2011–2014, the Cowboys had talented teams that featured Marcus Smart, Markel Brown, Lebryan Nash, and Phil Forte III. During that time, Ford failed to win a NCAA tournament game and those team massively underachieved. After Nash, Brown, and Smart left, the ball went rolling downhill, and fast.
The Cowboys went 12–20 during the 2015–2016 season, which marked Ford’s final year as head coach for the Cowboys basketball team. Ford had an overall coaching record of 155–111 as head coach of the Cowboys. Ford’s big blemish on his resume included his success, or lack there of, in the Big 12 conference. As reported by Gary Parrish of cbssports.com, “the Kentucky graduate never finished better than third in the Big 12. In fact, Ford finished sixth or worse in the seven of his nine seasons.”
The rest of Ford’s contract was bought out by the school for the 7.2 million owed through 2019 for Ford to no longer coach. This past March it was announced that Travis Ford had been fired and shortly after, a new head coach was named, Brad Underwood.