NORMAN, Okla. – Oklahoma freshman coach Brent Venables said Monday he was proud of his team’s determination and focus following the sudden resignation of longtime assistant coach Cale Gundy last week and how the players so quickly bought into the vision of the new staff.
“All things considered, they handled everything well and didn’t allow it to become a distraction,” Venables told ESPN. “You have to go through mud sometimes. You have to have scars. You have to go through some things, and that’s how you’re going to get better. You’re not going to get better and better through ease and comfortable in anything.”
Gundy, an OU assistant coach for 23 years, announced his resignation Aug. 7 after reading aloud “multiple times” what Venables called a “racist word” to his players during a position meeting. In a statement announcing his resignationGundy apologized and explained that when he noticed a player, who was supposed to be taking notes during a movie session, was distracted, he picked up the player’s iPad and read the words aloud on the screen, including the unspecified term.
Venables called the situation “very complex and very difficult” and added that “some of it is very clear and peaceful”, while other parts “and what it means to people was the difficult part”. .
“What I can definitely tell you is that there is great unity in this team,” Venables said.
From the day he took the job from Oklahoma, Venables said the team has shown an eagerness and thirst to move forward. The Sooners, ranked No. 9 in Monday’s AP preseason poll, lost two of their last three regular season games a year ago, and coach Lincoln Riley left for USC the day after Bedlam’s 37-33 loss to rival Oklahoma State.
“There was a bit of a dressing room that was confused, hurt and fragmented, maybe because of the attacking success, but not so much defensively, and fragmented because the program leader just left them out of nowhere,” Venables said. referrer says Riley. “So, yeah, it was an emotional dressing room, but what excites me is the hunger and the advantage they’ve shown since we’ve been here. It’s amazing and it’s been that way since January. .
“The harder we made it, the better they responded.”
Venables, who spent 13 years as an assistant coach at OU, said he met with members of the team’s board of directors about the Gundy incident, but stressed it was Gundy’s decision to resign.
“They don’t take that responsibility, and I didn’t want them to feel like they had to take it on,” Venables said. “It’s not fair to a group of 18, 19 and 20 year olds.”
Some former OU players have expressed their support for Gundy on their social media accounts, including Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon.
“There’s a whole slew of us involved when these kinds of things happen, a whole team of us, and ultimately it was Cale who quit, and it was his decision, the good decision,” Venables said. “He didn’t want to be a distraction and knew what happened was wrong.
“The timing was terrible. But as a team, we tackled it the next day and got down to business.”
Venables said about 40 percent of Oklahoma’s roster has never put on a Sooners jersey in a game, but he thinks the massive turnover actually helped with the transition.
“There was a bit of a locker room that was confused, hurt…and fragmented because the leader of the program [Lincoln Riley] just left them out of nowhere. So, yes, it was an emotional dressing room, but what excites me is the hunger and the advantage they have shown since we have been here. It’s amazing and it’s been like this since January.”
Brent Venables, Oklahoma freshman coach
“There’s been no pushback or no ‘Well, that’s how we’ve done things in the past,'” Venables said. “These guys are ready to be headed, and for a program that’s been in four of the last seven playoffs, there’s been no right. They might be, ‘You know, we’ve won a lot. What are you going to do? you tell us?’ But it wasn’t like that at all.”
Venables, an important part of Clemson’s championship led by Dabo Swinney, had many opportunities to leave for head coaching opportunities, but loved working for Swinney, loved living at Clemson and was the highest-paid defensive coordinator in the nation with $2.5 million per year. He always thought back to what his college coach and former Kansas State boss Bill Snyder said to him whenever a school tried to pull him away from Clemson.
“Don’t get the joy wrong,” Venables said. “Coach Snyder taught me that years and years ago.”
But when Oklahoma called, Venables said it was a no-brainer, and keeping the Sooners in the hunt for the national championship will always be the norm. The Sooners, who have won 11 or more games in six of their past seven seasons, open the 2022 season Sept. 3 at home against UTEP.
“These players bought into everything we asked of them, and whether it was last week or something else, they answered the call,” Venables said. “We continue to build, but it’s exciting to see the commitment at all levels.”