ORLANDO, Fla. – At this point in Mike Gundy’s coaching career, he’s worked with enough staffs that he has connections all across the college football landscape.
But with the Camping World Bowl pitting Gundy’s Oklahoma State program against Virginia Tech, there may be more connections than most other coaching staffs – especially outside of the Big 12 Conference.
Oddly enough, the two head coaches of the teams were never on the same coaching staff, but do still share a unique history.
Gundy actually recruited Justin Fuente, who played quarterback for Tulsa Union, while he was the offensive coordinator under Pat Jones from 1994-95. Fuente did stay in-state, but signed with Bedlam rival Oklahoma before transferring to Murray State.
“I actually recruited him out of high school, so we’re pretty familiar with each other,” Gundy said. “… He was a good player, and when he came out there weren’t very many throwing quarterbacks at that time – my brother was a thrower, and Fuente was kind of that next guy that showed up in the state.
“We really wanted him, but it didn’t work out for us. But really wanted him at that time.”
While he didn’t land at Oklahoma State, instead being lured to Norman by OU’s hire of Howard Schnellenberger – “which obviously didn’t work out too well,” Fuente said – the Tulsa Union graduate did recall the influence of being recruited by Gundy, before the Midwest City native become a head coach.
“I just remember when I was a kid growing up, both he and his younger brother kind of being the first quarterbacks that I ever remember in Oklahoma that threw the ball and went on to play in college, and when I got to high school and got a chance to meet him and talk to him a little bit and be recruited by him, I was a little bit in awe of him,” Fuente said.
But the most compelling connection for the Cowboy coach is with Virginia Tech’s offensive line coach Vance Vice.
Vice is a graduate of Oklahoma State, playing for Pat Jones from 1985-89. He was Gundy’s teammate, and neighbor in college.
“Vance and I were pretty big buddies in college, and lived across the hall from each other in the dorm at the time that we were playing,” Gundy said. “We’ve been friends for a long time.”
The paths between the Virginia Tech staff and Oklahoma State run even deeper.
Fuente’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, Brad Cornelson, is also an Oklahoma native.
Hailing from Texhoma, Cornelson called Oklahoma State home several times during his coaching career.
Cornelson was a graduate assistant from 2001-02, and joined Gundy’s staff in 2008 as the quality control coach for one year before becoming the offensive coordinator at Northeastern State in Tahlequah.
“We worked together for Les Miles,” Gundy said. “… He was always on the offensive side of the ball, and at that time was a young coach working hard trying to make it and he’s obviously done very well for himself now.”
James Shibest, Virginia Tech’s special teams coordinator and tight ends coach, actually got his first break into coaching at Oklahoma State. He was a graduate assistant from 1990-91 – while Gundy was a wide receivers coach (1990) and quarterbacks coach (1991-93).
Now, the coaching staffs will square off with the hopes of delivering a 10-win season to their players and fans in the Camping World Bowl.
Follow Jason Elmquist on Twitter for updates from Orlando on the Camping World Bowl. Also be sure to check stwnewspress.com for his web-exclusive blog for a behind the scenes look around the Camping World Bowl.