DALLAS — Mike Gundy walked into Big 12 media days about the same time Devon Thomas walked into Tulsa County District Court.
No surprise: the former was asked about the latter.
Nearly two months have passed since Thomas was arrested and charged with burglary, armed robbery and shooting with intent to kill. Felony charges. Sinister charges. And yet, the freshman running back remained on the Oklahoma State roster.
Media guides that were distributed for the first time were void of Thomas. Same for the Cowboys’ online roster.
“The roster that we handed out today are the players that will report next week,” Gundy said when I asked during his morning press conference about Thomas’s status. “And if there’s a player that’s not on that roster, then he’s not a part of our team.”
Sounds pretty cut and dried, right?
On a day OSU could’ve — and should’ve — severed ties with Thomas, Gundy instead left some strings intact. Thomas isn’t on the roster, but Gundy said later in the day that the running back hasn’t been dismissed. Thomas isn’t part of the team now, but Gundy said during the afternoon breakout session that he wasn’t ruling out a return.
“You look at it like if it was your own child,” Gundy said. “He was accused of something, then all of a sudden none of it ever happened and his slate was wiped clean. I would hate to go out on a limb and say, ‘That’s going to happen.’ I don’t know either way. We all know funnier things have happened.
“But with the information I have, he’s certainly not part of the team at this time.”
This has to give heartburn to plenty of Cowboy faithful both inside and outside the program. Who loves OSU and wants the school’s flagship athletic program associated with someone facing three felony counts, including shooting with intent to kill?
Those aren’t words you like seeing in the same sentence as your school.
So, why not distance yourself from it?
“I always try to let the legal system work,” Gundy said. “I think that’s the fair way.”
That’s admirable, but in this instance, it doesn’t seem all that advisable. Thomas, after all, has had other run-ins with the law. As a juvenile, he was charged with distributing child pornography — according to juvenile records obtained by the Tulsa World, he recorded himself having sex with an underage girl, then showed the video to friends — and faced allegations of assault and battery with a deadly weapon. Those allegations never led to formal charges.
Gundy, by the way, said Monday that he didn’t know those specifics when the Cowboys recruited and signed Thomas out of Broken Arrow. Even though Thomas had been suspended for a few high school games and the reason wasn’t exactly a secret in the Oklahoma high school sports world, Gundy said that the Broken Arrow coaches wouldn’t provide any details.
“I don’t think they could go into detail with us,” Gundy said.
Maybe they didn’t know.
Or maybe they knew and wouldn’t tell, fearing legal issues or community backlash.
Regardless, the information is out now, and still, Gundy hasn’t slammed the door on Thomas. If the tailback had been squeaky clean before being arrested earlier this year, I could understand the coach leaving that door cracked open.
But after run-in No. 3?
I don’t get it.
It’s possible that Gundy, who has booted guys who’ve been accused of far less than Thomas, fears a bigger mess. This is a litigious society, after all. I’m not suggesting that Thomas would have a legal case against OSU if the Cowboys put one of Pistol Pete’s boots in his backside, but there could be a lawsuit all the same.
And what happens if Thomas is dismissed by the Cowboys but then has his case dismissed? Or the charges are dropped? Or a trial doesn’t find him guilty?
This is a messy situation.
But Gundy is only adding to the chaos at this point. All of this he’s-not-on-the-team-but-he’s-not-dismissed waffling is making a bad situation worse.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.