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Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy has some, uh, interesting opinions about the coronavirus and the pandemic’s potential impact on college football.
Gundy met with media members via teleconference on Tuesday and said that he hoped coaches would be able to come work at the team’s offices on May 1. He also said that he wanted to bring players back to campus as soon as it was made possible because they’re healthy young men and a lot are able to fight off. Why?
“Because we need to continue to budget and run money through the state of Oklahoma,” he said.
Seriously. Let’s dive into Gundy’s comments on coronavirus and football.
Big 12 has a ban on in-person activities through May 31
Gundy started his teleconference with a 20-minute soliloquy about the coronavirus and its impacts on American life. Gundy said he was “a little disappointed in all the negativity” from the mainstream media and wondered if that “negativity” was politically-motivated.
He also repeatedly said that the advice of doctors should be heeded throughout any football decision-making, though Gundy’s May 1 target date for coaches and staffers to return to the football facilities is predicated on his belief that testing could be available for staffers and players. People would be tested before they were allowed back into the facilities.
“I’m thinking in three or four weeks we can have the tests ready and available for people that aren’t sick based on can we test the employees, the 100 people that work in our building, can we swab them and clear them to come into the building and get back to work,” Gundy said.
“Once we’ve done that, I’m looking to start testing the players and bring them back. How fast that can happen based on the tests available, I can’t say right now. But that’s the plan. We have to have a plan and the plan right now is for that to start on May 1. It might get backed up two weeks. I don’t know. I can’t make that call. But if it does, we’ll start with the employees of this company then we’ll bring in the players slowly but surely.”
There are a couple of potential problems with that theory, of course. And that’s not even mentioning the far-from-guaranteed chances that tests could be available for everyone associated with Oklahoma State football.
The coronavirus won’t have vanished by May 1. Players and coaches could get the virus after getting tested for it simply from going to the store or somewhere else in public. There’s no real way you can lock everyone down who has access to the football building. Gundy noted that and said that anyone who got the coronavirus after the facility opened would be quarantined.
Oklahoma State, after quotes from Gundy’s teleconference made the rounds, released a statement saying it will “adhere to the advice of public health experts” and “will not compromise the health and well-being” of its campus community.
“Everyone wants to return to some degree of normalcy as soon as possible. As for Oklahoma State University, we will adhere to the advice of public health experts who are making informed decisions in the best interest of the citizens of our nation and state based on sound scientific data,” the university said.
“We will also abide by the federal and state mandates as well as Big 12 guidelines. We will not compromise the health and well-being of our campus community. This virus is deadly and we will do our part at Oklahoma State to help blunt the spread.
There’s also a Big 12 ban on in-person activities through May 31 to consider. The Big 12’s ban extends to all sports and says “no organized, in-person team activities of any type, in any location” are allowed and “No in-person, voluntary workouts, film study sessions, meetings, technique drills or captains’ practices/OTA sessions of any type, in any location [are allowed] until a permissible date is established by the NCAA.”
The NCAA and the Big 12 sure don’t seem likely to let activities happen in less than four weeks.
Remember, players are amateurs
The most troubling part of Gundy’s comments may be his idea that players need to play to make money for the school and other entities. Remember, players can’t make money for themselves. The NCAA has fought hard to say that college athletes are amateurs and — so far — unable to draw a salary or make money off their name and image rights.
Saying that players need to get back to campus so that football can begin for the state to make money is an incredibly obvious way of saying just how little power players have in college athletics as schools rake in tens of millions of dollars through TV contracts propped up by the popularity of football.
Gundy, who made over $5 million in 2019, said that he thought the football program represented $77 million of Oklahoma State’s athletic budget. And he wasn’t opposed to the idea of potentially sequestering players in one dorm to help them get back to playing football quicker because of the economic benefits to the school and the state.
“The NCAA, presidents and universities, the conference commissioners, the athletic directors all need to be meeting right now and need to start coming up with answers, OK?” Gundy said. “In my opinion, if we have to bring our players back, test them, they’re in good shape, they’re all 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 years old, they’re healthy. A lot of them can fight it off with their natural body, their antibodies and buildup they have — and there’s some people that are asymptomatic. If that’s true, yeah we sequester them. And people say that’s crazy. No that’s not crazy. Because we need to continue to budget and run money through the state of Oklahoma.”
While the severe risks of the coronavirus are lower for younger populations, that risk is not zero. And younger people can still contract the virus as easily as older people.
Gundy’s history of wild takes
This is not the first time Gundy has spouted off like a bad Facebook meme on matters not directly relating to football. In November of 2018, he blamed the number of transfers in college football on “liberalism” and said that he was a “firm believer in the snowflake.”
That comment came a couple of weeks after Gundy said that Twitter was destroying the United States and that it was “a platform for people who are sitting at home drawing an unemployment check sitting in front of a keyboard.”
And, of course, Gundy, now 53, is also the same college football coach who made the famous “I’m a man, I’m 40” rant 13 years ago.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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