'He’s not an evil person': OSU's Mike Gundy wouldn't put players 'in harm's way' during COVID-19 pandemic, parents say
Desirae Ford wanted to put her hands over her face.
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy’s comments Tuesday in an hour-long teleconference elicited that reaction across the country.
He had a plan to start bringing staff members back May 1 with players to soon follow, all with testing for COVID-19. He emphasized the financial impact of football. He said players could “fight off” the coronavirus.
As an ICU nurse practitioner and mom of Cowboys star defensive end Trace Ford, Desirae found that a little jarring. She is on the frontline of the pandemic professionally, helping treat coronavirus patients.
But Desirae started to scroll through Twitter on Tuesday. She grew defensive of Gundy.
“I don’t think that Mike Gundy would ever — if he could — make the decision to deliberately put the kids in harm’s way,” Desirae said. “That’s my opinion. Mike Gundy’s got sons. He’s got kids of his own. He wouldn’t do that. I just know that.
“I spent time talking to him when Trace was being recruited. He’s just a regular Oklahoma dad. He’s not an evil person.”
Four days after Gundy’s comments caused a firestorm nationally — bringing a statement from the university declaring to “not compromise the health and well-being of our campus community” — his comments remain national talk.
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Gundy even released a statement on Saturday.
“I have been made aware that comments from my press conference have offended some,” Gundy said in the release. “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.”
But for parents directly involved in the program who spoke to The Oklahoman, there is no worry about Gundy’s comments. They applauded Gundy for providing hope and continuing to say how he feels.
“I think all the negative things that are coming through Twitter and everything are a lot of people that don’t like him,” said Robert Martin, the father of defensive end Brock Martin. “I think a lot of people are taking it out of context. I think he said what he said because — just like I said on Twitter — he hopes they can get back.
“I’m pretty sure he said probably exactly what every coach across the United States is thinking. Somebody said it. It just happens to be Gundy.”
Sonya Middleton’s son Zach was a star at Tulsa Kelley High School who signed to play running back for the Cowboys. She’s sent children to college before. She won’t hesitate when Zach is called to Stillwater, whenever that may be.
She instead found Gundy’s comments to be inspiring during a time people are stuck at home.
“I think what he said was pretty awesome,” Sonya said. “He wants to get back. I think he’s being very optimistic about the future. He’s got a great team this year and he’s got a lot of hope. I don’t think it’s wrong to give people hope.”
Even with a little hope, the reality of the coronavirus sets in. On Saturday, there were 1,868 confirmed cases in the state, including 94 deaths.
Desirae has seen the pandemic up close, though. She believes more testing will help begin to restore normalcy.
But she also knows recovery is going to take time. Rush back to football and things can go bad in a hurry.
“Even though we’re not New York City, not Detroit, not New Orleans or any of those places, people should not feel comfortable with how things are going in Oklahoma, because at any point little towns could have outbreaks and it could get so much worse,” Desirae said.
All parents agreed on one thing: Gundy’s plan wouldn’t work without approval from at least the NCAA, Big 12 and OSU.
His comments may have drawn jeers. They also brought back anticipation of football in Stillwater.
“We all know what the deal is,” Robert said. “Everybody wants to get back to normal. Everybody wants to get back to their normal activities. All these kids want to go play football. Brock wants to get back, but he can't. They're all like he is — every one of them.”