Perception can quickly become reality and the perception that has developed around Oklahoma State head football coach Mike Gundy hasn’t been particularly flattering.
While Gundy unquestionably has developed a winning program at OSU, his over-the-top controlling character has revealed itself in several unpleasant instances. Whether it has been from not allowing his quarterbacks to talk to the media, to barring one of his quarterbacks from transferring to any one of 37 schools or flying off the handle and firing a home contractor for wearing the wrong clothing, he has taken his fair share of media poundings.
But maybe he is on the way to changing that perception.
This past week, quarterback Wes Lunt completed his transfer to the University of Illinois, a member of the Big Ten, a conference that Gundy had infamously placed on Lunt’s forbidden list of transfers that also included all schools in the Big 12, SEC, Pac-12 and even Central Michigan.
Gundy was deservedly roasted for restricting the options of a young player who, it turns out, wanted to play closer to home. Restricting him from transferring from within the Big 12 certainly made sense, but it was pure overreach to bar him from other schools.
Lunt, who started several games last season as a freshman, didn’t relish potentially riding the bench this season. Does he have what it takes to succeed? Is he thinking too highly of his own talent? Maybe, but it’s within his right to find out. As it is, he will have to sit out a year anyway under NCAA transfer rules. But, under Illinois head coach Tim Beckman and new offensive coordinator Bill Cubit, who developed several quarterbacks while head coach at Western Michigan, he will have a solid opportunity.
Did Gundy relent from his restricted list due to media pressure or from Lunt? Probably a bit of both, but surely the media attention was not what he anticipated. It was good to see him back down from his unreasonable stance.
He seems to be partially on his way to rehabilitating his media perception, but there remains another tricky matter that remains out there that could potentially reinforce the current perception.
That is the lawsuit filed by Brent Loveland of Choctaw, who was fired by Gundy in March from a home contracting job when Loveland showed up wearing a University of Oklahoma baseball shirt at Gundy’s house. Clearly, that was a bad idea.
Loveland claimed he got dressed in the dark and didn’t notice what he was wearing, but Gundy and his wife sure did and from Loveland’s account, Gundy had a meltdown of epic proportions and fired him on the spot.
Probably the better option would have been to simply tell Loveland to go change, but cooler heads did not prevail and now Loveland has filed a lawsuit seeking damages in excess of $10,000 for lost income. The lawsuit will move forward with a rescheduled pretrial date in late July.
The incident made national news, and any prolonged legal battle will continue to garner negative press for Gundy. It would seem wise for Gundy to swiftly settle this matter and put it to rest.
Backtracking on the Lunt matter was a small step in Gundy’s perception rehab. He would be wise to cash out Loveland. Then he can start working on that media blackout on his quarterbacks. But rehab is a slow process, taken in small steps. One day at a time.
Ruthenberg is sports editor at the
News & Eagle. Contact him at