Hoover: Gundy Juggles Coaching and Being "Dad"


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Gunnar Gundy made his first start as a high school quarterback in the season opener at Edmond Memorial, but sadly, his dad could not be there.

Couldn’t get off work, it seems.

Gunnar Gundy and Mike Gundy’s 2017 season openers were played at the same time.

“Yeah. Tough deal,” Mike Gundy said after his Oklahoma State Cowboys dispatched Tulsa 59-24 in Stillwater. “It was hard, you know? First game that he was really playing as the starter, to not be there with him, it was difficult. But that’s sometimes the way life is.”

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Mike Gundy once famously shunned a mandatory trip to Connecticut for a day-long series of interviews on the ESPN campus because one of his three sons was playing in a summer league baseball tournament.

“I paid $10,000 to do that,” Gundy said, referring to a fine from the Big 12 Conference. “But it was worth it.”

Gunnar Gundy is a high school sophomore, a 6-foot, 165-pound left-hander who started his career with an efficient 10-of-17, 170-yard performance against the Bulldogs that included a 49-yard touchdown pass to Garrett Leming in a 23-7 Pioneer victory.

Mike Gundy is a big-time college football coach, a mullet-wearing media darling armed with a 105-50 win-loss record and the equivalent of a lifetime contract that pays him $4.5 million a year at his alma mater.

But he’s also your typical sports dad.

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“It’s a really common sight over the last several years,” said Stillwater High School coach Tucker Barnard, “after whatever duties he’s got going on — practice and the things that happen after practice at Oklahoma State — he’ll be at a youth league football practice just like the rest of the parents, sitting there in a lawn chair watching youth football practice.”

While one might think Mike Gundy is all up in Barnard’s business as it relates to coaching his middle son, he’s not. Quite the opposite, in fact. Gundy’s doors have always been open to the Stillwater coaching staff, and in Barnard’s seven years at SHS, their relationship has always been a good back-and-forth.

Actually, Barnard wouldn’t mind if Gundy was a little more involved.

“We’ve invited him into the conversation, for sure,” Barnard said. “Anything we want to talk about, he and his staff have been there for us. And this was way before Gunnar was playing for us or even really thinking about playing for us. We just very, very openly and bluntly invited him in to have conversations with us.

“We know he watches video with Gunnar. We know they talk about what’s going on and how to play the position. So I think from my part, it just makes good sense that we’re on the same page. And he’s been outstanding. I couldn’t ask for anything better from coach Gundy than what we’ve had.”

Mike Gundy promises he won’t be that know-it-all coach/dad roaming up and down the sidelines giving his son coaching reminders or secret hand signals.

“Yeah, I don’t get involved in that,” Gundy said. “I help him at home and … I talk a lot about his attitude, his approach, his leadership, you know, the guys he needs to watch. He’s a big, big, Aaron Rodgers guy. I talk to him about that more than anything else. We have good coaches at Stillwater, so they don’t need me over there trying to coach. So I stay away from that part.”

Now that Gunnar Gundy is playing for Barnard, has the Gundy-Barnard dynamic changed?

“I think maybe the only way that it’s changed is that he’s much more actively watching,” Barnard said. “I think the difference now is that he is actively aware of what we’re doing — what we’re doing offensively and even defensively. He’s not oblivious to that by any stretch. I don’t know that the dynamic has changed in terms of our conversations other than he’s more aware of what we’re doing and how we’re trying to do it.”

Other than the occasional game he’ll miss due to work obligations, Mike Gundy is looking forward to the next three years.

“It’ll be fun,” Gundy said. “He’s worked hard all his life to get to that point and it’ll be fun to watch him.”


John E. Hoover is a sports talk radio co-host with The Franchise in Tulsa and a columnist with TheFranchiseOK.com.