Tramel: OSU feud with Pistols Firing should end
You can call Pistols Firing many things. A blog. A website. A news service dedicated solely to OSU athletics.
Pistols Firing calls itself a blog, since the web address is pistolsfiringblog.com, and years ago it was a blog. But it’s not really a blog anymore. It’s an OSU sports website.
The distinction is important.
Pistols Firing, run by OSU graduate Kyle Porter, has been in business for more than a decade. It is a free website, with subscriber options for premium content. Porter, who lives in Greater Dallas, also has been a golf writer for cbssports.com since 2012. He employs a variety of journalists to cover the Cowboys.
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But Pistols Firing is not credentialed to cover OSU football. The organization covers virtually every OSU sport, but the university doesn’t credential Pistols Firing for football, which means no access to games, press conferences, live interviews or Zoom interviews.
All because Mike Gundy says so.
That is not right. It’s also madness, considering what has happened with Gundy and OSU in recent months, but forget the madness. It’s not right.
I’ve got no personal connection with Pistols Firing. I barely know Porter. I know one of his writers, Marshall Scott, just a tad and only because he’s a friend of Nathan Ruiz, who covered the Cowboys a couple of seasons ago. I was on a Pistols Firing podcast once, a few years ago. That’s my association with Pistols Firing.
Truthfully, Pistols Firing is in some ways a competitor. We’re all fighting for eyeballs. There’s only so much time in the day; The Oklahoman and Pistols Firing both want a share of the OSU audience.
But right is right. It’s absurd that OSU denies credentials to a legitimate organization. The people in media relations must make decisions on media requests all the time, and sometimes those decisions are not easy.
This decision is easy. Pistols Firing is legitimate. Marshall Scott is neither fanboy, fawning over their beloved team, nor a deep-state enemy, trying to wreak havoc.
Now, Pistols Firing hasn’t done itself any favors. A decade ago, the blog was leaked photos of OSU’s massive uniform change, which remains at the forefront of college football.
The university had planned to trot out the new look in a series of posts over three days. Instead, it got scooped on its own story. Good for Pistols Firing. We’d have done the same thing.
But OSU officials believe Pistols Firing crowed a little too heavy over its good fortune, semi-mocking the athletic department in the days after the scoop. People have long memories.
But that’s not why Pistols Firing isn’t credentialed. Pistols Firing is denied credentials because that’s the way Gundy wants it.
Several questions arise.
Why does OSU allow Gundy to dictate media credentials? This is not a new phenomenon, created by Gundy’s troubles from the spring, when he turned a Zoom call into a political rally and eventually drew the ire of his own players. Gundy was blackballing Pistols Firing in previous seasons, too, long before Pistols Firing tweeted out a photo of Gundy wearing the OAN (One America News) t-shirt that caused tailback Chuba Hubbard to lash out at Gundy.
Why does OSU allow Gundy to dictate credentials NOW, after the spring problems resulted in Gundy losing much of his status with the administration and barely keeping his job?
I suppose some schools have coaches whose power extends to every tiny corner of athletics decision-making, but those coaches -- Nick Saban, Dabo Swinney -- are too smart to get caught up in such pettiness.
But now that Gundy was taken to task by university officials in the summer, there should be no discussions about these matters. Media relations should be deciding who is credentialed and who is not.
But apparently, OSU has extracted so many concessions from Gundy in recent weeks, the university is content to let him have this one.
Porter said that in his talks with Gundy, Gundy expressed his distaste for blogs. That they have little accountability. We all know where he's coming from. But he’s a little late. Blogs are passe’. Pistols Firing no longer is a blog. It’s a sports website.
Gundy is Old School. He prefers traditional sports media, though he ripped the “mainstream media” in the spring. Even when Gundy gets mad at The Oklahoman or the Tulsa World, he respects the institutions, and I appreciate that.
But the business has changed. The Oklahoman and the World don’t have the monopolies they had 40 years ago, when Gundy was growing up in Midwest City. We’re out there hustling just like gopokes.com and Pistols Firing and si.com.
And university officials know that. I don’t understand why they allow Gundy to decree who’s in and who’s out.
My pal Carey Murdock of Sports Animal fame went through this 15 years ago. He started the OU Rivals site in 2004, and OU wouldn’t credential websites. It took three years before Murdock convinced the Sooner brass to grant him legitimacy.
But OU at least was taking that stand against all websites, in those early days of the internet. OSU is taking the stand against Pistols Firing in particular.
In the past, OSU has credentialed Porter and Kyle Boone, another OSU grad who works for Pistols Firing and cbssports.com. They both get in through CBS, a concession that clearly is OSU athletic media relations trying to make the best of a bad situation.
Porter supplied me with some numbers.
Pistols Firing has had 1.5 million visitors and almost 16 million pageviews over the last 12 months. Every other sport at OSU has been accommodating and seemingly glad for the coverage.
Yes, Pistols Firing roasted Gundy for his April nonsense, and so did almost every media outlet in America.
“I’ve covered, in person, four Masters, five U.S. Opens, a Super Bowl and a Final Four, but OSU won't let me on a Zoom call with its assistant coaches,” Porter wrote me after we talked. “We still have not been told that we did anything wrong, only from Gundy that he doesn't ‘believe in blogs.’”
Of course, this might be a prudent time to point out that Gundy has a blog on his own website.
Porter said he’s had repeated chats with OSU personnel, to no avail.
Again, I barely know Porter. And frankly, if Pistols Firing was credentialed, it would hurt my chances of being at games this year. Every university has reduced pressbox capacity this season, and both OU and OSU have told The Oklahoman that while it will get at least one credential per game, there’s no guarantee that it will get two. If we don’t get two, I might not be at the games this season. A Pistols Firing credential could keep me out.
But what’s right is right. I brought this issue up more than a year ago to OSU officials. I talked with Porter several months ago about it, and he said he wasn’t ready to go public. He wanted to work through things with OSU.
But now Porter has hit a stone wall, even with Gundy’s power diminished, and he doesn’t know what else to do.
We know what the answer is. OSU administrators should do what they should have done long before. Told Gundy that with all due respect, this is not his call, and Pistols Firing will be credentialed.