Coronavirus in Oklahoma: OSU's Mike Gundy just the latest leader to leave us wanting better
We expect greatness out of college football coaches.
Recruit superb players. Devise unbeatable schemes. Win lots of ball games. Contend for championships.
But that's not enough — we want them to be great leaders, too.
Sure, being leaders of their programs and their teams is important, but really, we have taken to seeing them as leaders in our communities and our states. When tragedy hits, we want to see them lending a hand. When sadness descends, we expect to hear them offering comfort.
And when a global pandemic hits our shores and starts killing people by the thousands, we want them to be leaders amid the crisis.
Maybe we should lower our expectations.
The coronavirus pandemic has shown us that college football coaches aren't exactly a shining North Star. We shouldn't set our moral compasses around what they say or do.
Last week, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said he had traveled from the South Carolina campus to his vacation home in Florida in recent weeks. He went in a private plane, something he said his family planned to do again for Easter.
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“The plane was sanitized,” he said. “We don’t have any concern.”
Apparently, governor-issued stay-at-home orders apply to others.
Then this week, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy rolled out a plan for his program that included bringing staffers back to their Stillwater offices on May 1, then bringing players back to campus soon after that.
"They're in good shape," he said of the players. "They're all 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 years old. They're healthy. A lot of them can fight it off with their natural body, the antibodies and build that they have."
Apparently, evidence indicating young and healthy does not always prevent death with COVID-19 applies to others.
Ditto for the Big 12 edict banning all in-person activities through May 31.
In both cases, there might not be any problems. Dabo Swinney might go to Florida, return to South Carolina and never have a problem. Mike Gundy might throw open the doors to the football offices in a few weeks, bring everyone back to OSU and never have a problem.
That could happen.
But so could something bad.
And the truth is, while each of these ideas is fraught with individual peril, the bigger problem is the message that these coaches are sending. In what they are saying and what they are proposing, they are indicating they don't believe coronavirus is a big problem. At least not for them. Oh, let other people deal with it, but they're going to go on with their lives, personal sacrifice to the greater good be damned.
It's a bad look.
I realize both said things that spoke to the gravity of the situation. Gundy, for example, praised medical personnel in Stillwater, Payne County and beyond, and all of that is great. But words become hollow when your actions — or your proposed actions — run counter to what you've said and what everyone is being told to do.
I wish all college football coaches were setting a better example during this time; whether they want it or not, people far beyond the walls of their programs are taking cues from them. I wish all college football coaches were as good during this time of national crisis as they are in their locker rooms and on their sidelines.
I wish they could meet those expectations.
It wouldn't make college football better — it would make our country better.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or email@example.com. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK or follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok.