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Column: Time for OSU to draw a line in the sand

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Mike Gundy waves at the crowd during the Oklahoma State football pep rally on January 21, 2020 at the Student Union in Stillwater.

Mike Gundy has a track record of saying and doing ridiculous things, but sometimes his comments are insensitive.

In November 2018, he went on one of his signature rants about the state of the newest generation when safety Thabo Mwaniki announced he would transfer out of the program. Gundy said he is a believer in snowflakes, and that liberalism is ruining the country. 

Calling someone a snowflake has come to be a derogatory term to describe someone who is a soft or sensitive person. Calling players who decide that a certain school isn’t the best for them is one way to make some other recruits think twice. 

At the time the comment wasn’t met with too many negative emotions from the fan base, but it should have. Gundy then walked back his comments by saying, the comment was not about any players that have transferred from the OSU football program. 

In April 2020, Gundy said in a press conference that he had stumbled upon One American News Network as a news source, that in his opinion, it is not left or right-leaning and reports only the facts. This is a mind-boggling comment as OAN is a known extreme right news site and has stated that the Black Lives Matter movement is a “farce.” 

Now for the most recent incident. On Monday, a photo was posted on Twitter of Gundy sporting an OAN t-shirt while on a fishing trip with his kids. The shirt was met with a mixture of responses, mostly negative. The biggest of which came when star running back Chuba Hubbard said he would not participate with OSU until things change. 

Players, both current and former, shared their support for Hubbard for taking a stand for what he believes. 

Gundy finally made a statement alongside Hubbard. While the speed and body language in the video surprised some, players and fans generally accepted the video despite no distinct apology from Gundy. 

Many people in the national media began to question Gundy and rip his actions. Questions were swirling around his job security. Clearly things were not resolved. 

Then the following day Gundy released an emotionless apology video that clearly was read of a script. Gundy said that when he found out about OAN’s stance on the BLM movement he was disgusted. 

Which should serve as a reminder —this goes deeper than football and far beyond the football field. 

There is a lot to consider here. First, OSU football is miles better than it used to be thanks to Gundy. 

Gundy has an all-time record of 129-64, which ranks for the 11th most wins among active coaches. In his 15 seasons, he has six seasons of 10 or more wins and only one losing season. The Cowboys have been to a bowl game the last 14 seasons under Gundy and won one Big 12 championship. The 14 straight winning seasons is the longest streak in school history. 

Although the production on the field is among the top in college football, it has dropped off over the past two seasons. After three straight 10-win seasons, the Cowboys have won only seven and eight wins respectively. 

The 2020-21 season is supposed to be “OSU’s year” as Gundy is set to have his best team on paper since 2011, and it may even end up as the best ever. 

But it is off to a rough start and practice has barely started. Alienating players is never a good sign for things to come, though players seem to have bought back into the program at least on the surface after Gundy’s public apology.  

When allegations of possible racial incidents regarding Dabo Sweeney came to light, former and current players came rushing to his defense, but that didn’t seem to happen to Gundy before the apology. 

This shows how much the players were hurt by Gundy’s actions and that the situation was bigger than a lot of fans thought it was. 

Former OSU and current University of South Florida linebacker Patrick Macon took to Twitter to share an incident that occurred when he played in Stillwater. 

Hubbard went on ESPN’s First Take to discuss his relationship with Gundy and described it as “a work in progress.” That isn’t as good as most people thought after they saw the multiple apology videos put out after the incident. 

A lot of people assumed everything was fixed after the player’s reactions to Gundy’s apology video, but as Hubbard’s statement shows, that wasn’t the case. Obviously, it takes time to make changes in a program, and no one knows exactly what changes need to be made. 

On top of that, an incident dating back to Gundy’s days as quarterback for OSU has resurfaced. Alfred Williams, a former linebacker for the University of Colorado, alleges that Gundy used a racial slur in a 1989 game. Williams told the Oklahoman that he didn’t want Gundy fired, but wanted an apology. 

OSU does not get much national media attention, but in the last few months, it seems that most of the coverage is negative. 

There is no argument that Gundy is a capable coach to win games and get to a bowl game, but at what point does OSU have to draw a line and say the off-the-field issues are too much of a problem?

It should be soon because bad publicity is a major issue when it comes to college sports. 

Recruiting is a key to success and with negative publicity, recruits are not going to consider the school. 

Gundy is owed $5.25 million for the 2020 season and that only goes up over the next four seasons. In total, he has $21.75 million remaining on his contract. In the event of a buyout, Gundy would be owed more than $16 million.

There comes a time where a generation gap exists between coaches and players. Take Bob Stoops at the University of Oklahoma for example. He was still performing on the field, but it was time for a change. Coaches are getting younger and younger in both college and NFL. Sean McVay, Zac Taylor, Kliff Kingsbury and Lincoln Riley are just a few that have gotten prominent jobs. 

Despite the fact that Gundy has done amazing things for the university, it may be time for OSU to draw a line in the sand.