Berry Tramel

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Oklahoma State football: Gundy's dispassion not the problem

by Berry Tramel Modified: December 9, 2013 at 4:15 pm •  Published: December 9, 2013

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy congratulates Oklahoma's Brennan Clay (24) during the Bedlam college football game between the Oklahoma State University Cowboys (OSU) and the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy congratulates Oklahoma's Brennan Clay (24) during the Bedlam college football game between the Oklahoma State University Cowboys (OSU) and the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman

Mike Gundy does not get fired up about Bedlam. At least not in the public marketplace.

He doesn’t express any particular disdain for all things Sooner. He doesn’t talk about the rivalry like it’s a holy war. He doesn’t refuse to even utter the words “OU” or “Oklahoma.” Doesn’t go all Les Miles and refer to the Sooners as “that school down south” or some such reference.

And OSU fans wish Gundy would. Gundy’s 1-8 record in Bedlam, made worse by the 33-24 loss Saturday when the Cowboys were double-digit favorites, has made some cry out for Gundy to bring in a little more bitterness to the rivalry. Add a little sauce to the series. Stand up, say you’re mad and you’re not going to take it anymore.

But I think that’s a bad rap on Gundy. I don’t see how a coach not flaring his nostrils makes a difference.

I don’t know how to explain OU’s Bedlam mystique — the Sooners have 10 of the last 11 Bedlams, and OU always wins the close ones. 2004. 2006. 2008. 2010. 2012. 2013.  But I tend to think the offensive gameplan of the second half, getting away from Des Roland, had much more to do with the result than Gundy’s attitude toward his archrival.

I do believe that OSU needed an attitude adjustment 20 years ago. Bob Simmons brought a chip-on-the-shoulder to the series, and Miles did the same. But OSU was overmatched in those days. OSU is not overmatched these days.

The Cowboys might be hexed. They might be jinxed. But they’re not overmatched. I don’t even think it’s a belief problem. Certainly not Saturday. OSU has 28 seniors; most of them play a bunch, and most of them were part of OSU’s 44-10 victory in 2011 and OU’s 51-48 overtime victory last season in Norman, when the Sooners clearly were the superior team.

So I don’t see how public fire in the belly matters.

… if Gundy went from compassionate shepherd to hacked-off sergeant, it wouldn’t change the nature of Bedlam.

Gundy’s post-game demeanor Saturday, where he lapsed into high-minded attributes about the glory of sport, didn’t endear him to a hurting fan base.

“Without getting too deep, I think we all understand that we live in a society where the things that we do in our profession are based on wins and losses,” Gundy said. “That’s OK. It’s just a sport that has got a tremendous amount of money involved in it, and people only want to accept wins and losses. I feel the same way now about this team as I did after the Baylor game because of what they do.

“The longer that I’m in this profession, I appreciate a man trying to work toward a goal in something they do as a team, which I think is going to help them in life. I think that’s lost in our society today. We don’t do as much as a team, and everybody is always out for themselves. This team doesn’t think like that, and I really mean that. It doesn’t have anything to do with wins and losses today. Do we want to win? Shoot yeah. Am I upset at myself for not doing a better job of coaching? Yes. That doesn’t take away from these kids.

“I really feel that way, and they know if I didn’t feel that way, I wouldn’t tell them that. These guys are busting their butts academically. We don’t have many issues. They had their backs against the wall and won several in a row. They won at Texas. They played the No. 3 team in the country (Baylor) and got a great experience. I wish they would’ve won today. I think it’s important that they know that I feel the same way about them now as I did before the game. I just wish we could’ve made a play there at the end so we could enjoy a Big 12 championship.”

Gundy is philosophically correct about all that. OSU fans don’t want to hear that, not after a heartbreaking loss, so it might not be the time to deliver such a sermon. But if Gundy went from compassionate shepherd to hacked-off sergeant, it wouldn’t change the nature of Bedlam.

The way OSU starts winning Bedlam is hanging onto an interception. Scoring from the 1-yard line. Pressure Blake Bell. Don’t let Grant Bothun throw a touchdown pass to Michael Hunnicutt.

That has nothing to do with attitude. Bedlam isn’t won by a coach’s demeanor or attitude. It might be won by a coach’s coaching, but not by his attitude.


by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The...
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