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ESPN’s Presence Means the Mike Gundy Death Watch Is on at Oklahoma State

With friends like this, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy doesn’t need enemies – not that he doesn’t have plenty of those already.

Someone at OSU gave their approval for ESPN to do an all-access show around the Cowboys’ football program and their controversial coach. Recent developments confirm no one should ever bet the “over” on how long it takes Gundy to say or do something that finally gets him fired. That’s possibly what ESPN had in mind in picking Oklahoma State.

Mike Gundy is having another bad week

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Accusations that Mike Gundy used racial slurs in 1989 as an Oklahoma State football player during a game against Colorado are not going to get him fired as the Cowboys’ coach. As distasteful as the incident was, if the accusations are accurate, words spoken 30 years ago – even hateful words – aren’t going to do in a guy who’s shown himself to be Teflon-coated.

Gundy, 52, denied the allegations after the game but hasn’t addressed the subject after it was raised again this week.

Gundy’s bigger problem this week was the near-mutiny at Oklahoma State triggered by his being photographed wearing a T-shirt from One America Network, criticized by some as airing extremist takes on current events. Other players supported star running back Chuba Hubbard for calling out his coach, drawing several apologies from Gundy.

“I didn’t know some of the stances (OAN) had taken,” Gundy said. “I didn’t know that. But then you look at it and say, ‘OK, I was a dumbass.’  I put the shirt on, not knowing enough about the shirt.”

It was another bad look for Gundy and the university, but one can’t help but notice that he’s still employed. A 129-64 record in 15 seasons in a football-crazed state tends to generate that sort of job security.

ESPN picked Mike Gundy and Oklahoma State for a reason

According to Awful Announcing, ESPN cameras have been in Stillwater for an unknown amount of time to gather footage for an all-access show similar to Miles To Go, which tracked Les Miles’ first season as the coach at Kansas last fall.

Miles preceded Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State and has been a mildly controversial figure in football. But a 2013 investigation of Miles’ time at Oklahoma State bruised him less than it did one of the reporters, who was accused of a bias against OSU.

Gundy, on the other hand, has a history that must have suggested to ESPN that he’s a candidate to do something ill-advised between now and the end of the season. A well-known coach at a big-time school self-destructing in front of the cameras would be ratings gold, which explains why ESPN has placed its bet on Oklahoma State rather than, say, Vanderbilt or Utah State.

ESPN already reaped some benefit Wednesday when it was able to air Gundy’s third attempt at an apology over the One America Network flub on SportsCenter.

So many controversies, so little time

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy has a real talent for stirring up unnecessary drama, though two controversies in one week is a personal record for him. He had barely put his most recent gaffe behind him before this week’s developments.

Back in April, it took Gundy four days to issue an insincere-sounding apology for his move-ahead-at-all-costs desire to resume practice even as the death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic was rising rapidly.

“There’s some people that are asymptomatic,” he said then. “If that’s true, then we sequester them, and people say that’s crazy. No, it’s not crazy, because we need to continue to budget and run money through the state of Oklahoma.”

And, of course, there were earlier issues. His bizarre “I’m a man, I’m 40” rant is a YouTube staple, with one of the many versions having been viewed 4.2 million times.

In 2018, Gundy told reporters that questions about Oklahoma State players who’d entered the transfer portal were off-limits and that anyone raising such questions would lose access to his players. And then Gundy doubled down by declaring that anyone who reported what he’d just said would face the same ban.

He continued by calling Twitter “a platform for people that are sitting at home drawing an unemployment check,” then declared that the transfer portal was a negative offshoot of “liberalism.”

With a body of work like that, it’s amazing ESPN didn’t give Gundy his own reality series long ago.