By Anthony Slater – Aslater@opubco.com - @anthonyVslater
In the wake of the recent Rutgers scandal, where men’s basketball coach Mike Rice was fired after video of him physically and verbally abusing players went viral, many across the sports world voiced their opinion on the subject.
For coaches, how far is too far? When does fiery motivation cross the line into unnecessary bullying?
Mike Gundy heard about the situation and video, but is yet to see it (“They said he was throwing basketballs at players,” Gundy recalled). So he understandably declined to give his opinion on that particular situation.
But the occasionally emotional Oklahoma State football coach had plenty to say about the subject as a whole, starting with his simple philosophy when it comes to dealing with players.
“I don’t get physical with players, basically because I don’t want one to knock my block off,” Gundy joked. “I just have never thought about doing that. It’s just never crossed my mind.”
But he’s seen it before. Maybe not to the extent of what Rice exhibited on the recently released video (or maybe worse). But you can bet the former high school/college quarterback and long-time college coach has seen his share of ‘hands-on’ teachers.
“I’ve seen a lot of coaches over the years who are really, really good football coaches and they were physical,” Gundy said. “You see it in high school all the time. You see players get led around by their facemasks all the time. At some point, somebody’s got to decide what’s abusive and that’s up to someone’s opinion.”
“When we were playing, that was pretty common,” Gundy continued. “Guys got hit and kicked and grabbed and cussed and beat down pretty good when I was playing. We just lived in a different society. I’m not saying I agree with it.”
But, as opposed to basketball, is there more freedom in football, a sport built off its high-speed collisions and physical culture?
“Not really,” Gundy answered. “Ultimately, there’s a 19-year-old kid and a 40-year-old coach and I don’t think it’s different…But everybody’s different. I just think there’s a point that there needs to be a level of respect between a coach and player.”