College football is about many things for players. Building relationships that last a lifetime. Achieving great success on the field. A chance at a free education. Meeting the needs of the competitive juices.
Here’s one we don’t talk about much. Making memories. If you’ve ever talked to an old football player, you know that memories burn bright from the days when the world was young.
Clint Chelf certainly made memories Saturday night in playing the game of his life — and the game of the week, throughout college football player — against Baylor. Chelf completed 19 of 25 passes for 370 yards and made a catch for a 48-yard gain off a throwback pass from Josh Stewart.
Chelf was so impressive, ESPN invited Chelf to come aboard its GameDay set for the post-game show. ESPN resets its stage into the stadium for its various cut-ins during the Saturday night SportsCenter and college football wrapup shows.
Talk about a memory. Sharing the podium with Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit on the field of a fabulous victory. For a lightly-recruited kid from Enid, what a finish to a magical night. Something for his family to cherish.
Except Chelf never took the stage. Coach Mike Gundy has banned Chelf from talking to the media. Put him off limits several weeks ago and hasn’t been deterred, even when the quarterback controversy was settled by Chelf’s play. Gundy himself told me that he nixed Chelf going on GameDay.
To Gundy’s credit, ban means ban. No post-game interview room. No ESPN GameDay. All the same to Gundy.
Why Gundy banned Chelf from interviews isn’t exactly clear. Gundy was annoyed by constant QB speculation, sort of the same way Bob Stoops was uptight when the OU quarterback position was volatile. Gundy has banned his QBs all but a few weeks all season. He relaxed it for awhile but renewed it when Chelf took back the job.
Best we can remember, Chelf has talked to the media only once all season, chatting with our man John Helsley in the Alamodome after the OSU-UTSA game.
Gundy clearly is mad at the media. Over what, I’m not exactly sure. Maybe he’s mad at me, for suggesting after the Iowa State game that J.W. Walsh ought to be reinserted, after Chelf completed less than 40 percent of his passes over a two-game stretch.
If so, that’s not much of a reason. First off, I’ve been proven wrong. Chelf has played better and better. There is no quarterback question now. If Gundy is mad at me, he’s got all kinds of ammunition to respond. Call me an idiot. Call me out in the public marketplace, though since I’m not female, I don’t fit the profile of Gundy’s usual targets. Just ask our Jenni Carlson and the Tulsa World’s Kelly Hines.
Or maybe it’s not just me. Maybe it’s all of us, Gundy is mad at.
So he takes it out on all of us. Which means he takes it out on all the fans, too, who would like to hear from Chelf, a storybook hero if ever there was one.
I actually caught up with Chelf walking up the tunnel at Texas Tech, leaving the locker room on his way to the bus. I asked Chelf if he had a minute. He was pleasant and polite but said he had been told not to talk to the media, so I had better check with P.R. man Gavin Lang.
Some athletes enjoy talking to the media and some don’t. Personal taste. Some enjoy it and grow weary of it. I don’t know what Chelf thinks, but he strikes me as a solid guy. I saw him in the OSU journalism building earlier this year and he said hello.
So I don’t know how Chelf feels about a long vacation from the Oklahoma media. But I’m pretty sure I know how he and any of his teammates would feel about a stint with the GameDay crew. They would be all in.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen for Chelf. Opportunity lost. For both Chelf and OSU. The day started with basketball star Marcus Smart on GameDay, making predictions with Fowler, Lee Corso and Herbstreit. The day could have ended with Chelf among a similar cast, reveling in one of OSU’s greatest victories.
But Gundy’s problem with someone else cost Chelf a memory to last a lifetime.
Oh, and one more thing. Someone filled in for Chelf on GameDay.