Review: Gundy’s player rapport lacking, not racist

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy needs to “invest more time in building stronger relationships with his student-athletes,” according to an internal review of the program, which “uncovered no signs or indication of racism,” athletic director Mike Holder said in a statement Thursday night.

Last month, Gundy apologized for the “pain and discomfort” he caused his players and others due to a T-shirt he was photographed wearing, and he vowed positive changes in his football program. His apology came one day after star Cowboys running back Chuba Hubbard criticized Gundy on social media for wearing a T-shirt from OAN (One America News). Gundy wore the shirt in a photograph that appeared on social media.

Alfred Williams, a former star linebacker at Colorado, told The Oklahoman last month that he wanted an apology from Gundy after renewing an allegation that the Pokes coach called him the N-word in 1989, when Gundy was a quarterback for Oklahoma State. Williams told the newspaper that he doesn’t want Gundy to be fired but does want an apology and to see “some growth.”

Holder and deputy athletic director Chad Weiberg conducted an internal review of the allegations, which included multiple interviews with current and former OSU players, according to the university.

“Our internal review found that Coach Gundy needs to invest more time in building stronger relationships with his student-athletes,” Holder said in a statement. “However, our review has uncovered no signs or indication of racism. After meeting with Coach Gundy, I am confident that he listened to his student-athletes. I believe he is genuine in his commitment to strengthening relationships with his players. I believe this to be a win for everyone. I’m looking forward to seeing the impact this will have on our team.”

Gundy issued an apology for wearing the T-shirt after a meeting with his players last month. OAN is a far-right news network, often cited by President Donald Trump, that has tried to position itself as a place for a pro-Trump audience and recently criticized the Black Lives Matter movement.

“I had a great meeting with our team today,” Gundy said at the time. “Our players expressed their feelings as individuals and as team members. They helped me see through their eyes how the T-shirt affected their hearts. Once I learned how that network felt about Black Lives Matter, I was disgusted and knew it was completely unacceptable to me.

“I want to apologize to all members of our team, former players and their families for the pain and discomfort that has been caused over the last two days. Black Lives Matters to me. Our players matter to me. These meetings with our team have been eye-opening and will result in positive changes for Oklahoma State football. I sincerely hope the Oklahoma State family near and far will accept my humble apology as we move forward.”

Hubbard, who led the FBS with 2,094 rushing yards and was Big 12 offensive player of the year in 2019, wrote on Twitter last month that he “was never wrong for saying what I said. I am a man, and I realized I should have went to him as a man face to face rather than on twitter. That’s my opinion. But I had to hold him accountable either way.”

“I am a young black man that wants change,” Hubbard wrote. “I want change that will bring a better experience for my black brothers and sisters at Oklahoma State. It’s that simple. Over these next few months I have left at Oklahoma State, I will be working EVERYDAY to bring change to this organization and to the world. I will be supported by my teammates along with people within this organization. To everyone else, trust me when I say that good will come from this.”

In a statement Thursday night, Oklahoma State president V. Burns Hargis said he was confident the underlying issue was a “lack of personal relationships between the head coach and players rather than anything racial.”

“This issue is fixable,” Hargis said. “After meeting with both Mike Holder and Mike Gundy, I believe they are committed to taking steps to strengthen the relationship, which will improve communications and the program. I appreciate the student-athletes speaking candidly and the efforts of Mike Holder and Chad Weiberg to spend considerable time listening to present and past players. It is time to turn our attention to preparing for this year’s highly anticipated football season.”

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