The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

November 30, 2013

Gundy's gag order on Chelf hurts coverage

Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — As a University of Oklahoma graduate, I took pride in Bob Stoops becoming the all-time winningest coach in Sooners history last week.

As a journalist, I’ve been a little leary of Stoops ever since he told an Enid audience of OU boosters how newspapers practiced sensationalism.

But in the past month, I’ve grown to appreciate Stoops more after dealing some with Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, who we all know has put a gag order on his quarterback, Clint Chelf of Enid.

The media might have had its share of confrontations with Stoops, but he’s never thrown a roadblock in the way of getting our job done like this.

It is personal, with me at least, that myself and my colleagues can’t talk with Chelf after a game (or before). It directly affects the way I can do business.

The newspaper business today is struggling. Enid News & Eagle relies heavily on local news — the ones you don’t see on the evening news or ESPN — to attract readers.

As the late Vince Larsen of KGWA radio once said, “Enid folks like reading about Enid folks.’’

That’s especially true if the starting quarterback at Oklahoma State is from Enid. This is the first time in my 35-plus years here the quarterback at one of the two major state schools is from our area.

It transcends school loyalties. Local OU fans could leave last year’s Bedlam game happy because the Sooners won and Chelf had an outstanding game. Many of our readers have some sort of connection with Chelf, which personalizes the game for them.

When I’m covering an OSU game then, Chelf is my main focus — would be if he were the safety, defensive tackle, linebacker, running back, etc., as it was with Lydell Carr and Austin Box at OU.

Our readers want to read about Chelf — not just quotes from a coach or a teammate about him. Not being able to talk with Chelf can affect the number of newspapers we sell.

The real loser here, though, could be the OSU program itself.

Chelf is someone who you want to be the face of the program a la All-American center Gabe Ikard at OU. Ikard no doubt has earned All-American honors with his play, but it’s never hurt him that he’s always available to the media and is an excellent interview.

It’s a shame the nation didn’t get to see that last week when Gundy denied Chelf the potenitally once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to appear on ESPN’s Game Day after he had the game of his life in the Cowboys’ 49-17 win over Baylor. What a positive that would have been for Enid.

There is a parallel between OU and OSU as far as quarterbacks this season.

OU’s Trevor Knight went from losing his job to finding redemption with good games against Iowa State and Kansas State. It was uplifting to hear him say he kept being himself and stayed prepared if the opportunity came up.

Ditto for teammate Blake Bell, who was anticipated to be the starter, only to be beaten out by Knight. He told basically the same story when he threw for 400-plus yards in his first start against Tulsa.

Chelf could have provided the same feel-good story. Gundy owed that to him. Chelf was a good solider after he was benched after two series against Mississippi State — there were no outbursts on Twitter or Facebook from him. The gag order on Chelf put a little damper on what was one of the best days in OSU football history.

More importantly, Bell faced the media after losses to Texas and Baylor as all OU quarterbacks have during the Stoops’ era. I think it was good for them

Stoops made all of his quarterbacks available after the spring game and the healthy ones at Media Day, as he did in 2007 when Sam Bradford, Joey Halzle and Keith Nichol were battling for the job.

Gundy didn’t, which did affect our coverage since we planned stories on Chelf both times. We had been told Chelf would be available. That leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

OSU fans often complain the Cowboys don’t get the same coverage OU does — that’s one reason why.

Campbell is a News & Eagle sports writer.