The grand comeuppance for Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy and the feckless university administration that’s aided and abetted his buffoonery arrived with searing and devastating force on Monday afternoon.
After more than a decade of bullying, bigotry and egomania, Gundy’s program and career flashed in the crosshairs thanks to his own hubris and lack of self-awareness. Star tailback Chuba Hubbard, the nation’s leading rusher last season, castigated Gundy on Twitter for wearing a T-shirt from the One America News Network.
OAN has consistently degraded the Black Lives Matter movement and long trafficked far-right conspiracy theories. Wearing a garment supporting OAN is basically akin to saying “Black Lives Don’t Matter.”
Hubbard tweeted a picture of Gundy in the OAN T-shirt and called it “unacceptable,” “insensitive” and declared, “I will not stand for this.” Hubbard didn’t stop there, as he demanded accountability from his administration and head coach. “I will not be doing anything with Oklahoma State until things CHANGE.”
But the ending on Monday was all too predictable for the university and athletic department that’s long traded days of humiliation and shame like this for the occasional Cotton Bowl bid. OSU did nothing of substance other than release a few word-salad statements, the same type of administrative capitulation that’s long fostered Gundy’s aura of invincibility.
A few hours later, Hubbard tweeted out an awkward video that seemed like a wish for Gundy and Oklahoma State to make this all go away. Showing his latest lapse in lack of self-awareness, Gundy failed to actually apologize for wearing the T-shirt and forcing his players to essentially revolt.
Gundy didn’t say Black Lives Matter. He didn’t mention the violent killing of George Floyd. Nor did he make any effort to acknowledge social injustice in America. Instead, he said he met with some players and “realized it’s a very sensitive issue with what’s going on in today’s society” and that he’s “looking forward to make some changes.”
Hubbard then proceeded to essentially apologize to Gundy for tweeting his feelings instead of bringing them to him. They both delivered their lines with all the comforts of a hostage video, only with the words “Cowboy Culture” ironically cast in the backdrop.
If this happened at virtually any other Power Five university, the school administration would have seen the racial complaints from players on Twitter and the echoes of dissatisfaction on social media from teammates and called for action. They’d have wanted some form of an investigation or outside look into the program’s culture. They would have at least wanted the appearance of accountability.
Former Cowboy LC Greenwood, in a tweet later deleted, said he was “called a hood rat and a thug on multiple occasions and threatened to be sent back home all because of wearing a Durag and sleeveless shirt.”
Other voices chimed in behind Hubbard, including former star tailback Justice Hill, who said that OSU athletics and university need “major change.” Star receiver Tylan Wallace supported Hubbard by saying, “It’s About Way More Than Football.” Notably, there was nearly no public support for Gundy.
Here’s the thing that Oklahoma State’s actions have long indicated about Gundy’s persistently belittling and ignorant behavior — they have no desire to change it. Gundy has built an aura of invincible arrogance because the university has enabled it. For two painful news cycles the last three months, Oklahoma State administration has endured national mockery and cowered so much that it’s clear who is really in charge in Stillwater.
Administrators have allowed Gundy’s ignorance to thrive unimpeded, ducking away from a teaching moment on racial inequity. Just like they allowed Gundy to get away with berating a female reporter in his famous rant and ignoring his players’ health to return to campus so they can “run money through the state.”
Here’s the thing that’s going to haunt Oklahoma State from this day forward. Hubbard’s actions today were unprecedented in modern college athletics, even amid all of the racial justice reckoning we’ve seen the past few weeks. Hubbard essentially accused Gundy of waving the Confederate flag with his T-shirt promoting a network that proliferates racist views.
There’s nothing more powerful than one of the five best players in college football questioning the racial motivations of a coach and being “completely insensitive to everything that’s going on in society.” This will stigmatize Gundy longer than his famous YouTube clip, as this burrows much deeper into Gundy’s core beliefs as a human than any news conference rant.
If Oklahoma State doesn’t investigate, doesn’t just eat their word salads and get back to running money through the state, they are going to get stereotyped as a program and university that doesn’t care about racial equity.
Here are Oklahoma State’s non-statements from today. They’re missing two very key words: “Mike Gundy.”
President Burns Hargis: “I hear and respect the concerns expressed by our Black student-athletes. This is a time for unity of purpose to confront racial inequities and injustice. We will not tolerate insensitive behavior by anyone at Oklahoma State.”
This is from Oklahoma State AD Mike Holder: “This afternoon has been very disturbing. The tweets from the current and former players are of grave concern.”
At this point in his tenure, Gundy has either total control over the university or has numbed them to humiliation. But here’s why this latest round of national mockery is different. This time around, compared to April’s clown show, Gundy has earned a stigma as being racially insensitive and completely ambivalent to the plight of his black players.
That’s the kind of reputation that festers in the locker room, lives on in the recruiting trail and, most importantly, brands the entire university administration that enables it.
“I think that recruiting is definitely going to be very, very difficult,” said Quincy Avery, a prominent quarterback coach based in Atlanta. “It’s hard to go into anyone’s living room after doing things that show you have such limited care for guys on the team.”
He added: “It’s not going to be OK to not care about your players. For many years, these coaches have made a living coaching athletes and not caring about them at all, and in fact, not liking them as people.”
The saddest part of Monday may be that the only person who showed the maturity and social conscience to meet the moment was a 21-year-old redshirt junior. Hubbard’s calls for university accountability went unanswered, but at least made us hopeful that in Stillwater there’s at least one adult with a moral compass in the athletic department.
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