STILLWATER — When Wes Lunt was named the Oklahoma State starting quarterback more than two weeks ago, an audio clip and quotes from the true freshman were included in the news release sent out by the school.
That's likely the only way public comments from Lunt will make their way into print until next spring because of a policy instituted by Cowboy coach Mike Gundy that does not allow true freshmen to talk to the press.
It's a rule that actually stretches to all first-year players, including junior-college transfers. That made key players such as starting linebacker Alex Elkins and freshman receiver Josh Stewart unavailable for interviews last season, and impact guys such as running back Joseph Randle and cornerback/kick returner Justin Gilbert off limits the year before that. In 2012, Calvin Barnett and Blake Jackson, two likely starters, will not be permitted to speak to the media.
But none of those Cowboys play a position as prominent as quarterback, which almost always has the role of spokesman attached to it because of the leadership and visibility the job naturally requires.
Even so, early indications are that Gundy will not make a media exception for Lunt.
“The thought process behind the policy is relatively simple,” said Kevin Klintworth, OSU's associate athletic director for media relations. “To truly speak from a position of knowledge about the program, you need to have experienced the program.
“We have had some media policies that have evolved over the years. The freshman rule, however, has remained steady. Mike really believes in it.”
The policy is rare but not unheard of in the Big 12. TCU also does not allow true freshmen to speak with the media. First-year players at West Virginia become available starting the second week of fall camp, and freshmen at Kansas can be requested for interviews beginning Aug. 15. At Oklahoma and Texas, freshmen can talk to the media once they have played in a game. No other conference school has player media restrictions based purely on class.
Klintworth is right in that Gundy has become one of the more lenient coaches at a program of the caliber of OSU when it comes to media. He usually holds a small group session with beat reporters following his weekly press conference during the season. Before spring practice began, he did a one-hour interview with The Oklahoman and the Tulsa World. Select media members are allowed to watch practice.
But there have been plenty of recent examples of Gundy and OSU standing firm on the first-year player rule. At Fiesta Bowl Media Day, where all starters were supposed to be present, Elkins did not participate. When reporters tried to talk to Jackson following the spring finale, a member of the OSU staff grabbed him and took him away.
One noticeable exception, however, was when J.W. Walsh was allowed to partake as a true freshman in ESPN's “Depth Chart” show, which highlighted OSU's quarterbacks during fall camp and in the Cowboys' season opener against Louisiana-Lafayette last season.
The rule isn't necessarily in place because of a true freshman's inability to handle the attention of the press. With recruiting sites like Rivals and Scout more popular than ever and a general increase in the coverage of high school sports, almost every player at a school like OSU has already had plenty of interview experience before they ever set foot on campus.
But speaking on behalf of a high school is significantly different from speaking on behalf of the defending Big 12 champions.
Former OSU quarterback Brandon Weeden knows exactly what the responsibility of being the Cowboys' spokesman is like. In fact, he became an overwhelming favorite of the local and national media during his time in Stillwater and has said he genuinely enjoys doing interviews. But he also recognizes that Lunt's situation is quite different, based on age and experience in the program.
“The quarterback position is the perfect position to (talk to the media), because they're kind of the vocal and actual leader of the team,” Weeden said. “I was always willing to do it, because I knew whenever I did talk, people listened (and read) what (the press) wrote.
“I completely understand (Gundy's) rule …(Lunt's) got a lot on his plate.”
And that means Lunt will likely have to let his play do the talking — at least until 2013.