COMMENTARY: Defending a colleague


If you’ve been watching ESPN or clicking around YouTube this week, you’ve seen an incredible video. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State University’s football coach, went off on a tirade Sunday against Jenni Carlson, a columnist for the Daily Oklahoman.

The yell came after a Carlson column saying the reason former starting quarterback Bobby Reid lost his job was because he was weak emotionally, not physically. Reid, perhaps the most highly touted recruit in Oklahoma State history, has struggled in his role, and was forced out of the job by backup Zac Robinson.

Carlson’s column was harsh, but not a screed. Gundy’s reaction, on the other hand, was.

“Three-fourths of this is inaccurate,” Gundy yelled during his tirade. “It’s fiction. And this article embarrasses me to be involved in athletics.”

Of course, when asked on Monday exactly what was inaccurate, he said, “I don’t have to. I’d rather just let it go.”

No, you can’t let it go Mike. You can’t impugn the integrity of a columnist, in front of her peers and the watching world, and then walk away. If there is a factual error, it needs to be corrected, and if not, you need to shut up.

Gundy continued:

“Here’s all that kid did: He goes to class, he’s respectful to the media, he’s respectful to the public and he’s a good kid. And he’s not a professional athlete, and he doesn’t deserve to be kicked when he’s down.”

Of course, here comes the shield of the college athlete, that they’re just kids. Come on, who’s going to kick a kid when they’re down? Let me tell you a little secret; college athletes tend to be pretty mature people. And when you’re competing in Division I-A athletics, you are open to more criticism. It’s an unfortunate fact of life.

Anyone who deludes themselves into thinking college football is the amateur bastion it was in the late 1800s is kidding themselves. To Gundy: If college athletics is so pure, then perhaps your school should return the $165 million dollar donation it received from billionaire alumnus Boone Pickens. What would a nice program like yours do with that kind of money?

No one ever enjoys singling someone out for their performance; it’s not fun. But that’s a columnist’s job. Sure, it’s easy to go after the media, thinking they’re hounds, looking for the next victim to pull down. But speaking as a columnist, it’s just part of the job. If all a columnist did was write things that made people happy, they’d be gone in a week. Carlson wrote an opinion piece, just like every other columnist in the country. It’s harsh, but it’s what she’s supposed to do.

It’s always fun to watch a coach blow up in front of the media (see Dennis Green, Jim Mora), it’s not fun to see a coach personally attack a member of the media like this. Thankfully, Carlson’s paper and the Football Writers Association of America have stood behind her. Of course, when you’re going against the shrill rants of a madman at the podium, it’s a lot easier. Coach Gundy, shame on you. For someone who claims, “I’m a man!,” as he did during his tirade, you don’t show it very well.

Matthew Bunch may be contacted at