STILLWATER -- Just last night while in Norman watching his youngest son, Gage, quarterback the Stillwater junior varsity in a scrimmage between the Pioneers and the Norman Tigers, head coach Mike Gundy said his Oklahoma State football team was going to get tested with up to 120 plays of scrimmage work inside Boone Pickens Stadium. Even this afternoon after coming out of a small group meeting with a number of his players, including safety Kolby Harvel-Peel, Gundy said, "I would have pushed them. We would have gone at least 100 plays."
Instead, Gundy admitted this was the right thing to do. He said he told the players and the coaching staff to break up into small groups. He wanted players from different sides of the ball, different positions, different races, and not necessarily their position coach. We need to hear different sides, different viewpoints, and I needed everybody to share their feelings. This was the veteran head coach's answer to the latest outcry over local police in Kenosha, Wis. shooting Jacob Blake, a man with a warrant out for his arrest on charges of third-degree sexual assault, criminal trespass and disorderly conduct.
The police were called to the home of the woman who had initiated the charges against Blake and he was shot by police seven times in the back after several taser attempts to subdue him failed. Blake is in the hospital, fighting for his life, reported to be paralyzed. It continues a spring and summer of police violence in connection with African-American men.
This is a day that America and in particular African-Americans are celebrating the historic march on Washington D.C. by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King and his followers and the speech that included the theme, "I have a dream."
This coincidentally was the day Major League Baseball chose to make up for missing April 15 and celebrating the day that Jackie Robinson broke into Major League Baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers. All Major League teams are wearing a patch that honors Robinson.
Earlier this summer, Gundy addressed the theme with his coaching staff after the death of George Floyd shook the emotions of Americans of all backgrounds.
"I mentioned to you that I would get back to the current climate in America right now," Gundy said to his staff in the team meeting room in the West End Zone. "Be aware of everything and be there to have discussions with your players and if they need to talk. I'm a firm believer in this. There are a lot of people talking right now saying, 'we should do this, we should do this, we need to do that, we need to do that.' I think everybody is trying to say the same thing, but the only way to get something accomplished is to have a plan. Actions are going to get things done, not talking."
Gundy told his staff that he believed they had a chance to get things done with the 130 young men that are in and believe in the culture of the program. He said he feels the players believe in the guidance of the coaching staff even as frustrated as they get.
"They believe in our guidance and they believe in our structure," Gundy said. "We can help them get better and make ourselves better and then we have 200 people going out in the World trying to make it a better place."
This has been a highly unusual fall camp and preseason and you know it has to have seemed strange to the newcomers to college football and the Oklahoma State program.
Gundy's theme, kind of constant of coaches. Control what you can control and don't waste effort and energy on things outside of your control.
No doubt that was shared in the small groups around the West End Zone. There was a group meeting in the weight room with some dozen players and associate athlete director for athletic performance Rob Glass and his strength and conditioning staff. In the locker room, the corner where the running backs all locker there was a group headed by running back Chuba Hubbard but also including left tackle on offense Teven Jenkins.
Upstairs, in the group Gundy and Harvel-Peel were in. There was talk of police officers and how there are some that are good and treat people right and do heroic things on the job and there are others that are bad and make mistakes. It's like people in all walks of life.
Another group was in the running back meeting room and another just down the hall in the upstairs lounge area outside of the meeting rooms.
Linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez came in after his meeting and checked his locker and equipment. Equipment that would have been wringing with sweat after over 100-plays on the Boone Pickens Stadium turf on Friday in over 100 degree heat. The Stillwater Municipal Airport was reporting 102 degrees earlier in the day, by far the warmest air temperature of the year. Rodriguez acknowledged he and his teammates dodged and really rough workout, but the kind that hones a team for what they are bound to face at some point during the season.
With the climate in the country, Baylor, Texas Tech and other schools in the league chose to forgo practice and focus on discussing the frustration of current events and particularly the Blake shooting. The video above shows Kentucky's football team and their actions. Everybody in sports is seemingly aware of the Milwaukee Bucks and the protest of the NBA Playoffs bubble. Major League Baseball has halted many games and the NFL has had a number of teams skip practice at training camp.
Now, the Cowboys end up with a long weekend, the kind some teams take because of COVID-19 positives, but this break in practice is born of negatives in society. Oklahoma State football had Thursday off, now Friday off, Saturday was planned in active except for meeting and video, and Sunday is off. It looks like a four-day weekend before the team gets back at it on Monday.