Hargis Retiring as President and Holder's contract up in June, So Is OSU Seeing Changing Leadership?

Robert Allen

STILLWATER -- The announcent came on Friday afternoon, but give the Oklahoma State University student newspaper, The O'Colly, credit for officially breaking the story on Thursday that Oklahoma State University President V. Burns Hargis is retiring from his post at the end of the academic calender for 2020-21 on July 1, 2021. There is also a possibility that Oklahoma State athletics will be looking for a new leader, which could allow for those two positions to come in as a tandem. It has been common at Power Five Division I schools for new leadership in those two areas to be timed or arranged to come in together. 

Hargis 13-years on the job have been the most successful in so many ways including fund raising, enrollment, academic success, and the building of new facilities. In some ways, under Hargis and the other OSU leadership, the look and infrastructure of the campus has changed and strengthened. 

“Ann and I have been blessed and honored to serve Oklahoma State University the past 12-and-a-half years," Hargis said in a release and on a video presentation on the school's website. "The opportunity to be president of my alma mater exceeded all my expectations. OSU is a special place. It is where I found friends who became family for a young man who lived in many different places growing up. I received an excellent education, preparing me for my careers in law and banking, and culminating at OSU as president. Ann and I are grateful for the faith and trust extended to us by the Regents and the support from faculty, staff, students, and alumni. There remains much work to be done, and in that regard, I look forward to the opportunities and challenges ahead, and welcoming a new president next summer,” Hargis said.

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President Hargis with head football coach Mike Gundy and T. Boone Pickens (seated) watching Oklahoma State players on Pro Day 2018 inside the Sherman Smith Training Center.Robert Allen - Pokes Report Publisher

Under Hargis’ leadership, as we touched on at the top of the story, OSU has flourished, including the University’s first-ever billion-dollar fundraising campaign called “Branding Success,” which raised over $1.3 billion. In all, OSU has raised $2.2 billion during the Hargis years. A huge chunk of the fund raising came in athletics where huge donations from the late T. Boone Pickens, Michael and Anne Greenwood, and most recently, Cecil O'Brate brought new facilities to the northeast corner of the campus where athletics are primarily situated.

“Oklahoma State University is stronger today than at any time in its 130-year history due to the historic leadership of Burns Hargis. We are grateful beyond words for the dynamic leadership and dedicated service of both Burns and Ann. It isn’t easy to quantify their influence and impact. They have been immense and at the top in instilling genuine pride in our Cowboy heritage, values, culture, and land-grant mission,” said Rick Davis, Chair of the OSU/A&M Board of Regents.

One of those other leaders that has worked with Hargis in creating the "salad days" of Oklahoma State University and their athletics and facilities is longtime successful golf coach and current athletic director Mike Holder. Holder gets the credit for bringing Pickens along from being a curious alumnus to having both feet in the circle and giving large amounts of his wealth to build facilities and encourage others to do the same. 

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Mike Holder has been the athletic director at Oklahoma State for 15-years as he moved from golf coach to the current position in September of 2005.Pat Kinnison - Pokes Report chief photographer

Holder's recognition that football needed to be the unquestioned engine that drives the athletic department has led to unparalleled success in football and growth overall in athletics. 

Holder was given a contract extension and raise in 2018 and that contract will be up approximately one month before Hargis' retirement. 

“Coach Holder’s compensation has been well below market for years,” Hargis said when Holder's contract was extended. “Under his leadership, Oklahoma State is one of the most well-rounded, competitive athletic programs in the country. Mike has led historic improvements in facilities and performance of our athletes and, with this adjustment, his compensation will be more in line with Big 12 athletic directors.”

The salary was raised from the previous figure of $640,000 annually to $950,000 during the term if the three-year contract. 

Hargis will turn 75-years-old next week, so he will retire at that age next July. Mike Holder just turned 72-year-old in August. For both men leading their departments through the COVID-19 pandemic has to have made things more difficult. These have been tough days, financially and emotionally.

Holder has given no indication that he intends to retire when this current contract is up, but it could make sense and work in harmony with the retirement of Hargis. Many Presidents like to install their own selections in key positions within the University and athletics director is always a key position, at Oklahoma State and any other Big 12 school. The same Board of Regents that will make the final choice on the new President at Oklahoma State will also make the decision on an extension of the athletic director's contract. 

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Comments (2)
No. 1-1

Bleh.... replacing both only makes sense if both spots are open. It makes zero sense unless the new President has input into the hire, and the timing here is just too close, and there is no reason on Earth to "replace" Holder if he is not ready to go on his own accord.