Burns adds motivation to OSU Team

Tuesday, September 5th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

STILLWATER, Okla. – Oklahoma State football players and coaches didn't need any extra motivation, but first-year Tulsa head coach Keith Burns provided it, anyway.

Burns, speaking in July at the Tulsa Press Club, said, "I think we are going to pass up Oklahoma State. I think we're two programs going in different directions."

It was an astounding comment from a coach – Burns is an L.D. Bell graduate who played collegiately at Arkansas – whose team hadn't taken a snap under his direction and was whipped, 46-9, last year in Stillwater.

Oklahoma State, meanwhile, still is seething from a 35-20 beating at Tulsa in 1998, an outcome that took the bloom off the Cowboys' 8-4 Alamo Bowl season of 1997 and steered them toward back-to-back 5-6 seasons.

The last two years have positioned OSU coach Bob Simmons directly on the hot seat. For his team to have a chance for a winning season and bowl berth, the Cowboys almost certainly have to sweep their non-Big 12 schedule, which also includes Southwest Texas next week and Southern Mississippi Sept. 23.

Though no one thinks Burns' comment will matter after Saturday's 6 p.m. kickoff, several players said Monday they know they'll be reminded of it with locker room notices this week.

Simmons disagreed: "That quote doesn't have to be posted. I'm not counting on that quote to fire up our football team."

Earlier, Simmons had said: "From a professional ethics standpoint, as stated by the American Football Coaches Association, the only program I'm allowed to talk about is Oklahoma State. That's the high road that I choose to take. It's not about Keith Burns. It's about our players playing the game.

"You talk about selling tickets and selling your program. There's a way to do that without being distasteful about it. Different coaches choose different avenues."

O-State's recent history in Tulsa – the Cowboys have lost five of their last six visits to Skelly Stadium – should be even more of a reminder that the Hurricane can ruin their season before the first frost. Both times Simmons has taken teams to Tulsa, he's lost.

Charlie Smith is a free-lance writer based in Tulsa.