THE COLUMNIST Carlson stands by her facts, citing sources, observations
STILLWATER — I finally got a follow-up question. Two days ago, Mike Gundy launched a verbal tirade on yours truly. The Oklahoma State football coach took offense to my Saturday column about Bobby Reid. When Gundy was still talking sense, before he went completely ballistic, he contended that the column was fiction. "Three-fourths of this is inaccurate,” he said. Then about three minutes later, Gundy stormed out. No questions. No rebuttals. Monday at Oklahoma State's weekly news conference, I had a chance to ask the question that's been eating at me ever since: You contended three-fourths of that column was inaccurate; could you tell me what those factual errors were? "I don't have to,” he said. Our paper has a policy of correcting errors, and I can't do that if I don't know what the errors were. "I don't have to,” Gundy said again. "I'd rather just let it go.” I'd rather let it go, too, but by disputing the facts in my column, Gundy attacked my credibility. These were not wild accusations. They are facts that came from sources and observations. I will not stand on the sidelines and allow someone to attack my credibility. Anyone who's involved with producing a product, any product, can understand. Let's say you're making and selling widgets, and the widget maker across the street goes out on the corner and tells everyone passing by that your widgets are faulty. Seventy-five percent of them don't work, he says. You know it's not true. What would you do? Take it? Of course not. You'd want your next-door widget maker to substantiate those claims or back off of them. That's what I wanted. Gundy was asked on at least three separate occasions Monday — once by me and two other times by other journalists — to expand on his contention that the facts in the column were inaccurate. Did Reid never consider transferring, for example? Did he play through injuries like coaches wanted? Gundy has yet to argue any facts specifically. Gundy has only attempted to dispute one thing in the column. Saturday night, he said Cowboy coaches didn't start Reid over Donovan Woods in 2005 because Reid threatened to transfer. I never said that they did. Here's what I said: "Reid has considered transferring a couple different times, the first as early as 2005. Reid, then a redshirt freshman, was facing competition from returner Donovan Woods, and apparently, Reid considered leaving OSU just because he had to compete for the spot.” I feel as adamant about the facts in that column as Gundy did in his belief that his player shouldn't have been so scrutinized. That is a reasonable and healthy debate. How much should college athletes be scrutinized? High school athletes are treated differently from college athletes. Pro athletes are treated differently still. In general, athletes are more scrutinized the higher they climb. There are shades of gray, though, in college athletics. A fourth- or fifth-year player is held more accountable for on-field performance than a freshman. A college football player at a big-time school is scrutinized more, too, because football is just a different beast. The idea of "amateurs” playing big-time college football is novel but naive these days. College football is the minor leagues for pro football. It isn't quite professional, but it isn't still amateur, either. The money and the attention and the importance shade it more toward the professional level. Reid, as a fourth-year player and a 21-year-old man, leans more toward the upper end of that scale. Now, I didn't write that column Saturday to embarrass Bobby Reid. He has been a super kid to deal with, and frankly, I've thought highly of his ability. Heck, I wrote last year that I thought he might be the second coming of Vince Young. No, the reason for my column Saturday was because of one lingering question — why have the Cowboys, who so adamantly backed Reid, suddenly switched course, benched the biggest recruit to ever sign with the program and jumped full speed ahead with Zac Robinson? Again, my answer came from sources and observations. I stand by those facts. Gundy has said three-fourths of them are wrong, but I'm waiting to hear the argument against even one. Jenni Carlson can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.
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