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|VOL. 45, NO. 4 • OCTOBER 2007 • .PDF VERSION|
I did not know Mike Gundy as a player. I do not know Mike Gundy as a coach.
Like most others, all I know of Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy is what I saw replayed on ESPN, and that is to know a man who failed to control his emotions in a professional press setting.
Lights, camera and action, indeed!
Earlier this week I issued a statement on behalf of the FWAA condemning coach Gundy's actions as inappropriate.
Defending a player is fine. Confronting a columnist or a reporter is also within the bounds of acceptability.
But screaming in a bug-eyed rage for three minutes is hardly a means of effective communication. What about the other media members present to cover the event? They walked away from a post-game soap opera without comments on the game that their publication/ channel/website paid for them to attend with money generated from advertisers/ subscribers/viewers.
I stand by my judgment: Inappropriate.
If Gundy's desire was to defend or protect his player, why do so in such a way as to call national attention to the column in question?
The alternative would have been to handle the matter in another setting, in a professional manner, and let the Cowboys' players and fans enjoy the fruits of a hard-fought 49-45 shootout victory over Texas Tech.
Instead, the game was overshadowed, and coach Gundy's legacy has become that of a loose cannon.
Perhaps that's not fair, but that is the perception, and as we all know, perception can quickly overcome reality when one gets caught in, seeks out or recklessly wanders into the national spotlight.
Coach Gundy encouraged reporters to take him on.
Many have obliged, seeing a 40-year-old man whose inability to control his emotions indicate he's in over his head and doesn't know how to handle the media.
As for Gundy's value as a leader, does he want his players to follow his lead and shout down anyone — women included — who dares oppose their views?
Many fans have e-mailed me, expressing disagreement with the FWAA's condemnation of Gundy's behavior. Many suggest I was merely defending one of our own.
So, to better serve the public at-large, I asked Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer, a former president of the American Football Coaches Association and one of the winningest coaches in college football history, how he felt about Gandy's rant.
Here was Fulmer's reply:
"In my 15 years as a head football coach, I have learned a lot about dealing with the media. I respect that they have a job to do, and some do it differently than others.
"The game of football is a very emotional and passionate game. We establish bonds with players and coaches, much as a parent and child. We see them with their helmets off, as young people growing and learning with experience.
"However, it is important for us to know where emotion should end, and composure and good example and representation takes control.
"I enjoy some columns more than others, and if a coach should critique the columnist you may have a columnist going on a tirade as well. In either case (coach or columnist), tirades are usually not the right course to take or the correct example to the very young men we are trying to influence."
OK, Fulmer is a conservative veteran coach. So how about what Terry Bowden, former Auburn coach and one of the bolder coaches I have covered?
"All coaches have feelings that we want to express passionately, even strongly, in public, and yet we know we can't.
"At times, we wish we could tell fans how they should act, and tell writers how they should write, and we can't because they are doing their jobs, and we need to do ours.
"As much as any of us would applaud coach Gundy's intent to defend his players, none of us can agree with his tactics and timing. As much as I appreciate his passion for his players, there was only one person who crossed the line.
"I read the column. It was close whether she was getting into something that was iffy, but that was her prerogative.
"I had a good mentor, my father (Florida State coach Bobby Bowden), and his method was much less adversarial, and has been that way throughout his career.
"In reflection, I doubt coach Gundy feels he would do that again."
Let's hope so, Terry, for coach Gundy's sake, and the sake of the university and game he represents.
FWAA president Mike Griffith covers college football for the Knoxville News Sentinel. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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