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OSU Remembers 4 Lost in Plane Crash

Filed by KOSU News in Feature, Local News.
November 21, 2011

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The Oklahoma State community did its best to remember the four it lost last Thursday afternoon in a plane crash. Thousands crowded Gallagher Iba arena to pay their respects…

Time after time, the same words came up about Coach Budke: father figure. First it was interim head coach Jim Littell.

“Coach Budke simply changed lives and was a father figure to his players.”

Then one of those former players, Taylor Hardeman.

“Coach Budke was an amazing coach, but most of all an amazing man. He was a father figure to us all while we were away from home. Through good times and bad, he was always by our side, pushing us to be the best we could be.”

He was also a family man, as Coach Littell put it, but there were three circles to his family: friends, his team, and finally, but most importantly, his mother and father, daughter, two sons, and wife.

Whether it was the latest sports highlights for his sons, or his daughter’s growth into a young woman, Littell said Budke was a proud man.

“He would always, always brag on his kids. And that’s what I’ll miss the most.”

It’s no different for Assistant Coach Miranda Serna. She brought Taylor Hardeman to Oklahoma State, and blossomed into one of the best recruiters in the sport for a simple reason.

“Most of all, she was a big sister. She listened, she counseled, made suggestions and encouraged us along the way of our journey of life. She cared for others much more than she cared for herself,” said Hardeman.

Thousands filled Gallagher Iba Arena for the ceremony. Black dominated, not the usual standout orange. Pictures of all four framed the stage on the basketball court. And players, loved ones, and others wore a simple numeral four, with the initials of those lost.

“The emotion that I saw on Saturday when I had the privilege of addressing the girls on that team and the feeling that I got in that locker room,” said Athletic Director Mike Holder.

“That’s what a coach wants to know. When they’re gone that their players felt like that about them.”

They were more than good people, they were good at what they did. Budke and Serna took Oklahoma State from Big 12 doormat to top of the heap. Their winning record at the school isn’t because of their superb strategizing though, according to OSU President Burns Hargis.

“Summed up, they taught character. And if you do that, the W’s will take care of themselves.”

Olin Branstetter and his wife Paula cared about everything OSU, academics, athletics, the campus overall. Even though they didn’t make the headlines that Budke and Serna did, President Hargis says they deserved them…

“Dusty and Olin did so much for so many. They routinely flew cancer patients to treatment. They were much beloved by all who knew them, and were valuable members of our family. They were wonderful people.”

The coaches spent every day with their players, one of them Ally Clardy. She leaned on them for support, just like every other who ever put on the orange and black. She became a part of the Oklahoma State family, and the Cowgirls, and it’s because of Coach Kurt Budke.

“It’s hard to think that someday when I have kids I’m not going to be able to show them who I played for on TV. Because I envisioned, I envisioned being like ‘Hey, I know you don’t think I’m very cool, but I used to play for him’.”

She won’t be able to point to the TV, she won’t be able to introduce Kurt Budke to those kids. But Oklahoma State President Burns Hargis says they’ve learned from the lives lost in a plane crash in 2001. All you can do is press on.

“The holes in our hearts are just as empty as those ten years ago. Nothing ever fills them up, you never get over it. You just have to get through it.”

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