Hargis, Holder Stand Behind Gundy

John Helsley

With the football season – at least the hope of a football season, and a possibly great football season for OSU – charging toward us, there had been speculation that Mike Gundy might not be there to coach the Cowboys.

Thursday night surely ended any of that speculation.

Both school president Burns Hargis and athletic director Mike Holder released statements Thursday, signaling essentially a vote of confidence for Gundy just ahead of a return to workouts.

The statements addressed findings from interviews with current and former players following the much-publicized concerns within the program, first spoken by star running back Chuba Hubbard and echoed by others, present and past. Hargis and Holder each acknowledged that issues exist, however, not pertaining to racism, but rather relationships.

“We have spent the past couple of weeks reviewing our program and talking with current and former players,” Holder said in his statement, issued via email. “Our internal review found that Coach Gundy needs to invest more time in building stronger relationships with his student-athletes. However, our review has uncovered no signs or indication of racism.

“After meeting with Coach Gundy, I am confident that he listened to his student-athletes. I believe he is genuine in his commitment to strengthening relationships with his players. I believe this to be a win for everyone. I’m looking forward to seeing the impact this will have on our team.”

Hargis released his statement through social media.

“After discussing the results of a review of our football program conducted by Mike Holder and (associate athletic director) Chad Weiberg, the underlying issue was a lack of personal relationships between the head coach and players rather than anything racial. This is fixable.

“After meeting with both Mike Holder and Mike Gundy, I believe they are committed to taking steps to strengthen the relationships, which will improve communications and the program.

“I appreciate the student-athletes speaking candidly and the efforts of Mike Holder and Chad Weiberg to spend considerable time listening to present and past players. It is time to turn our attention to preparing for this year’s highly anticipated football season.”

Those will be comforting words to Cowboys fans, for sure, following an unkind month of June. Basketball first took a hit from the NCAA, and then football found itself in the crosshairs of critics across the nation before cooler heads prevailed.

When some immediately questioned the legitimacy of the internal investigation, Cowboys basketball coach Mike Boynton fired shots.

"Any notion that Mike Holder or Chad Weiberg were ill equipped to review this department and its practices is lazy and irresponsible," Boynton, who is Black, said on Twitter. "Both are high integrity men who do everything in their power to take care of ALL of our athletes. Criticism is acceptable, recklessness is not."

Gundy operates in a way that requires a buy-in of players to his expectations within the program. And until they do – and that often takes time – he can be detached.

Once they do, he helps prop them up as the faces of OSU football and the Cowboy Culture. Again, that can take time.

That’s an approach that isn’t appreciated by some players, which is understandable. And now that it’s front and center, it must change.

Gundy has said he accepts that, and sources tell Pokes Report that it isn’t just lip service, but a realization by the program’s winningest coach that change – by him – is necessary and in order.

Now, as Hargis said, let's get on to the football season, free from rumor and speculation. It's a season we all could use.