Wednesday, October 3, 2007

A little professionalism please

(Written for The Bottom Line)

The Oklahoma State football team won last Saturday, but many people would have figured otherwise after Head Coach Mike Gundy’s angry press conference following the game.

Gundy, holding a newspaper and having an intense look in his eyes, immediately started to voice his displeasure with a recent article published in The Oklahoman.

The article, written by columnist Jenni Carlson, discussed Junior quarterback Bobby Reid. In her column, Carlson described an off the field incident between Reid and his mother on Friday, September 14, after a game against Troy. She also noted attitude problems and a lack of toughness in regard to injuries as reasons for Reid possibly losing his starting job to Sophomore Zac Robinson.

Carlson criticized Reid for not handling pressure better than he has so far this season. She also wrote about seeing him laughing on the sidelines in the fourth quarter during that same game against Troy, which the Cowboys happened to lose. She believes he has the talent, but he just hasn’t been able to put everything together.

Most of Gundy’s anger was obviously directed at Carlson for attacking Reid’s character and his actions off the field. Gundy said he was annoyed with “certain people downgrading college athletes who are good people.” Gundy also questioned why the editor allowed the column to be published in the first place.

In a rant that lasted a little over three minutes (check YouTube), Gundy made a few haphazard points of his own. He referred to Reid as a “kid” and said he shouldn’t be penalized for trying to do right. He also tried to defend his position by saying that since Carlson wasn’t a parent, she did not understand how it felt to have a child made fun of for failing at something. When Gundy was finished with his shouting, he left in a huff with hardly any mention of his team’s big comeback win over Texas Tech.

Gundy had another press conference on Monday, mainly to discuss his actions from Saturday. “I don’t say things for people to disagree or agree with me,” he said. “I say them if I think they’re right.” What did he think Carlson did in her column?

To be fair, both Carlson and Gundy made mistakes. Carlson certainly made several loose connections when trying to use some of her observations of Reid off the field to explain why he has struggled on it. She barely commented on Reid’s performance during games, and she instead chose to focus mainly on other circumstances. Perhaps she wrote something that really should never have been published. And Gundy, driven by irritation and emotion, went into his press conference without first trying to regain his composure. He had an agenda to go and defend Reid, which is exactly what a good coach is supposed to do. But Reid is 21 years old; he’s not a kid. He has a full athletic scholarship to play football and is probably highly regarded among the student population at Oklahoma State. But regardless of whether openly criticizing college athletes is acceptable, Reid can handle the responsibilities.

If Gundy had gone into the press conference under control and made his feelings known in a calm and respectable manner, not only would he have been taken more seriously, but he may even have come out on top of the debate.

Instead, he added fuel to the fire and made the controversy take on a life of its own.

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