Stillwater News Press

November 20, 2011

Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy visits families of coaches killed in plane crash

By Chris Day
Stillwater NewsPress

STILLWATER, Okla. — Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy and his wife, Kristen, paid their respects to the families of Cowgirls basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant coach Miranda Serna on Saturday, Gundy said Sunday night.

The coach, his staff and football office personnel will attend the memorial service for the OSU coaches killed Thursday in a small-plane crash while on a recruiting trip to Little Rock, Ark. The service will be at 1 p.m. Monday in Gallagher-Iba Arena.

Oklahoma State’s football players aren’t required to attend the service, Gundy said, but he expects many will show their support for the women’s basketball team, the coaches’ families and the Oklahoma State University family.

“It’s a choice that they have,” Gundy said.

The Oklahoma State football coach called the deaths of Budke, 50, Serna, 36,  former state Sen. Olin  Branstetter, 82, and his wife, Paula, 79, a terrible tragedy. Branstetter piloted the single-engine plane. His wife was a passenger, too.

Gundy said he realized what is important while visiting with the Budke and Serna families Saturday.

“The game of football is so small compared to the tragedy that happened last Thursday,” Gundy said.

The Oklahoma State coach said he was informed of the deaths on Friday morning before breakfast. The tragedy didn’t register at first. When the realization struck, it struck hard, he said.

“You can’t eat. You feel like you’ve got to throw up. It’s just hard. It’s a difficult situation,” he said.

Oklahoma State is familiar with this type of tragedy. In January 2001, 10 people associated with the Cowboys’ men’s basketball program died in a plane crash in Colorado.

Oklahoma State remembered The 10 on the 10th anniversary of that crash about 10 months ago during ceremonies at Gallagher-Iba Arena.

Today, the grieving and healing starts again.

“The Oklahoma State people unfortunatedly have been through this before. We will be strong. We will rally. We will be there to help their families and do everything we can to start the healing process,” Gundy said.