By Dave Ruthenberg
When Republicans and Democrats agree on something, you know it’s time to grab your wallet for safekeeping. When Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy and Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops find common ground, it’s time to grab a shovel and start digging, because it’s going to get deep.
Both football coaches continue to suffer from an affliction that seems to impact major college football coaches and that is the inability to recognize double standards, even when it is glaring and staring them right in the face.
Gundy has taken some much-deserved heat for his handling of the Wes Lunt transfer issue. Lunt, sensing he was low-man on the OSU quarterback depth chart coming out of spring after being one-year removed from starting some games for the Cowboys, felt he would be better off playing somewhere else rather than potentially sitting behind Enid’s Clint Chelf and JW Walsh.
It’s not unusual for college players to change their minds while under scholarship, much like it’s not unusual for college football coaches to seek other opportunities while still under contract. But unlike the players, there is no penalty involved for bailing on your school for the coaches, whether it is in the offseason or during bowl season. They are free to leave. Oh sure, there may be a buy-out clause in their contracts, but their new employer usually steps up and covers that for them.
For student-athletes, it is a different matter. The NCAA has built-in a system (one of the few NCAA policies that make sense) that forces a player to sit-out a year if he is transferring between Division I schools. This of course mostly prevents poaching and prevents players from jumping around. Losing a year of eligibility is no small matter. In rare cases, the NCAA has waived the rule in cases of family hardships.
But for some coaches, that NCAA clause is not enough. You see, players still have to get “released” from their scholarship deals at their current schools in order to transfer and that is where college coaches have devised a rather nefarious way of making it a little more difficult by limiting even further a player’s options for transferring.
Which brings us back to Wes Lunt who was granted his release by Gundy with one massive caveat: Lunt could not transfer to any team in the Big 12, SEC, Pac-12, Big Ten or to Central Michigan (OSU plays at CMU in 2015 in the first of a three-game series). That’s 37 teams he was precluded from attending.
Lunt may not be good enough to start at OSU, but Gundy apparently believes there potentially are 37 schools that would be a threat to OSU if Lunt was in their backfield calling signals.
Of course Gundy has been ducking the press ever since on that issue, refusing to make himself available, much as he continues to mystifyingly make his quarterbacks unavailable to the media.
But just when things were getting uncomfortable in Stillwater, Stoops rode to the rescue and, not surprisingly, helped circle the wagons in defense of Gundy and his kind.
“I support every coach and I support Mike Gundy in every way ...” Stoops was quoted by ESPN at an OU Caravan event in Texas last week. Stoops went on to pontificate about players who commit and leave, saying it “doesn’t place a program in a great spot,” by leaving a team vulnerable at key positions. “It isn’t right that they can just do what they want to do,” he added for good measure, failing to see the irony of his comments. Or maybe he just didn’t care.
“I haven’t done it, but I support every coach who does,” he said regarding limiting players’ transfer options.
No word on how Stoops feels about coaches leaving programs in the middle of their contracts, sometimes with a team’s most important games ahead of them, or holding up their schools for more money while they shop around, but the inference is clear, and the double-standard “do as I say, not as I do,” immediately comes to mind.
In the worlds of Gundy, Stoops and other big-time college football coaches, loyalty is a one-way street benefitting only the guys with multi-million dollar deals prowling the sidelines with headphones and wearing scowls.
But hey, it’s good to see coaches banding together for the good of their programs, isn’t it?
Now excuse me while I hold my nose and grab for that shovel.
Ruthenberg is sports editor at the Enid News & Eagle.