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Monday, January 2, 2012
OSU working to separate business, pleasure

By David Ubben

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Oklahoma State players arrived for their first BCS game ready for a whole lot of fun. It's a bowl game. They're supposed to be fun.

Even, perhaps especially, the big ones.

There's time for practice, but there's a whole lot of time for fun. Early in the trip, players' curfews are lax. Running back Joseph Randle and a few other teammates hit the town to celebrate his 20th birthday early in the week. Brandon Weeden took a few teammates out to play golf.

Even coach Mike Gundy took a few moments to share a minute with a mechanical bull that will live forever on the Internet.

Players have raved about the meals they've had, which included ones at an all-you-can-eat Brazilian steakhouse and a fancy Italian eatery.

There's plenty of activities during the day, too, but offensive coordinator Todd Monken offered a reminder of what the week, regardless of the bowl, really means.

"[Players] may have all these stories of going out, girls, and having a great time and a ball and all of that, but I’ll tell you, none of those memories mean a dang thing unless you go out and play well and win the bowl game," he said. "The fondest memories I have of the bowl games I played in are whether we won or lost. I can’t remember a darn thing about an aquarium or a zoo, but what we did on the field, because that’s how we’re judged."

It's how the nation will ultimately judge the best team in Oklahoma State history. And almost certainly, it will determine the kind of taste the Oklahoma State faithful have left in their mouths after an unforgettable season.

Monken has a job to do.

"Everyone else comes to the games and has a heck of a time," Monken said, "but we’re grinding our butt off trying to make sure that we don’t put out a crappy product for the 30,000 who come out here and pay a bunch of money to be here."

He laughed off his serious tone on what's supposed to be a lighthearted week prior to a historic game for the Oklahoma State program. He noted that all the coaches remarked how good it was to see wives and kids enjoy a week of vacation without the pressures facing the guys who'll be wearing pads or those wearing headsets on the sideline.

It's the coaches' and players' job to make sure that players can turn that focus on when, to quote two noted New Zealanders, it's "business time."

"We’re worried about everything in that area. I think about it every day," Gundy said. "But I believe that they need to enjoy themselves and be out here with the team. A lot of them have family out here and hopefully they understand the importance of the game, because that’s why we came out here. We talked about that from day one. We want them to have a lot of fun out here, but also understand that we came out here to play well and hopefully win the game."

On Saturday night, players, coaches and families went off the grid to celebrate the new year as one big family.

Monday night, it'll be time to come together one more time not for team-building, fun or to say goodbye.

They'll suit up to win.

"‘You know what, I don’t know how else to say it, but as coaches, our self-worth and all we’ll remember about this bowl game," Monken said, "is how we play on Monday night."