“I’m a man! I’m 40!” No mater what Oklahoma State head football coach Mike Gundy accomplishes over the course of his career, those are the words that will be etched on the tombstone of his public persona. It was the exclamation point to an epic rant defending his quarterback and the kind of thing coaches can never truly out-coach (see: Jim Mora’s “playoffs” or Dennis Green’s “They are who we thought they were”). Monday was evidence the power dynamic in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and across college athletics has changed dramatically.
The OSU Cowboys’ star running back Chuba Hubbard took his mullet-sporting coach to task over a T-shirt Gundy was wearing in an otherwise innocuous Facebook post. The shirt in question featured his favorite news network, One America News. Gundy says he watches OAN because they “just report the news.”
The New York Times last week referenced OAN as “The Network that Spreads Conspiracies to the West Wing,” noting as evidence President Donald Trump’s tweet that a 75-year-old Buffalo, New York, man, who was hospitalized after police shoved him, was an “ANTIFA provocateur” who may have been trying to “set up” law enforcement. John Oliver recently skewered the network and its cozy relationship with the president. Trump has several times in recent months tweeted his support for the politically right outlet.
Hubbard was not so supportive. The 2,000-yard rusher at Oklahoma State University, who finished in the top 10 of Heisman Trophy-voting, tweeted Monday, “I will not stand for this. This is completely insensitive to everything going on in society, and it’s unacceptable. I will not be doing anything with Oklahoma State until things CHANGE.”
It’s not entirely clear what Hubbard meant by things changing, but it was clearly the T-shirt and Gundy’s choice of news networks that set off the star. Several teammates joined Hubbard’s call for change, including senior linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga and offensive lineman Teven Jenkins, who tweeted, “as an O-line we stand and support Chuba.” College football players publicly shamed their head coach, telling him what to wear and what to watch.
In a matter of hours, Gundy responded and appeared to concede to the players demands. The head coach and running back appeared a video together, with Gundy explaining, “In light of today’s tweet with the T-shirt that I was wearing, I met with some players and realize it’s a very sensitive issue with what’s going on in today’s society. … I’m looking forward to making some changes, and it starts at the top with me. And we’ve got good days ahead.”
Hubbard acknowledged he had gone “about it the wrong way by tweeting,” but who could argue with the results?
We went from “I’m a man” to “who’s your daddy” in college athletics. As a former anchor at both Fox News and CNN, I don’t watch OAN, but giving a superior an ultimatum about what he can wear and whom he can watch is a dangerous precedent. Mike Gundy has willingly handed off the ball to his players.