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Big 12 football coaches don't see players as 'employees'

As the debate rages on about whether or not college football players should be allowed to form a union, Mike Gundy and Bob Stoops say they don’t look at players that way.
by Jason Kersey Published: April 22, 2014

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy thinks back on his days as the Cowboys’ quarterback and readily admits that players today have it a lot tougher.

“We didn't have near the time commitment that these guys have nowadays,” Gundy said Tuesday during the Big 12 football coaches’ teleconference. “When we were in school, we had some offseason workouts and some running, and we hung out at the pool and didn't put near the time in that these guys do.

“There's a tremendous amount of strain, time and effort put into these players not only physically but mental year round.”

Still, Gundy wasn’t quite ready to call his players “employees” of Oklahoma State University, saying he hadn’t followed the Northwestern case closely enough to comment.

As spring football ends and summer workouts — which are supposed to be voluntary — loom just around the corner, the debate regarding student-athlete compensation in major, multimillon-dollar athletic departments rages on. Last month, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that football players at Northwestern are employees under federal law and, as such, can unionize.

Several Big 12 coaches chimed in Tuesday, saying that they don’t consider their players university employees.

“I look at them as part of our family in a way that we’re here to support them and help them in every way possible,” said Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops.

“It’s kind of different because I’ve never fired one. If they are employees, I guess you get to fire them. I’d never want to do that to a young guy that’s doing the best he can to be a part of this program.”

Stoops has, of course, dismissed lots of players from his program over his 15-year tenure in Norman for violating team rules, missing too much class and other reasons. He’s never failed to renew a player’s year-to-year scholarship, though, based on performance.

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by Jason Kersey
OU Sports Reporter
Jason Kersey became The Oklahoman's OU football beat writer in May 2012 after a year covering high school sports and OSU recruiting. Before joining the newspaper in November 2006 as a part-time results clerk, he covered high school football for...
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