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Guerin Emig: Mike and Cale Gundy's brotherhood endures at a different, more difficult Bedlam

From the Bedlam week: Catch up on this week's stories on OSU and OU here series
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Nov. 14, 2022 video. Bedlam football will be Nov. 19 in Norman. Video courtesy/OU Athletics

STILLWATER — The first football game Cale Gundy attended after he lost his 23-year Oklahoma assistant coaching job was at Oklahoma State. It was Sept. 1, the night the Cowboys beat Central Michigan in their 2022 opener.

He was a guest of his big brother, OSU’s 18-year head coach.

“We are extremely close,” 50-year-old Cale Gundy said of 55-year-old Mike Gundy. “He knows that he really has helped me through some things.”

None bigger than Cale’s resignation last Aug. 9, the result, according to OU head coach Brent Venables’ statement that night, of Gundy’s use of a “racially charged word” Gundy “chose to read aloud to his players, not once but multiple times” during a team film session.

Hopefully there comes a time Gundy opens up about about that incident and his feelings about it beyond those expressed in his statement that night, reading in part: “What I said was not malicious; it wasn’t even intentional. Still, I am mature enough to know that the word I said was shameful and hurtful, no matter my intentions.”

This is about the aftermath.

Being Bedlam Week, this is about the relationship between two brothers, one synonymous with OSU and the other with OU.

“I think anybody that goes through what would be somewhat … ‘traumatic’ would be a bad word for it because that’s not traumatic; there’s a lot of things in life a lot worse than that,” Mike Gundy said at his press conference Monday. “But just a tough situation. You just say, ‘I’m here if you wanna talk or whatever.’”

Cale wanted to talk Aug. 9, but his older brother reached out first.

“He came to me immediately,” Cale said during a phone interview Monday. “Mike being a head coach, he has been in a lot of different situations, whether good or bad or different, with athletic directors or presidents or being in the spotlight and having to take the blame for this and that.

“He’s been in those situations a lot more than me.”

Cale changed positions on Bob Stoops’ and Lincoln Riley’s OU staffs over the years, but on average he experienced about as steady a career as a college coach can.

Then came that film session.

Nobody works a job nearly a quarter century, has it unravel in an instant and takes an easy next step, regardless of the circumstances. Cale Gundy has been part of 348 OU football games as either quarterback or coach.

There is no immediate next step in that scenario. You are just trying not to be numb.

“Mike just told me, basically, ‘Remember who you are,’” Cale said. “‘You know who you are and you know the kind the life that you have lived and led and what you’ve done for your players, whether current players or past, and the relationships.’”

In a sense this was nothing more than the natural order of brotherhood. The older might occasionally beat the snot out of the younger — “We had a few pretty good ones,” Cale said — but the older is also keeping an eye out, or a place open, for his kid brother.

“Mike always allowed me to be a part of everything,” Cale said of their Midwest City childhood. “On Sundays across the street during the fall we played a football game. There’d be 15 or 16 of our buddies. Mike was always the quarterback on one team and I always quarterbacked the other.

“In the winter we spent a lot of time, especially over the holidays, at Midwest City High School playing basketball. There’d be 10 or 12 of us and we’d play for two hours. …

“Occasionally we got into it a couple times just because we were so competitive. But for the most part we were pretty good because we were so close.”

It is interesting that they were always so different.

“Cale is very emotional. He has a huge heart,” Mike said. “He likes everybody. He pours himself out to people. I’m not that way. I have very few friends. I’m not an outgoing people person. I would rather be somewhere by myself watching something or doing something to occupy my time, just not with lots of people. We’re complete opposites in that area.”

Mike does appreciate that Cale’s wiring always had him seeking Mike out after their 21 Bedlams against each other, dating back to Mike’s OSU assistant tenure before becoming Cowboys head coach.

“When the games are over, whether he wins or I win, he’s more concerned about me than he is himself. That’s why he tracks me down,” Mike said. “To say, ‘Hey, good game’ or ‘You did good’ or ‘I’m happy for ya,’ ‘Love ya,’ ‘See ya Thanksgiving.’”

That makes Saturday night in Norman very different and a little difficult.

“Oh it’ll be tough. I know it will be,” Cale said. “The closer I get, y’know … It’ll be a little challenging all right.”

Cale says he will be at the game, same as he has been to other OU games this season.

“Coach Switzer has been kind to me,” he said. “I’ve been able to go to the games and go to his suite. It’s been pretty neat. I bet I don’t even watch five or 10 plays of the game. I spend so much time going up and down the hallways visiting with people and talking to people who have been very helpful to me and been very supportive.”

However we feel about what occurred in that film session and what happened as a result, this is encouraging. We are all worth some grace, even from our worst moments.

We all should be allowed time to reflect on moments good and bad.

“My brother is one of a handful of people that have been very influential in my life who have said, ‘Hey man, you gotta go on. You gotta move on,’” Cale said. “I do. You know what? I had a hell of a run down there. I’m not Barry Switzer or Bob Stoops or Bud Wilkinson, but I’ve been a part of a lot of success and I’ve touched a lot of lives.”

So both Gundy brothers endure at Bedlam Saturday night in Norman. They will be doing different things of different minds, but they are linked just the same.

That much has not changed over the past three months.

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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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