STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy apologized Saturday for comments this week about the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I have been made aware that comments from my press conference have offended some,” Gundy said in a statement. “It was never my intention to offend anyone and I apologize. My first priority is and will always be the student-athletes and doing what is best for the program and the university.”
Gundy spoke with the media during a teleconference call Tuesday and said he hoped to have the team return to its facilities May 1, a proposed timetable that would defy federal social-distancing guidelines and was quickly disputed by the university.
Following Gundy’s comments, Oklahoma State issued a statement saying, essentially, that the decision about when to bring the football team back together wouldn’t be up to the coach.
“We will adhere to the advice of public health experts who are making informed decisions in the best interest of the citizens of our nation and state based on sound scientific data,” the university statement said. “We will also abide by the federal and state mandates as well as Big 12 guidelines. We will not compromise the health and well-being of our campus community. This virus is deadly and we will do our part at Oklahoma State to help blunt the spread.”
Athletic director Mike Holder also declined to back Gundy’s timeline, saying in a statement: “May 1 seems a little ambitious.”
The university has canceled in-person classes for the spring semester and moved its May graduation ceremonies to December.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended against gatherings of 50 or more people through May 11 to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, which as of Saturday had killed more than 19,700 in the United States.
Gundy, who has been outspoken about his right-wing politics, also said in a conference call with reporters that the media has been too negative in its coverage of what he called the “Chinese virus.”
Most Americans are living under stay-at-home orders, many of which extend past May 1, although Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, a Republican, has only urged people under 65 to stay home while banning gatherings of more than 10 people through April 30.
Gundy said he wasn’t trying to be insensitive to those who are sick, but he believes things need to get back to normal sooner rather than later. Oklahoma State is scheduled to begin its season on Sept. 3, hosting Oregon State.
“It might get backed up two weeks,” Gundy said. “I don’t know, I can’t make that call.”
Gundy said he hopes there will be enough tests available in a few weeks that he could get his assistant coaches and support personnel tested for the virus, followed by the players, so his program can get back to business.
The NCAA has canceled all spring sports, and there is no date in place for college teams to return to practice. Gundy said if his target date doesn’t work, he’d be willing to push things back — but not too far.
AP Sports Writer Cliff Brunt contributed to this report.