STILLWATER -- If you listen to Oklahoma State head football coach Mike Gundy, he seems to see college football, including his program as a tool to kick start getting society back on it's feet. He even talks about college football being played in front of no crowd with television cameras only, in front of limited crowds, in front of crowds at Boone Pickens Stadium with orange bandanas as masks, as a way to stimulate the economy. It would bring some normalcy back certainly for the athletics on campus and for the fans, but also for the money it will circulate in Oklahoma economy.
Is Gundy oblivious to the fact that the coronavirus is killing people? No, he's not. He talks about his daily routine of waking up, not being able to go back to sleep, and spending a decent amount of time watching the news and analyzing where he as a football coach and the program he guides at Oklahoma State fit in the entire scenario. He even mentioned he had found a news source, One American News, that is more objective news and less opinion and drama. Gundy quotes accurate numbers of individuals hospitalized and coronavirus deaths in Oklahoma. He is in tune to what is going on, but he also has a desire to move forward.
He has a target date of May 1, which could happen, with regard to getting his staff back in the office, but won't happen for his players unless the Big 12 Conference and other leagues come off the May 31 date they have set right now for readjustment to team functions and practices.
Whenever that date is, Gundy has a plan and is committed to being ready for it.
"The NCAA, the Presidents of the universities, the Power Five conference commissioners, the athletic directors need to be meeting right now and we need to start coming up with answers," the Oklahoma State head coach said inside a near hour long teleconference that included a 20 minute monologue to start off. "In my opinion, we need to bring our players back. They are 18, 19, 20, 21, and 22-years old and they are healthy and they have the ability to fight this virus off. If that is true, then we sequester them, and continue because we need to run money through the state of Oklahoma."
Gundy doesn't have any objection to having players and his staff and support staff sequestered so that they can train and prepare for a football season?
"None whatsoever. Will we have to adjust things in August? Sure we will," Gundy answered his own question. "That is what they pay us to do."
He can even see football happening on campus even if real live classes aren't.
"I've also heard comments about can you play a football season when you don't have students on campus going to school? Sure you can," Gundy again answered his question. "We are doing distance learning right now. All of our players are doing distance learning right now. The professors are doing an excellent job. I've jumped in on Zoom on different classes. I jumped in on a Finance class this morning and I jumped in on a Ag (Agriculture) class the other day. I was on there with the professor and the students. They are doing great. Technology allows us to do this."
As for the nuts and bolts of running the football operation, that is what he has always done best in step with his coaching staff ans support staff. He does see the need for some NCAA rules to relax because of the situation.
"We need the tuition money and the fee money that feeds the economy in in Stillwater and Payne County," Gundy said. "I'm not saying that (football without a full campus of students and full stadium of fans) is what I want but it is what we are doing. There is a large percentage of classes year round (before the coronavirus) that are on-line and distance learning.
"What I am doing is trying to find answers for the situation we're in now," Gundy said. "The question is can you test your players back in? Can you sequester them over here while they are training? Sure, you can. The NCAA has a rule that you can't have an athletic dorm only ... That rule needs to go out the window because we've never had a situation like this."
He is right about that. Gundy started his teleconference saluting the medical professionals, the scientific community, the first responders, and citizens for all they are doing to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. He said he will actually get to plant wheat, sunflowers, and milo on his tractor this spring because he isn't in the office. He meets with his staff everyday. His coaches are doing the two hours of virtual meetings with his players. His recruiting staff has a "recipe" that he feels good about in getting the recruiting done in a time where there is no in-person contact. He praised his academic staff and the head of that operation in Marilyn Middlebrook. He also praised his strength coach Rob Glass and his staff. He said he has seen the proof of their work on social media.
"What Rob (Glass) said is right at Oklahoma State we're in a better situation," Gundy elaborated. "I don't know about anybody else. I know about Oklahoma State. We have a lot of returning starters and again, I'm going back to the culture we have here. I think our players are training, I think they are working, and I think they are keeping their strength levels up."
Gundy is thinking and he is committed to make sure that physical work is not being done for no reason and that the work will result in opportunity to put it to competitive use with some real football, on time and for fans to consume. Maybe, even serve as a push back to more normal conditions in society.