The more I hear Mike Gundy speak from Wednesday’s session at Big 12 Media Days, I become increasingly convinced his assertion about Texas and Oklahoma wasn’t a joke. Oklahoma State’s longtime head coach can parlay that he “jokingly” suggested the Longhorns and Sooners shouldn’t be involved in the league’s decision-making processes before departing for the Southeastern Conference in a few years.
Gundy is the longest-tenured head coach in the Big 12 by more than a decade, having started in Stillwater in 2005. Second, chronologically, is Iowa State’s Matt Campbell — a trendy target to jump to bigger programs — who started in Ames in 2016. Reggie Bush’s vacated Heisman season to Lamar Jackson dazzling at Louisville. That’s the minimum difference between Gundy and everyone else at the helm at a Big 12 school. His words matter; he knows that for better or worse. Gundy and his mop of a haircut should be taken seriously with every word unless you hear a rim shot at the end of a sentence.
“It’s interesting,” Gundy said at AT&T Stadium. “We go to conference meetings and OU and Texas are in there. They’re still in the conference. But I’m guessing when they leave, they’re scratching down things that can help them when they’re in the SEC. So it is an unusual situation. … I think there’s a business side of it that nowadays, people say, ‘It is what it is,’ which, 10 years ago, they might not even let them in meetings. The new commissioner (Brett Yormark), I mean honestly if I was him, I wouldn’t let OU and Texas in any meetings.”
The current eight Big 12 teams that’ll be with the conference moving forward preach unity and are looking ahead to the future of their holy matrimony. This is the last year the league will be at 10 teams. BYU, Houston, UCF and Cincinnati are moving in, and who really knows how quickly the divorce of the conference’s two strongest brands will play out. If it’s sour grapes from Gundy that Oklahoma prioritized the Red River rivalry over Bedlam, so be it. Or that the Cowboys aren’t heading with the Sooners to greener pastures.
Gundy throwing the idea of a responsibility exile for Oklahoma and Texas has validity to it. There’s a reason teams get postseason bans just for jumping from Division II to I — look at California Baptist or Bellarmine. It’s just not that simple when you look at this year’s Big 12 football scene. Oklahoma and Texas move the needle nationwide like no one else in the league. Yes, Oklahoma State and Baylor played in the conference’s championship game a year ago. But in terms of staying power, they’re miles behind the Longhorns and Sooners. It could be easier to adopt the mafioso attitude with more seats at the table in a year.
The comments themselves aren’t reckless. Gundy’s allowed to have his opinions and it’s clear he’s a genius when it comes to football, regardless of whether that extends beyond the gridiron. He’s also allowed to give his comments on whatever he chooses and face the consequences. Gundy’s platform is large and he’s aware of it. That’s why his comments on the future of the Big 12 have a large audience.
What is reckless about Gundy’s stance is it shows a lack of responsibility for his platform. Making a stump speech about how he feels about Texas and Oklahoma will require a response and may have no substance behind it. If Gundy is serious about stripping the Sooners and Longhorns of conference-wide power, bring it to the new commish. If not, your “joking” words have no meaning, which I’m sure isn’t Gundy’s intention.
Asserting that teams switching between high-level conferences, like USC and UCLA jumping to the Big Ten from the Pac-12, isn’t a dumb thought by itself. It’s the way Gundy went about it that’s dumb. Take care of your business behind the scenes first, then put a more concrete statement into the public eye. Needing to come up with a reply to a group of reporters because you’re on the record is a terrible excuse for prematurely giving that answer.
Revisiting this issue closer to the end of the season when the personnel for the 2023 Big 12 is more in focus would be more appropriate. I don’t blame Gundy for being upset that his team isn’t invited to the big kid’s table of college football and is stuck in a less-grand Power Five Conference. For now. He’s liable for not putting his team in a better position on the field to have more power to push the Sooners and Longhorns around and get the same big-money move.
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