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Bill Haisten: As OSU gets more ESPN face time, Mike Gundy’s Oklahoma silence reaches 128 days

Bill Haisten: As OSU gets more ESPN face time, Mike Gundy’s Oklahoma silence reaches 128 days


The Mike Gundy of 2010-11 might have been the best media coach in college football. The 2020 version, however, has gone 128 days without speaking to the Oklahoma media. TOM GILBERT/Tulsa World file

After hiring Dana Holgorsen to coordinate the Oklahoma State offense — and because it was apparent during spring practice that the Brandon Weeden-Justin Blackmon-Kendall Hunter Cowboys would be really good — the Mike Gundy of 2010 was uncommonly relaxed and might have been the best media coach in college football.

He was consistently accessible before and during an 11-2 season.

In 2011, with Todd Monken having become Holgorsen’s successor as the play-caller, Gundy was even more accommodating. Each Monday, after his weekly news conference, he and a handful of reporters would walk to the west end of Boone Pickens Stadium, get comfortable on lavish pieces of suite-level furniture and talk for an additional 30-60 minutes.

Most of those conversations were on the record, and it was incredibly helpful with the coverage of an OSU team that spent the entire season in the Top 10, won the Big 12 title, beat Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl and finished 12-1.

Those Monday overtime sessions with Gundy — I nicknamed them “The Fireside Chats,” and the reporters weren’t the only ones who appreciated them. If Gundy himself hadn’t enjoyed “The Fireside Chats,” they would not have occurred.

I’m writing this on Thursday, Aug. 13, and it has now been 128 days since Gundy has spoken with any member of the Oklahoma media. It has been since his media teleconference of April 7, when he referred to the coronavirus as “the Chinese virus.”

On at least five occasions since April, I’ve requested talk time with the Cowboy head coach. I’m batting .000 on those requests.

Before, during and after the OAN T-shirt controversy, there was no opportunity to speak with Gundy. He was scheduled to have taken questions during the Big 12 Media Day event on Aug. 3 and again on Monday of this week, but both of those news conferences were canceled.

At 128 days, Gundy’s Oklahoma media silence is by 36 days the lengthiest of his 15½-year head-coaching career. I specify “Oklahoma media silence” because Gundy has been selectively silent. While saying no to reporters from Tulsa and Oklahoma City, he said yes to ESPN.

Since May, an ESPN documentary producer and crew have been in Stillwater, embedded within the Cowboy program while filming episodes of an “Our Time: Oklahoma State Football” series. It can be viewed on ESPN+, with Episode 1 having premiered on Thursday. The plan apparently is for a new episode to be released each week during the entirety of the football season.

“Our Time” is a really well done glance behind the Oklahoma State football curtain. At the 3½-minute mark of the 17½-minute first episode, Gundy and team doctor Val Gene Iven are shown during a May 26 discussion of OSU’s COVID-19 testing plan. There was a prediction from Iven that there would be “a couple” of positive tests within each group of returning players.

There was a great shot of Gundy at his desk, a few feet removed from a life-sized cardboard cut-out of Clint Eastwood. The Eastwood cut-out, with the actor dressed for one of his tough-guy Western roles, has been a Gundy office fixture for years.

There was footage of OSU’s Canadian stars — roommates Chuba Hubbard and Amen Ogbongbemiga — during the drive from their apartment building to the stadium, where they would be tested.

“You’ve got to do your part to bring change,” Hubbard said while in the passenger seat. “Rest in peace, George Floyd.”

While seated at his locker room cubicle and in reference to the coronavirus, Ogbongbemiga said, “Personally, it doesn’t worry me too much.”

There also was footage of a May 31 protest in Tulsa. Ogbongbemiga later acknowledged on Twitter that he had been in Tulsa for that event.

The next shot was of an ABC News anchor reporting that Ogbongbemiga had tested positive for COVID-19. As a result, there was a quarantine period for “Our Time” producer Bo Mattingly and his crew.

During the shutdown of American sports, no other school can match Oklahoma State for having gotten significant ESPN exposure. There was the amazing, heartbreaking Eddie Sutton film, followed by a Bryant “Big Country” Reeves documentary and now this Cowboy football series.

That’s all mostly positive for Oklahoma State, but this is maddening: If every other OSU coach is consistently willing to do interviews, why does Gundy continue to refuse opportunities to discuss and promote his program?

He’ll have to answer some tough questions when he finally does talk with reporters, but otherwise, media members need the access so they can cover the basics of the program. I know Gundy very well, having been on the OSU beat for his first seven seasons and again in 2014-15, but I have no idea why his media approach in 2020 is the polar opposite of his position in 2010-11.

During this 128-day period of Gundy’s Oklahoma silence, OU’s Lincoln Riley made time for five availability sessions. While Riley talks about the Sooners, Gundy sustains a disregard for Oklahoma media.

The Tulsa World and The Oklahoman are media companies that have covered Cowboy football in a complete sense — including all road games — for 75 years, and yet The Oklahoman’s people and our people can’t get a 10-minute Q&A with the head coach. An ESPN producer can, though.


Happy birthday to OSU’s Mike Gundy. Here’s a game-by-game look back at his 129 career victories

Bill Haisten


Twitter: @billhaisten

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Sports Columnist

I joined the Tulsa World in 1990. Prior to becoming a sports columnist in 2016, I was the only sports writer in Tulsa World history to have covered OU, OSU, the University of Tulsa and Oral Roberts sports on an everyday basis. Phone: 918-581-8397

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