Gundy's Team Will Have Discipline

I'm not ready to pin a silver star on Mike Gundy's chest or nominate him for a committee to study prison reform in Oklahoma but after just one month in charge the new Oklahoma State head football coach is leaving no doubt about where his convictions are on discipline. His team will have it, and his players will have it, or they won't be around.

Gundy isn't putting on any Marshall Dillon act. I knew Mike Gundy when he was a player. He's as fun loving as the next guy and appreciates a good practical joke. He even understands that college football players have a tendency to be mischievous at times, and goofy at others. But blatant disregard for public laws, team order and social morality will not fly in the Gundy regime.

When Gundy met with the media on Wednesday to discuss the Cowboys' new recruiting class you could tell the dismissal of Elliott was on his mind. Nobody in the media knew it at the time, but Gundy gave a clue when he spoke about his form of team and player conduct and discipline.

"We sat in here (team meeting room) the other day and I told the players I'm not going to have a lot of rules," said Gundy. "I'm not big on having a lot of rules. We all know what's right and what's wrong. I told them that we're going to do what is right."

Former OSU coach Les Miles had his "Unity Council" with lots of rules and a system of demerits and punishments for those demerits. With Gundy team discipline will be simplified – right is right and wrong is wrong. Doing wrong gets you in trouble. It's a pretty simple concept and one that should be easy for players to follow.

It reminds me of a trio of veteran coaches at Oklahoma State. Gundy's organizational mentor is long time successful O-State golf coach Mike Holder. Now many people will tell you college golfers are easy to discipline, but over the years Holder has seen more than a few that needed to be reigned in as much as they need work on their short game. Holder's influence either worked or they were transferring out.

Longtime OSU baseball coach Gary Ward, who Gundy admires and once played for briefly, always spoke of how he had few rules. But violate one and the trip to Ward's doghouse made it no fun to be in his dugout. Finally, current Cowboy basketball mentor Eddie Sutton doesn't have a "unity council." Sutton believes in giving his seniors a certain amount of responsibility for the team and trusts them to help steer it in the right direction. Pat Jones, Gundy's former football coach at Oklahoma State, did a little of that as well.

Having known Mike Gundy since he was flinging the football for the Midwest City Bombers in high school, and knowing his family including parents, Ray and Judy, I also know that right and wrong was clearly presented and dealt with accordingly in the house on Cherry Street in Midwest City. Mike's discipline was forged there first.

The message now is crystal clear with the dismissals of Brad Girtman and Prentiss Elliott, two talented but troubled athletes who couldn't navigate on the right side of the road. The dismissal of both should leave no doubt that Oklahoma State football won't be driving on the left side now or at anytime under Gundy's leadership.

In a private conversation with Mike Gundy and our family on my son's official recruiting visit, Gundy spoke of how the minute he was named head coach he thought only of the players. He was thinking how he could make things better for the players. He said he thought of living conditions, better meals, better academic opportunities, hiring the best coaching staff to allow them to be successful, and making the quality of life the best it could be for Oklahoma State football student-athletes. That is what OSU players have to look forward to, playing for a coach who used to be in their shoes and wants their experience at Oklahoma State to trump his college playing experience – an experience that was so good at the time it caused him to dedicate his career to becoming the head coach at his alma mater.

Now that is a lot to look forward to if you are a player, but Gundy has proven with two direct messages that the experience he is striving to deliver to his players will only go to those that chose to represent his school – and theirs – in the right way. Will their be second chances, I'm sure Gundy will give those. Third chances, no.

Someday, probably soon, Brad Girtman and Prentiss Elliott will understand just what they gave up. Their regret will likely hurt more than it took for Gundy to take the privilege away.

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