MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — In a blustering Tuesday teleconference with reporters who cover Oklahoma State, Cowboys coach Mike Gundy made like his mascot and fired from the hip.
That’s how Gundy rolls, and refreshing though it may be on matters of football, hairstyle or rattlesnake hunting, something is lost in translation when the subject is pandemic recovery.
Gundy placed a target date of May 1 for returning to Oklahoma State’s football facility, provided that there is a surge in available tests for COVID-19 produced in the next three weeks. This, despite the fact the Big 12 has already determined that none of its member schools will have organized team activities of any kind through May 31.
Period. End of story.
Or at least that’s how it is outside of Gundyland.
“We get people that get the flu during the season, we quarantine them, we treat them, we make sure they’re healthy, we bring ’em back,” Gundy said. “It would be the same thing here, but at some point, we’ve got to go back to work. We’ve got to get these guys back in here.
“From what I read, the healthy people can fight this, the antibodies make it better. They’re doing some blood transplants now with the people that have already gotten the disease, that have gotten over it that have the antibodies that can fight it. There’s a lot of people who can figure this out. May 1’s our goal. Don’t know if it will happen. Players will come in after that.”
You might think that this sounds rather risky in the middle of an incurable disease outbreak that’s killed 13,000 Americans and counting in less than two months, but Gundy also has that figured out.
“In my opinion, if we have to bring our players back, test them. They’re in good shape, they’re all 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 years old and healthy. A lot of them can fight it off with their natural body, their antibodies and build-up they have … those that are asymptomatic,” Doc Gundy noted. “If that’s true, then we sequester them. And people say that that’s crazy, no it’s not crazy, because we need to continue to budget and run money through the state of Oklahoma.”
One day after Gundy shared his thoughts, West Virginia coach Neal Brown had a similar video conference with reporters who cover the Mountaineers.
His tack, to say the least, was quite a bit different.
“I’m sticking with what everyone else is saying,” Brown said to open the call. “I urge everyone to continue staying at home and practice social distancing.”
Well, what almost everyone else is saying.
Granted, it helps to not be the man batting leadoff in this situation. Brown was well aware of the media firestorm Gundy ignited the day before. He touched on it when asked about the difficulty in preparing for the unknown of when the Mountaineers will return.
“After yesterday, I’ll probably stay away [from predicting when we’ll be back],” Brown said with a grin. “This is really a difficult deal. You’re preparing for so many unknowns. Just from a football standpoint, we’ve got to have expectations for when we return — whatever date that is. We have to clearly define what those expectations are.
“What do we expect our players to know when we get back? Whether that’s July 1 or September. What kind of shape do we expect them to be in? Let’s define those expectations so they can work towards that, from now to whenever that date is that’s unknown in the future.”
Even before Gundy’s gaffes, Brown has been treating the COVID-19 pandemic for what it is — a far more important matter than football, and one that must be mitigated in order for us to have football.
On March 31, WVU Football and WVU Medicine released a public service announcement featuring Brown and several Mountaineer players that preached the importance of social distancing.
Let's do our part!
— WVU Football (@WVUfootball) March 31, 2020
The same day, Gundy released a very nice motivational message of support to first responders, doctors and nurses dealing first-hand with the crisis. He’s not the mulleted Snidley Whiplash that some in the national media have cast him as. But he is a bit like a defensive tackle who recovered a fumble at midfield that has no idea what to do once he gets somewhere near the 20-yard line.
So do I lateral this thing to a faster guy or keep going?
The answer is always the same. Don’t get cute. The lateral thing never works. Keep moving forward. If you don’t make it to the end zone, the offense will take care of it.
Coaches can’t try to get cute with the coronavirus. Brown hasn’t been a head coach as long as Gundy, but he’s smart and mature enough to realize this.
The doctors are the ones with the playbook right now. And it’s going to take listening to what guys like Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Clay Marsh have to say in order to get out of this thing without suffering a crushing loss.
If Gundy really wants to support the doctors and nurses on the front lines, and if he really wants his football team back together, he has to be aware that there’s no running a tempo offense.
The sooner that’s realized by everyone, the sooner it ends.