Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy’s testy relationship with the local media took a strange turn on Monday.
Last Tuesday, Oklahoma State was widely criticized when a media-relations staff member, at the behest of Gundy, told reporters if they asked any OSU players questions about receiver Jalen McCleskey’s decision to transfer that players would not be available to any media for the rest of the football season.
After Saturday’s OSU’s 48-28 win over Kansas, Gundy spoke to reporters for the first time since last Monday, the day he announced the news of McCleskey’s transfer. Gundy took a few questions about the game, but it wasn’t long before the issue was brought up by a few reporters, leading to a fairly contentious exchange. We’ll get to that in a bit.
Things grew only weirder on Monday during the Big 12 coaches teleconference with multiple people (or perhaps one person on multiple phone lines?) pretending to be reporters, including one — “Trey Anastasio of the Stillwater Tribune” — going at him for his recent interactions with the media. Trey Anastasio is the frontman of the rock band Phish. The Stillwater Tribune doesn’t exist.
Here is audio from the call:
— Riley Gates (@Riley_Gates) October 1, 2018
And the transcript:
Q: I thought you brought up a really interesting point after the game on Saturday. You said people focusing on the wrong things is what’s kind of driving this country into the ground. What other aspects of people doing their jobs do you have a problem with?
A: I’m not sure I understand the question.
Q: Hey coach, great win on Saturday in Lawrence. Really impressive performance offensively, and I think even more specifically through the air. Especially impressive you did it all without Jalen McCleskey. Can you give a quick update on his status moving forward?
A: Jalen McCleskey is transferring. I thought everybody knew that.
Q: Hey Mike, good morning to you, man. I know it’s been kind of a frustrating seven days or so, which I don’t really think is right, because you all played a heck of a game on Saturday. It seems like a lot of these reporters don’t have any respect for your unwarranted petulance and I, for one, can’t believe they’d have the nerve to do their jobs and not kowtow to your empty threats. I guess what I’m really saying is: It’s 2018. Do we really even need freedom of press anymore?”
A: I’m not sure what you’re asking.
After that, the moderator apologized and said there were some “fraudulent calls” on the line.
Gundy responded: “It’s OK. We have a lot of fraudulent people in the world.”
The exchange referenced Gundy’s postgame press conference
Much of what was brought up on the call referenced what Gundy said in his Saturday postgame news conference, which you can watch below via the Oklahoman:
First, a reporter asked Gundy explain the decision to not allow questions about McCleskey’s transfer.
“I gave you guys all the information you needed, and I didn’t feel comfortable with you guys talking to the players. That’s not something they should have to comment on, Gundy said. “That’s a decision I make, and that’s their buddy, so I just wasn’t comfortable with it.”
And then the disconnect was seemingly broadened.
“You guys could’ve asked if you wanted to,” Gundy said. “I didn’t keep you from asking.”
The reporter then interjected and began to explain what was explained to them. As detailed by numerous Oklahoma outlets, OSU threatened to not make players available to all media for the rest of the season.
“I know, but I’m not that powerful. You still could’ve asked,” Gundy responded.
He then explained that he didn’t want any of his players to be “put on the spot.”
“It’s almost like being in school and you have a kid get in trouble and then they ask the other kid what he did. And then if he rats him out, then he’s a snitch to his buddies. And if he doesn’t rat him out, the teacher gets mad at him,” Gundy said.
Another question came and Gundy tried to change the subject back to football.
“What I’d really like to do is talk about the football game, and get off the stuff that really doesn’t matter,” Gundy said.
When a reporter said that the edict mattered to the reporters trying to do their job, Gundy replied: “There’s freedom of press still going on in the country. You can ask any question you want.”
And then things got tense:
Q: We were told we could ask the question, but if we did, then we wouldn’t be able to talk to players for —
A: Are we really gonna talk about this? We’re still having a good time. Can’t we just beat Kansas? Let’s get off of the stuff that drives this country and is taking it in the ground, which is garbage. Let’s talk about football. We don’t want to chase ambulances, man, let’s have some fun.
This controversy could have been easily avoided
From Gundy’s perspective, you can understand why he wouldn’t want his players being asked about McCleskey, but the way the coach handled it has clearly blown up in his face.
McCleskey, one of the most productive wide receivers in OSU history, is using the NCAA’s new redshirt rule to pursue a graduate transfer. The new rule allows players to maintain a season of eligibility if they play in four or fewer games in a season. It was mainly intended for freshmen, but a few upperclassmen have used it to their advantage.
A teammate transferring during the season may not be the easiest thing for players to talk about, but it would have been fairly simple for Gundy to gather the team and tell them to simply issue a “no comment.”
Instead, Gundy attempting to obstruct reporters from doing their jobs — which is what he was doing no matter how much he says otherwise — escalated the situation to this point. And then on Saturday he made it worse by calling questions about his decision “garbage” and “stuff that drives this country into the ground.”
In reality, he brought that “garbage” upon himself.
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