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Guerin Emig: Joking or not, Mike Gundy spoke what Big 12 allies thought when he warned of OU, Texas subterfuge

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Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy speaks to media during the first day of the 2022 Big 12 Football Media Days on Wednesday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

We asked a thousand questions at Big 12 Football Media Days last week. Some answers were firm, others were flimsy. Some were witty, others were wearisome.

The best answers got us to think. They’re still getting us to think now that everyone has gone back home to prepare for the football preseason.

Here are four still on my mind ...

“The new commissioner, if I was him I wouldn’t let OU or Texas in any meetings. Joe Castiglione is a friend of mine. Chris Del Conte is a friend of mine. They may be taking notes and running over here and telling them ... I say that jokingly.

“But I don’t know, if you’re strategically in a business meetings and it’s two cellphone companies, I don’t want somebody from their company in my company. ... If I have new software and technology I don’t want them to go develop it. I want to develop it.”

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy on the weird dynamic that is OU and Texas spending another year (or three) in the Big 12 knowing they are en route to the SEC

Was Gundy truly joking and simply teasing Boomer and Bevo? That is as impossible to figure out as the mind that led to the statement.

More certain is that Gundy was saying what the eight Big 12 schools other than OU and Texas are thinking.

This was going to be a tense, difficult situation from the year-old moment the Sooners and Longhorns made their intentions clear. Is everybody involved handling things professionally? Outwardly, yes.

Is there resentment and distrust crackling beneath the surface? You bet there is.

Does this continue to be all kinds of complicated? Gosh yes.

Having OU and Texas run out their Big 12 grant-of-rights contracts into the summer of 2025 keeps two of college football’s brightest brands in the league another three years. It keeps media ratings high and revenue at maximum levels.

Keeping the Sooners and Longhorns around is also a constant reminder of them squelching on any all-for-one pronouncements of old, while raising the possibility of subterfuge.

Nobody holds hands in this cutthroat game anymore. Everybody watches their back.

Big 12 Media Days (copy)

Outgoing Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, left, and Baylor President Linda Livingstone, right, listen as incoming Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark speaks during the first day of the 2022 Big 12 Football Media Days on Wednesday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

“We’re an unbelievably resilient conference. Every time we face a difficult situation we come out really strong and on top. I think we showed that last year. As we go through this transition, whatever it ultimately ends up looking like, we’ll come out in a really good position going forward.”

Baylor president Linda Livingstone, who also served on the executive search committee that eventually produced new Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark

We could see the glass half-empty and wonder why the Big 12 is in perpetually dire straits, whether over a decade-old realignment and near-extinction (see: trading Nebraska and Texas A&M for West Virginia and TCU, and nearly having the Pac-12 blow “Taps at the Big 12), a half-decade-old expansion fiasco, or a year-old power move perpetrated by OU and Texas.

Or we could see the glass half-full and realize Livingstone is right.

The Big 12 traded Dan Beebe for Bob Bowlsby in the commissioner’s office in 2012, ensuring the Sooners’ and Longhorns’ contentment and the league’s survival at the time.

The Big 12 did the wise thing by not expanding in 2016, even if it staged a needless dog-and-pony show of expansion candidates in the weeks leading up to that bolt of common sense.

The Big 12 responded to OU’s and Texas’ exodus last summer by moving quickly to add Cincinnati, BYU, UCF and Houston in best-of-a-bad-situation fashion.

Now with USC and UCLA moving to the Big Ten and the Big 12 outside the Big Ten/SEC monopoly, here comes Yormark with no experience in college administration but several years and millions of dollars in business capital.

His history indicates he might be the right commissioner at the right time.

The conference’s history indicates that even if Yormark doesn’t prosper, and the Big 12 can’t keep up with the Power 2, surviving and advancing is definitely in play.

To Livingstone’s point, we might not recognize the Big 12’s next reincarnation. We should know better, however, than to bet on its capitulation.

Big 12 Media Days (copy)

Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders speaks to media during the first day of the 2022 Big 12 Football Media Days on Wednesday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

“I mean, if we do care, what can we do? It’s not like if the players say anything it’s going to change anything.”

— OSU quarterback Spencer Sanders on Bedlam’s future specifically, and on the changing direction of college football generally

Remember when player autonomy gained steam over movements related to name, image and likeness, a less-restrictive transfer market and social justice initiatives the past few years?

Now comes conference realignment, an enterprise driven 100 times more by ESPN than the NCAA, to remind us how far from power college football players truly remain.

Big 12 Media Days (copy)

Oklahoma wide receiver Marvin Mims speaks to media Thursday during the second day of the 2022 Big 12 Football Media Days at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

“I’ve turned down a lot of stuff. I have turned down more than I’ve accepted. Most of it is time and availability. It’s hard with the schedule we have. You have to make time for yourself.”

— OU receiver Marvin Mims on the proliferation of name, image and likeness opportunities

NIL marks a positive and overdue development for football and every sport on campus. A college athlete’s right to monetize their standing should be no different than a college musician’s, college politician’s or a college social media influencer’s.

That does not, however, automatically lead these athletes down a straight road to riches.

There will be trial and error in the NIL market same as any other. There will be priorities determined and lessons learned.

It’s OK to learn them. That way this can become a sensible development both by its introduction and in its practice.


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Sports Columnist

I'm the proud father of Gretchen and Holden. Devoted husband to Christy, who has been my best friend since biology class at Booker T. Washington. I covered the OU Sooners for 15 years. That was both challenging and rewarding. Now I get to write columns.

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