Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy has some thoughts about This Generation.
They’re about players transferring, and they’re what you’d expect to hear from someone who acts like he had to trudge to school uphill both ways in the snow. A transcript, after Gundy was asked a question about safety Thabo Mwaniki leaving the Cowboys, and responded to a follow-up with:
I think we live in a world where people are non-committal. We allow liberalism to say, “Hey, I can really just do what I want and I don’t have to be really tough and fight through it.” You see that with young people because it’s an option they’re given. We weren’t given that option when we were growing up. In the world today, there’s a lot of entitlement.
I’m a firm believer in the snowflake. I think it’s setting there. And I’m not talking about Thabo. Thabo and I have had multiple good talks. I’m talking about every millennial young person. Generation Z, I think is what they call ’em. It’s the world we live in because if they say, “Well, it’s a little bit hard,” we say, “Okay, well, let’s go try something else.” vs. “Hey, let’s bear down and let’s fight through this.” So you see a lot of that nowadays, and that doesn’t have anything to do with Thabo or [Jalen] McCleskey or anybody that’s been on the portal here.
That’s just general in society even if you’re working down here at Walmart. Your boss gets after you and tells you that you’re not doing a good job, you may go home and cry and tell your mom, but your mom may say it’s okay. That’s just kind of the facts of life, the world we live in today.
Don’t get me on politics.
Putting aside that Gundy’s generation raised the one he’s so adamant about criticizing, he thinks today’s young people are entitled, noncommittal, and a byproduct of liberalism. They don’t want to go through tough times, he thinks. They just want to run from them.
Mwaniki is leaving for playing time, according to Gundy.
“Doing the basic math, it’ll give him a better chance to play somewhere else with the young guys that are in the program,” Gundy said. The coach then launched into his thoughts when asked a follow-up about if this generation is different.
The other player he mentioned, receiver Jalen McCleskey, transferred earlier in the season. Gundy threatened to pull media access from reporters who asked about his exit.
Thinking pragmatically about your future makes you a snowflake in 2018, but it didn’t in 1986, when Gundy was beginning his college career.
You may know him as a former Oklahoma State quarterback and Cowboy lifer, but Gundy wasn’t that until he decommitted from rival Oklahoma.
It appeared the homegrown hero would be the next Sooner great, too, as National Signing Day neared and Gundy told The Oklahoman’s Bob Hersom, “I just like OU because of its great football tradition and because I get along real well with all of the coaches there.” Gundy committed to crimson.
In hindsight, it was the right move to be literally noncommittal when he was a teenager in the mid-1980s, just like it is for any Generation Z’er/millennial to consider their own best course of action now. That’s exactly what Gundy did in the ‘80s. He said in 2016 that he “felt like my best chance to get on the field early” was at Oklahoma State.
He specifically worried about sitting behind QB Jamelle Holieway, he told the Tulsa World in 2012:
Oklahoma was running a wishbone option at the time. The Sooners had just won a national championship with a freshman quarterback, Jamelle Holieway. If Mike had signed with OU, he would have been in the same signing class with Lawton quarterback Charles Thompson. Mike wasn’t worried about competing with Thompson.
”I was concerned with Jamelle because he was already there. They were so good on defense they were going to win 10 games by default. So why are they going to change quarterbacks? And he was good. He was a magician.”
That same article notes that when Gundy was a kid, his father pushed him to keep wrestling even though he wanted to quit, so Gundy kept wrestling. Gundy probably got these notions about toughness and sticking things out from his father.
But later on, the newspaper reported, Gundy quit playing college baseball when a coach suggested he wouldn’t be a starter on the team and should lean into football full-time.
It appears being “noncommittal” isn’t such a bad thing when Gundy’s filling holes in his roster with transfers from elsewhere.
Oklahoma State has 18 transfers on its roster right now. Many of them came from junior colleges, but a few left other FBS programs to go straight to Stillwater. Those include the Pokes’ second-leading receiver, Tyron Johnson (from LSU), cornerback Kemah Siverand (from Texas A&M) and defensive tackle Enoch Smith Jr. (who didn’t play football the year he sat out after leaving Michigan State). Johnson, for instance, came to OSU in search of a better scheme fit, and Gundy didn’t call him a snowflake or turn him away.
If Gundy is so ardent about the state of the transfer market, why’s he so willing to be complicit in it? If he really wanted to make a point about not coddling a generation and be a leader for the values he spoke about so strongly, why does he allow his team to have players on it who didn’t want “to be really tough and fight through it.”
If Gundy wanted, he could say that he won’t take transfers, because he clearly doesn’t believe in the mentality they promote. But he doesn’t, because it benefits him to take players like Johnson, Siverand, and Smith, who have perfectly fine reasons for transferring.
It’s because Gundy’s logic doesn’t have a leg to stand on when you really pick it apart.
It appears “going to try something else” isn’t so bad when coaches do it.
During the 2012 coaching cycle, Gundy almost left Stillwater for Tennessee, in his own retelling. Part of his rationale was that playing kickoff classics against big-name opponents made it harder for him to win a national title, so Gundy was lying to recruits by telling them they could win one, and he “needed to go somewhere else.”
In 2017, three days after Gundy said he was “rooted” at Oklahoma State and that his “stability here is more than it ever has been,” he flew to Dallas to meet with Tennessee again about its vacant head coaching position.
He didn’t take the job either time, but he did get pretty far down the road twice. He’s also reportedly talked with Baylor in the past, in secret, and been connected to the Arkansas job, too. And if you’re playing along at home, all three of those schools were ones that Gundy initially blocked former quarterback Wes Lunt from transferring to back in 2013.
Changing teams is not about being a snowflake or running at the first sign of hardship. It’s often about being a responsible adult. Those are the things Gundy’s actions may teach his players now, even though his words don’t.