Mike Gundy reaped what he sewed, and it turned into a minor embarrassment for the Big 12 Conference.
Like most conferences, the Big 12 conducts weekly teleconferences with coaches during football season. (The Pac-12 this season has cut back to a teleconference every other week – another example of how the Left Coast League is not serious about football.)
Some inside sports journalism: Conferences hire a company to conduct the calls. An 800 number is provided via email to media members who request it. Each week, a journalist can call the number and is asked to provide his/her name and affiliation.
The coaches’ time slots are designated, typically in 10-minute increments. Media folks who want to ask questions punch in a two-digit code on their phone key pad to get in the question queue.
A moderator, typically the conference’s media coordinator, can monitor the list of questioners and needs to be suspicious of names/outlets that aren’t familiar. In recent years, prank calling conference calls has provided shock jock radio shows with juvenile segments.
A week ago, Oklahoma State senior wide receiver Jalen McCleskey announced that, after playing in the first four games, he would transfer. McCleskey was taking advantage of a new rule that allows for a red shirt season if playing four or fewer games. This sixth-best receiver in school history, his decision was shocking in Stillwater.
Then, the next day, Gundy threatened reporters that player interviews would be eliminated if Oklahoma State players were asked about McCleskey.
Oklahoma State, as expected, won easily at Kansas Saturday. And considering Gundy’s gantlet, post-game questions were asked about his ultimatum/threat. After a few questions, Gundy had enough.
“I mean, we should be having a good time. We just beat Kansas,” he said. “Let’s get off of the stuff that drives this country and is taking it into the ground, which is garbage.”
Your Veteran Scribe translates the “garbage” comment as Gundy being fed up with the around-the-clock social media firestorm decisions like his creates or the fact that professional leaders earning millions of dollars should be able to command and control their subjects like the Bud Light King. Dilly dilly.
No matter the reasoning (or lack thereof), Gundy’s time on the Big 12 coaches teleconference came at 10:20 a.m. CT Monday. Even as week-old news, Gundy’s edict regarding McCleskey comments figured to be a hot topic.
Apparently, the gate keepers of the question que failed to catch the prank posers. (Also – and this pushes the irony envelope to its edges – the Big 12 web site posts a replay of each week’s teleconference, posting a picture of one of the coaches to illustrate the link. The picture, no doubt selected before the call, is … Mike Gundy.)
— Riley Gates (@Riley_Gates) October 1, 2018
Here’s the transcript:
First question from “Brett Kurtenbach of TheBig12.com” (no such web site exists.):
“Congratulations on the victory. I thought you brought up a really interesting point after the game on Saturday. You said people focusing on the wrong things is what’s kind of driving this country into the ground. What other aspects of people doing their jobs do you have a problem with?”
Gundy: “I’m not sure I understand the question.”
Next question from “Rich Mitchum of CFB Daily (again, a fictional outlet):
“Hey coach, great win on Saturday in Lawrence. Really impressive performance offensively and, I think even more specifically, through the air. Especially impressive you did it all without Jalen McCleskey. Can you give a quick update on his status moving forward?”
Gundy: “Jalen McCleskey is transferring. I thought everybody knew that.”
Third question from Trey Anastasio (also the name of the lead singer of Phish) from the Stillwater Tribune (the correct name of the local paper is the Stillwater News-Press):
“Hey, Mike, good morning to you, man. I know it’s been kind of a frustrating seven days or so, which I don’t really think is right, because you all played a heck of a game on Saturday. It seems like a lot of these reporters don’t have any respect for your unwarranted petulance and I, for one, can’t believe they’d have the nerve to do their jobs and not [give in] to your empty threats. I guess what I’m really saying is: It’s 2018. Do we really even need freedom of the press anymore?”
Gundy: “I’m not sure what you’re asking.”
Credit Gundy for not taking the bait and ignoring questions that were more stupid than usual. The Big 12 moderator then stepped in and apologized for some “fraudulent calls.” Gundy countered with, “That is OK; we have a lot of fraudulent people in this world.”
This minor façade break in big-time college sports and the media process was somewhat funny (certainly the perps of the prank spent the morning giggling, replaying and giggling some more).
The Big 12 will no doubt have a new call-in number next week and might even need a pass code that changes each week. But we’re not talking about launch codes here.
There will be more prank calls. What might happen is conferences will simply decide it’s not worth the time, effort and irritation.
As recently as 10 years ago, conference calls were useful. Newspapers had more space and staff. Many rank weekly notes packages with news around the conference. Reporters utilized the conference calls to ask questions about that week’s Big Game, get quotes for a feature or a trend piece.
Those days are gone. Notes packages rarely exist. Conference calls aren’t needed for local beat writers who can ask questions in person at news conferences. A paper cares only about its local team.
That coverage contraction has led to fewer reporters calling in which leads to some conference calls where a coach might get just one or two questions before the moderator lets him disconnect. There’s no dead air like the dead air of the moderator asking, “Any questions for coach _______,”
Most coaches regard their weekly time on the conference call as a 10-minute root canal. Any reporter who has to stay on the line through an entire call needs and IV drip of caffeine to endure.
Gundy deftly handled the pranksters and limited the damage. If the tomfoolery trio attempts another gag, YVS suggests asking Urban Meyer about how to erase text messages on an iPhone.