OSU football: Mike Gundy not the only father who got to see his Pioneer son play
The coach, whose football team was 1,130 miles away and only 14 hours from kickoff, wandered down to the Stillwater High School sideline Friday night and bear-hugged his son. And Mike Gundy had one thought as he watched the McEndoos.
“That’s worth a million dollars,” Gundy said.
We spent a few days last week debating the logistics and wisdom of Gundy sending his Oklahoma State Cowboys on to Morgantown, West Virginia, so he could stay behind to watch his high school senior son quarterback the Pioneers in the state semifinals at Yukon. But Gundy’s not the only Cowboy coach with a son having a spectacular senior season at Stillwater.
Luke McEndoo, the son of OSU tight ends coach Jason McEndoo, is one of the reasons the Pioneers are 12-0 and bound for the state championship game. And Gundy’s decision to watch Gunnar Gundy, then hop aboard a private jet to get to Morgantown in the middle of the night, meant that Jason McEndoo wouldn’t miss his son’s big game.
“I just feel very fortunate to work in a place where my boss gets it,” McEndoo said Sunday, after the Cowboys returned from their 20-13 victory over the Mountaineers. “Lots of places across America, coaches grind and miss a lot of time with family. I appreciate Coach Gundy, the priority he puts on family.”
Choctaw didn’t figure to pull an upset, and sure enough, Stillwater rolled 62-12. Such dominance was not expected in Morgantown, and sure enough, the Cowboys had to huff and puff to leave the Alleghenies with a win.
But Gundy defended his decision to stay behind.
“Those are special times for me,” Gundy said of Gunnar’s games. “I don't have hobbies. This (OSU football) is my life and my kids are my life. That's all I do. I've missed a lot of his games. But he's a senior and he's in the state semifinals. It's just not something I could pass up on.
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“If they would have got upset, and I wouldn’t have been there for his last game, or even to sit there and say, ‘hey, you’ve had an unbelievable career, proud of you,’ then I would not have been able to get over that.”
Gundy said he’s non-essential personnel on Friday nights before games. Says that the Cowboys have position meetings and practice in Stillwater, he addresses the team, they grab a sandwich and get on the plane. “They land here (Morgantown), they put their stuff in the room, they eat dinner, and then we don't see them ‘til morning,” Gundy said. “I bet half the guys didn't even know I wasn’t there.”
My only problem with Gundy staying back? The potential for travel disaster. Morgantown is in the mountains. If it’s not the Northeast, you can see it from there. This is late November. The potential for difficult weather is always a possibility. And it’s not like Manhattan or Waco; you can’t jump in a car and get there in four hours. The head coach on Friday night is not necessary. The head coach at kickoff is somewhat important.
“The weather (forecast) on Monday did not look good,” Gundy said. “In the middle of the week, the weather cleared up, and it cleared up to zero chance of anything on Friday night, so that’s when I said, ‘OK, we can do it.’”
Gundy is well paid to coach the Cowboys. That’s a little bit of an understatement. He makes $5 million a year. That comes with much responsibility, and that means he’s had to make a lot of sacrifices. But over the weekend, Gundy also got to make a statement.
Not to fathers. Fathers all over America know what Gundy knows. That you can’t get back these years with your son. That a sideline bear hug during the state semifinals is worth a million dollars.
But to coaches and employers. Keeping priorities straight never is a bad thing. If you can work out difficult circumstances for family, work them out. Heck, whatever the Cowboys missed by not having Gundy around for dinner Friday night – mullet jokes, Gundy wisecracks, I can’t imagine what else – OSU football probably counters by selling to recruits and families that its head coach knows what’s most important.
Jason McEndoo didn’t initially tell his son of the plan. Luke knew the OSU schedule and knows the drill. College football coaches sometimes are not around.
“He was bummed,” Jason McEndoo said. Then the son heard that the father indeed would be at Yukon on Friday night.
“He was super excited,” McEndoo said. “Those are the moments you can’t replace.”
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.