STILLWATER -- University of Texas first-year offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich remembers the meeting. It took place at a small private airport in Virginia. Oklahoma State head football coach Mike Gundy was recruiting and had used his computer to check out some of the high-powered offenses at various levels of college football as he searched for a new offensive coordinator for the Cowboys. He was intrigued by the offensive coordinator at Shippensburg State that in two years had turned a modest wing-T offense into a uptempo shredder of defenses and had produced a quarterback that won the Harlon Hill Trophy (Division II version of the Heisman Trophy).
Gundy had his private plane land at the airport and Yurcich drove over from Shippensburg to meet with the head coach that was about to give him his big break in coaching.
"When you are in a situation like that you can't really think how it is going to impact your life. I tried to stay as focused as I could," Yurcich said of the meeting with Gundy. "If I had thought about the impact of that thing I probably would have been a stuttering fool. I would have probably thrown up all over myself to be honest with you."
Honestly, it was a life changer in many ways not the least of which was financial. At the time, Yurcich's wife, Julie, a former cross country runner at Edinboro that met Mike when he was coaching at the school was running daycare out of their home to help bring in more income. Yurcich was making around $50,000 as the offensive coordinator at Shippensburgh. Then came the meeting.
"It was an organizational meeting. He wanted to know how I organized and how I communicated with my staff," Yurcich explained. "You know it was more philosophical with how I approached the teaching of the game. He had watched a lot of film, so he knew the X-and-Os. That was all on the tape and this meeting was more of a get to know you and how you teach, how you structure your offense."
Gundy liked what he had seen on video and he liked Yurcich. The next paycheck that the Yurcich's received when they moved to Stillwater was the first at a new salary and tax status with $400,000 a year. By the time Yurcich left Oklahoma State for Ohio State right after the AutoZone LIberty Bowl win over Missouri after the 2018 season, he was making $900,000 a year. That is life changing.
Gundy talks about Yurcich and loyalty. In the Monday Zoom conference with the media loyalty was about every other word in Gundy's description of his former offensive coordinator that will now be coaching against him with Texas on Saturday.
Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles has a different view of Yurcich. When he came in from Duke in the winter of 2018 to be the Cowboys new defensive coordinator, Yurcich greeted him at spring practice with a high-powered offense and turbo speed in executing it.
"Thanks for reminding me, I remember," Knowles said agreeing that Yurcich indoctrinated him into Big 12 offensive football.
Now, Yurcich looks at Knowles' Cowboy defense, the best so far this season in the Big 12 and sees plenty to be concerned about.
"They are very, very good on third down. They are good in the red zone. They are good against the run and the pass," Yurcich said covering it all. "They create a lot of havoc with their alignments and their blitzing. Their ability to play man (coverage) makes them a real problem."
It's a homecoming that Yurcich knew he would have when he left Ohio State last December and took the job as offensive coordinator with the Longhorns. He is loyal to Gundy, but his loyalty Saturday is to the Longhorns and his players and fellow coaches.
"You have to treat this game like any other," Yurcich emphasized. "If you get caught up in the emotions then you become less effective. You have to treat this like any other game. You have to treat this like any other important ballgame, which this one is like any other. That is the approach that you have to take. I would be disappointed in myself if I took any other approach and got caught up in the emotion of treating this different than any faceless opponent. What are their tendencies on third down? What are our calls? What do we need to attack? What do we need to be looking for? Those are the things that I will be thinking about as we approach this ballgame."
I believe him. Yurcich is guy that has a little edge to him. I always like that. Gundy has an edge to him and Jim Knowles has an edge to him. This Oklahoma State defense has a big edge.
All of that will make this Halloween Homecoming for Yurcich and the Cowboys really interesting.