Guerin Emig: Mike Gundy has his reasons for downplaying Bedlam rivalry for his players. Just know there is no getting around the pressure on him in the final chapter of the 117-game series.
STILLWATER – Mike Gundy was talking about Bedlam on Monday when he told this story about quarterbacking Oklahoma State 35 years ago:
“Bosworth spit in my face, I spit in his. I mean it was actually a rivalry. The summer before my sophomore year I would go to parties in Oklahoma City and they would say, ‘Well Bosworth and Migliazzo and some of those guys are here.’
“And so I had to make a decision as to whether we’re we were going to have a confrontation there and who was with me? Because those guys… I can kick them in the shin and run like hell but I’m not dumb. So we had to make those decisions.
“What kind of frame of mind was Brian going to be in? I don’t know. Had he taken a ‘vitamin C’ and had a few drinks, he might not be a guy you wanna talk to at that point. He’d get real red across his face.
“There was a rivalry there. Now it’s not as much anymore, unfortunately, because of the way it is.”
“The way it is,” according to Gundy, has social media, the transfer portal and NIL turning college football into the NFL where everyone is chummy outside of games. That accounts for things like Cowboy-turned-Sooner Trace Ford telling WWLS The Sports Animal he attended, peacefully, the OSU-Kansas game during OU’s open date, and for Cowboys linebacker Xavier Benson telling Sellout Crowd he considers Ford “family” despite Ford’s move to Norman.
This actually helps Gundy in his bid to keep players locked into a week-to-week existence where games like Saturday’s are no more important than the ones before, never mind that Saturday represents Bedlam’s last stand.
It explains his response to my idea that he needs to do well Saturday due to Bedlam’s finality.
“We needed to do well against Kansas State,” Gundy responded. “A much bigger game.”
“Wouldn’t you agree?” he said. “After losing to South Alabama and Iowa State?”
At the time it was…
“That’s what I’m saying. Every game is the same,” he said. “The Kansas game was a big one. And then transitioning and trying to take that energy on the road to West Virginia was a big one. Or this one doesn’t matter. See what I’m saying? We can’t get out of our box.”
There is a logic in equating Bedlam to OSU-Kansas State, twisted as it seems. Gundy isn’t just lamenting how players have gone soft when it comes to rivalries, he is protecting his players from the possibility they go self-destructively hard Saturday at 2:30 pm.
There is no protecting Gundy. Try as he might to keep a lid on this week, he can’t escape Bedlam’s backdrop.
Usually that entails his OSU history dating back to those parties with The Boz, or his brother, Cale, being linked to OU almost as tightly as he is to OSU, or Bedlam history being well past a century old, or the Sooners serving as his coaching Kryptonite.
Now that backdrop includes OU deciding to join the SEC in 2021, a world-rocker that put OSU in terrible short-term financial jeopardy, and has since led to Bedlam’s disintegration.
The athletic directors and coaches involved can blame scheduling inconveniences all they want. Just know that OSU president Kayse Shrum struck closest to the heart of the matter in July of ’21 when, fully aware of that financial jeopardy, she reacted to OU’s decision with a tweet accusing the Sooners of a bylaw-breaking, trust-dissolving defection.
You think feelings that strong completely vanish in 25 months? The Big 12 alleviated OSU’s financial stress with eight new schools and a $2.3 billion media rights contract, but it didn’t change the source of that stress.
What better place to unload that stress than a football stadium hosting the final chapter of a 117-games-old series?
If the players don’t spit at each other like Gundy and Bosworth once did, Bedlam fans just might this Saturday.
“We don’t have pro football. Forty-five percent of the state wears orange, 45 percent wears red and 10 wears blue and gold or whatever,” Gundy admitted Monday after finally lowering his shield. “And when they go to work, they’re talking trash all week. Everybody’s doing it. Because I get the text messages…
“From that standpoint, yes that’s true. I’ve had a few national people coming in the last few days wanting to talk about the final Bedlam. Very similar to what you’re doing. And that’s fair. I get it.”
Gundy isn’t under intense pressure this week because he is 3-15 in past Bedlams. He is under pressure to go 1-0 in this one. This is the one that ultimately matters because this is the one the Cowboys can give the SEC-bound Sooners something to remember them by.
This is the one Gundy can give his trash-talking, text-sending fan base something to remember him by.
After entertaining us with his Bosworth story and pivoting to “the way it is,” Gundy finished that passage of his press conference with: “But it’s a very important game. I don’t wanna push past that.”
He can’t push past that. He has his reasons for trying to do so, with a hot team on track to make more of its season than anyone thought possible, but this game is uniquely important.
This Bedlam being the last, it is most important.