Coaches would rather not care about conference allegiances – they're more worried about recruiting and the transfer portal – but they hear from university administrators who care a lot, and they hear from donors and ticket buyers who care even more.
STILLWATER – Saturday’s Oklahoma State-Texas Big 12 title game is personal to Brett Yormark.
The commissioner made that clear at a Red Raider Club function last August, when he advised Texas Tech to “take care of business” against the much-resented Longhorns at their Thanksgiving weekend game.
It is personal to Texas. The university made that clear at the end of Hook ‘Em’s 57-7 trouncing of Tech on Black Friday night, when game operations replayed Yormark’s remarks on UT’s Amazon warehouse-sized video board … with Yormark in attendance.
It is nothing personal to Mike Gundy, at least in terms of conference politics. The man will wear a One America News T-shirt out fishing, but isn’t about to wade into the piranha-swarming waters of Yormark/Big 12 vs. Texas/OU/Big 12 betrayal.
The best Gundy could do after beating BYU and clinching that Big 12 championship shot Saturday night was: “I’m gonna guess that the Big 12 is excited about that (OSU getting in) and I think that’s good for us, the ones that are staying in the conference.”
I figure Yormark was so excited about OSU’s double-overtime victory, a result that kept OU from joining Texas at Jerry World, that he shipped an Argentine stallion to Gundy’s outskirts-of-Stillwater ranch. The commissioner skipped OU-Texas on Oct. 7. Now he can come to Arlington in peace, at least outwardly.
He can come to a game that has the look and feel of the Big 12’s last stand against the SEC.
“No,” Gundy downplayed, once again, at his Monday press conference.
Are you saying that because you don’t want to go there, or you really believe there is no Big 12 vs. SEC element here?
“The people that matter the most are the players they recruit and we recruit,” Gundy said. “I don’t think they care. I think they go to schools for whatever reason. The SEC versus the Big 12 or Big Ten or Pac-12, I just don’t think they care. I just don’t think it’s a factor.”
He’s right about the players. Poll the Cowboys and Longhorns suiting up, they want to win so they can be part of the confetti-showered trophy presentation, wear championship rings around campus and then go to a sweeter bowl game — a potential College Football Playoff in the Longhorns’ case.
Gundy has said it numerous times himself – players care about what’s directly in front of them. That goes for each day of practice and then game day. It’s why Gundy and Steve Sarkisian needn’t worry about Alan Bowman or Quinn Ewers being sidetracked by conference allegiances this week.
Coaches would rather not care about such allegiances – they have enough to worry about related to the transfer portal and their recruiting classes this time of year – but they hear from university administrators who care a lot, and administrators hear from donors and ticket buyers who care even more.
That chain reaction explains Texas’ strength and conditioning coaches airing Yormark’s Red Raider Club comments during Longhorn workouts last week.
The Horns buried Tech because they were 50 points better, not 50 points more motivated. But the backdrop was as undeniable as it will be Saturday at AT&T Stadium.
Even Sarkisian got involved a little during his post-57-7 comments, noting Yormark’s presence that night and saying, as he rubbed his hands together under the table: “I know he’ll be there again next week. I hope we can put on one more good show for him.”
Gundy isn’t about to play along.
He stuck to the script Saturday night, stating: “I’m proud of the Big 12 Conference. I’m proud of the Big 12 Conference that will be next year.”
He did the same Monday afternoon when I suggested his Cowboys were carrying the Big 12’s banner Saturday.
“No,” he said. “Texas and OU are going to the SEC and we’ll be in the Big 12 next year no matter what.”
Business is business, then, no matter how it is conducted and what consequences ensue.
I couldn’t help but notice the “S-E-C!” chants rising from Owen Field’s stands during stretches of OU’s past two home games.
I can’t help but imagine similar chants from one half of AT&T Stadium Saturday depending on the outcome, Texas’ fan base taunting OSU’s boastfully or OSU’s taunting Texas’ teasingly.
It might be worth asking Gundy about it just once more, and keeping an eye on his hands under the table.
OSU’s 40-34, double-overtime win over BYU in pictures